Making Sense of Serendipity
By Joan Whetzel
Charles Kettering once said that “luck is what happens when opportunity meets a prepared mind.” Serendipity works much the same way. Serendipity and the luck/prepared mind combination opens one up to the possibility of wonderful things happening. How many of those possibilities would we overlook if we remained single-mindedly focused on only the things we have to do each day? Imagine the little details we might notice, the wonder we might witness, if we simply slowed down or stopped to take a closer look at what was going on around us. What if we stopped seeing everything as normal and average, and opened ourselves up to the unexpected?
Serendipity is frequently referred to as a pleasant surprise or a happy accident, the unexpected discovery of something enjoyable, valuable or useful. Serendipitous usually occur when we are looking for something else, especially when we take the time to notice the unexpected and recognize it as fortuitous. Other words with a similar meaning include, fate, destiny, karma, providence, coincidence, kismet, fortune and luck. Being in a serendipitous mindset allows us to make connections between facts or events that we may not have seen if weren’t open to the possibilities. Many scientific discoveries another inventions have been born from people being open to serendipity.
Ways to Prepare the Mind for Serendipity
There are ways to open yourself up to serendipity.
· Learn everything that is known on a subject and gain a good basic understanding of it, which leads to innovations that could only have been discovered with a specialized knowledge in the topic area.
· Be inquisitive. Instead of “knowing” everything there is to know – which closes the mind to learning new things – continually ask questions about what you don’t know, and look for the unknown.
· Think creatively. Being able to see things differently than others is a definite plus when it comes to serendipity.
· Make use of new technologies whenever possible, make use of other creative materials, try out any type of creative venture you haven’t tried before. It keeps life interesting, and it keeps you open to all things new.
· Be of a state of mind to recognize an opportunity when it shows up. Some opportunities are subtle and won’t clock it your aren’t looking.
Ways to Open Yourself Up to Serendipity
Some of the techniques and activities that could open you up to serendipity include:
- Attending events and taking courses that you would normally take advantage of because the topics or events are unfamiliar.
- Talk to people from other countries, other religions, other races – people with a life experience that’s different than your own.
- During uncomfortable experiences, or hearing unpleasant messages, ask the question: “What’s going on?” There’s usually something going under the surface, which isn’t readily apparent unless you are looking for it.
- Look at problems from someone else’s point of view. Seeing things from another angle triggers ideas for more creative solutions to existing problems.
- Make lists of all the things that interest or intrigue you, or that inspire awe. What do items on the list suggest in your current circumstances?
- Pay attention to your “aha moments,” those occasional epiphanies when all things become suddenly clear. Write them down for future reference, including all of your impressions.
- Be positive and energetic, as well as being always on the lookout for answers and ways to solve problems where no solutions exist.
- Do a little spring cleaning, throwing out or giving away all the things you no longer need. Having clear space in your life opens up room for the new.
- Do a brain dump. Clear your mind of all the trivial stuff you no longer need or that is no longer important. It’s like a spring cleaning for the brain. As Joseph Henry (the physicist) once said, “The seeds of discoveries are constantly floating around us, but they only take roots in the minds well prepared to receive them.”
Serendipity comes down to getting rid of what doesn’t work, paying attention to everything, and enjoying the new and unusual. In Zen, it’s roughly equivalent to being present. You will never know what is possible unless you are willing to zoom in and take a closer look, unless you make use of new opportunities, unless you look beyond the average, the normal, the expected.
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