After a conversation with a delightful stranger, I shared the experience on Facebook saying, “Oh, I love serendipity.” After I’d posted, I began to wonder if calling it serendipity was accurate.
While the common understanding of serendipity defines it as unexpected good fortune, it goes further than that. In The World of Serendipity, author Marcus Bach explains why some people enjoy a large measure of unexpected good while others rarely have such experiences.
He writes, “Once upon a time, there lived an Englishman named Horace Walpole. He was best known for his passion for writing letters. For most of his life, he kept the postman busy lugging mail away from his home.
“On one occasion, Walpole wrote that an old Persian fairy tale had made a deep impression on him. The tale had to do with The Princes of Serendip. These three young noblemen, traveling the world, rarely found the treasures they were looking for, but continually ran into other treasures equally great or even greater than the ones they were seeking.
“Even though their goals eluded them, they were more than rewarded with their wayside discoveries, and soon it was as if an unseen power and guidance seemed to know better than they knew what was best for them.”
Therein lies the key to serendipity. It does not occur when we are passively waiting for something you happen. We must be actively engaged in the pursuit of some goal and, yet, be willing for it to turn out differently than imagined.
I’m reminded of a woman who called and excitedly announced, “I had the best time today being Joyfully Jobless!” She told me about some new people she’d met and discoveries she’d made for her business. A year and a half earlier, this same woman was feeling hurt when she was dismissed from her job with a large corporation.
Would this enthusiastic conversation have happened if she was still punching a time clock?
Letting go of situations, relationships and belongings that have outlived their usefulness is also important if we are to experience grander possibilities for ourselves.
Marcus Bach explains, “This is one of the deep secrets of serendipity. While serendipity means finding joy and meaning in discoveries on the way to a stated goal, the secret is to look upon incidental goals as substantial and upon accidental happenings as purposeful.”
Make room for unexpected good fortune in the weeks and months ahead. If you do, you’ll find yourself greeting each day with an enthusiasm and anticipation you never had before.
Did I mention that enthusiasm and anticipation are magnets for serendipity?