Synchronicity

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Synchronicity, in the words of Wikipedia, is “the experience of two or more events, that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner.” It’s an idea that first popped up in psychology in the 1920s (thanks to Carl Jung).

Synchronicity is something that I think happens quite a bit in our lives. In fact, I think that synchronicity tends to be a big part of the reason we latch on to certain ideas and motivations. We are independently hit with ideas from completely independent sources that build up or reinforce some idea in our head. We might read an article on self-improvement on a blog, then overhear a friend talking about a similar thing. Multiple events happen very quickly in our life that pushes us onto a completely unexpected path.

We often look at “positive” synchronicity as luck. I got my first post-college job due to positive synchronicity, as a connection with one person and work on a project completely independent of that person happened to simultaneously catch the attention of the person who offered me that job. They seemed completely independent, yet they both occurred in my life at the same time and they both resulted in the same meaningful thing.

We often look at “negative” synchronicity as proof of Murphy’s Law. We get a pink slip and, on the way home, our car breaks down. A few weeks ago, my car had some minor issues and my shoelace broke almost exactly at the same time, leaving me limping around and wondering why I was cursed.

Our lives and our finances are better whenever we have more instances of “positive” synchronicity and fewer instances of “negative” synchronicity. It seems fairly obvious, but it’s true.

The trick, however, is to do what we can to make that happen. What can we actively do to encourage and amplify positive synchronicity and discourage and minimize negative synchronicity?

Have a big, fat emergency fund. The obvious impact of this is to minimize the effects of negative synchronicity. If you lose your job and your car breaks down, the impact on your life will be less if you have cash on hand to handle it.

What often isn’t noted is that it can amplify positive synchronicity. If you hear of a great sale from one person and of a particular great item from another person, you might experience some positive synchronicity by seeing that item at the sale, but you can’t take advantage of that unless you’ve got the cash. For example, I once found a bunch of vintage trading cards in the back room of a local store. Positive synchronicity enabled me to be at the right place at the right time with the right knowledge to know how valuable they were compared to what the person thought they were worth, but only cash allowed me to buy them right on the spot.

Have a wide-ranging skill and knowledge set. Let’s say you just got put in charge of a tricky new task at work, then go home and find that your toilet has exploded, leaving you exhausted and nearly in tears. Well, if you have a strong skill set for your job and some plumbing skills, this disaster isn’t nearly the disaster that it might be otherwise.

Again, diverse skills not only cover negative synchronicity, they can also help with positive synchronicity. In my own life, for example, my experience with two seemingly independent areas of knowledge eventually led me to getting a very nice college job and, eventually, a post-graduation job as well. If I had just one of those skills, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity, and I didn’t anticipate anything of the sort when I picked up the separate skills.

The more skills you have, the better. Can you use Photoshop? Can you fix an outlet? Can you do basic home plumbing? Can you prepare a meal over a campfire? Do you read a variety of materials? All of these things – and countless others – are fertile ground for synchronous moments.

Have a burgeoning social network. Over and over again, the existing relationships we have cause a positive synchronous event. You’ll be able to connect with person A because you both already know person B. On the flip side, you’ll have a multitude of simultaneous problems that can be eased by asking a person you know for help.

It’s well worth your time to grow and cultivate your personal social network. The more people you know and have some sort of real association with, the better.

Our lives are full of synchronicity. We almost always win if we put ourselves in a position to maximize positive synchronicity and minimize negative synchronicity.

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8 thoughts on “Synchronicity

  1. “A few weeks ago, my car had some minor issues and my shoelace broke almost exactly at the same time, leaving me limping around and wondering why I was cursed.”

    WHA!? A broken shoestring and minor car issues make you wonder why you’re cursed? LOL! I can’t imagine how you’re going to deal with a serious problem…and, how does a broken shoelace leave you limping around?

  2. IMO, the key word in the definition is “observed”. Humans tend to grant meaning, causality, or relatedness to random events that are probably totally unrelated. And, sometimes, ignore or deny actual causality or relatedness.

  3. As to a tendency to deny causality where is is clearly present:

    Steven seems oblivious to the fact that a broken shoelace might cause a human being to limp, whereas it is obvious to anyone that of course it might. To “limp” is simply to walk in a fashion that is in some way impaired: a person with a sprained ankle will walk in such a fashion; but so will a person with a broken shoelace, lest that person’s normal gait lead to the relevant shoe becoming dislocated with respect to the relevant foot.

    As to a tendency to affirm causality where it is clearly not present: this may or may not have served humans well until now, but it is the only thing that has served humans at all until now. What we would have done without it I don’t know – perhaps we would all be living on Vulcan; perhaps we would all be dead. What we will do without it I don’t know either, and I don’t believe anyone (even Richard Dawkins) who says he does know.

  4. “Have a big, fat emergency fund. The obvious impact of this is to minimize the effects of negative synchronicity. If you lose your job and your car breaks down, the impact on your life will be less if you have cash on hand to handle it.”

    I thought the synchronicity was the fact that the two events occurred, not the resulting impact from them. No matter how big your efund is, that’s not going to stop your car breaking down. So how is it possible to encourage/prevent either positive or negative synchronicity, or am I misunderstanding?

  5. Jung was thinking of astrology when he came up with the idea of synchronicity. There was no logical reason why movement of the planets should affect people’s lives but maybe there was somehow a relationship. Maybe your negative example is something like that happening but I didn’t get your positive one and I think this is a stretch to the discussion of emergency funds etc.

  6. My late husband who was a farmer used to say”everything has gone wrong today”. He had many, very expensive pieces of machinery to keep going and when something would break during a busy time it would cause a lot of trouble. However, he kept what he called a “cushion” so that he could pay for the repairs and just had the aggravation to deal with. I can remember that he told the children when they became adults to always keep a cushion which was his version of an emergency fund.

  7. Seems to me like you’re basically saying “make your own luck” which I definitely agree with.

    Some successful people are genuinely lucky, but most of them got to where they are because they made their own luck (emergency fund, great social network, etc.)

  8. “A few weeks ago, my car had some minor issues and my shoelace broke almost exactly at the same time, leaving me limping around and wondering why I was cursed.”

    Ha ha, I totally do this! Two minor things coming together in just the wrong way can turn me into Jonah shaking my fist at God. ‘I’m cursed! Cursed I say!’

    And then I remember people who actually have real problems and feel guilty for being totally ridiculous.

    One thing I really really try to do is to recognize the positive synchronicity (didn’t know the name till now) or the times in which the negative synchronicity didn’t happen. Which may be nauseatingly Pollyanna of me, but I’d rather bring my brain to positivity than negativity, although with a bit of a naturally pessimistic outlook I have to struggle to do that.

    I agree that a big emergency fund can turn something from Life Catastrophe!!! to a mild ‘aw that kinda sucks’ in a real hurry.

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