I saw a shooting star on our morning dog walk and it reminded me of the shooting star I saw about six weeks ago. That, in turn, reminded me of the blog post I wrote that day that split into two blog posts, only one of which I published. The first post was about perspective. This second post explores the concept of synchronicity and how we might approach life with a combination of planning and wonder.
A quote that has been rolling around in my brain since last month:
“No one can plan for synchronicity.”
It’s actually doing more than rolling around in my brain. Frankly, it’s been creating a lot of contradictions in my mind; more questions than answers.
My first step in straightening out this mind bender was to look up exactly what synchronicity means. I had an idea but wasn’t 100% sure.
I like this simple definition the best: meaningful coincidences.
Psychoanalyst Carl Jung defined synchronicity as “an acausal connecting principle”. Basically, a principle that explains occurrences connected seemingly by coincidence rather than intentional cause and effect.
Synchronicity is the idea that events are meaningfully connected in a way that goes beyond cause and effect. It suggests that sometimes things happen spontaneously, coincidentally, or serendipitously and carry a deeper significance.
Planning involves setting goals, creating strategies, and organizing resources to achieve desired outcomes. It is a structured and deliberate approach to decision-making.
On one hand, it makes sense. Of course, we can’t plan or orchestrate the unexpected; that would make it expected.
Most people love it when something unexpected and delightful happens, and as much as I’d like to think I’m open to possibility and excited what surprises the future may hold, I don’t live that way. I live in a way that demonstrates my belief in causality, not synchronicity. Causality says there is a reason for everything that happens, cause and effect.
Effect without a Cause
My particular flavor of causality seems to focus around the thought that to achieve an effect in my life, the cause must come from me. I have an idea of how things should go, and to make that happen, I have to take certain actions. I am curating my causes to achieve a particular effect. I am imposing my will.
Is this all bad? If we don’t set goals and then work to achieve them, how would human civilization continue to grow and evolve?
Can it be both/and? Can we release our will to manipulate cause and effect and still pursue goals? If so, how is that done?
When I think about that, the first question that comes to mind is, “Why do we set goals?” Most of us set goals because of the way we believe we will feel when we achieve the goals. Example: we set a goal to own a house because we think we will be happier that we are now, living in a rental apartment.
But until a goal is attained, it’s always in the future, so everything we do with that goal in mind is attuned to how we will feel in the future. How can we be mindful, staying rooted in the present while the actions we take are based on how we will feel in the future?
The stoic philosopher Epictetus offered a possible solution, “Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will – then your life will flow well”.
A Connecting Principle
Synchronicity and planning are two different approaches to life and decision-making. And whether one is better than the other depends on the context and individual preferences. Here’s a comparison of the two:
Advantages of synchronicity:
It can lead to unexpected opportunities, creative insights, and novel solutions that may not have been possible through traditional planning.
Embracing synchronicity can foster a sense of openness, flexibility, and adaptability, which can be valuable in dynamic and unpredictable situations.
Synchronicity can enhance personal growth and spiritual development by encouraging individuals to pay attention to their intuition and the subtle signs in their environment.
Advantages of planning:
Planning provides a sense of control and predictability, reducing uncertainty and chaos in one’s life.
It allows for the efficient allocation of time, resources, and effort towards specific objectives.
Planning is often essential in professional settings, project management, and long-term goal achievement.
Which is better depends on the situation.
In some cases, planning is essential. For example, in business, project management, and personal finance, meticulous planning can be critical for success.
Synchronicity can be valuable when dealing with creative endeavors, personal growth, or situations where rigid plans may not be effective, such as in serendipitous encounters that lead to unexpected opportunities.
Ultimately, the best approach may involve a balance between the two. Recognizing when to plan and when to embrace synchronicity can lead to a more holistic and fulfilling life. It’s also important to consider individual personality, preferences, and the specific context when choosing between synchronicity and planning.
Finding balance: If life feels chaotic and out of control, you may be leaning too heavily on synchronicity, or maybe even misunderstanding the concept. Synchronicity doesn’t mean abdicating control and succumbing to circumstances around us from a place of powerlessness.
If life feels restrictive, heavy, hard – you may be caught up in the dark side of planning. You might think that nothing will happen unless you MAKE it happen. It’s a version of control that is disempowering, because it carries with it a sense of obligation and burden rather than opportunity and possibility.
Embracing synchronicity could look like moving forward purposefully in life, while also looking for moments of wonder that can’t be manufactured or explained by reason. Having a vision for your life and knowing you have what it takes to make it happen. Holding those plans loosely enough to notice life’s magical moments, welcoming them with pure delight.
Betsy is a certified life coach and blogger who helps midlife women find satisfaction where they are now and inspiration to go after their big goals.
To learn more about working with Betsy, click here.