Synchronicity, both beautiful and challenging

Synchronicity Silhouettes - School of Parrotfish

The term, synchronicity comes from Carl Jung, who first coined the phrase in the 1920s.  Jung saw synchronicity as two or more events that are meaningfully related, though they may not be causally related. He first developed the idea while treating a patient who dreamed of a golden scarab. During the session, as she described her dream, Jung found a golden scarab. The insect was rare for that part of the world and the timing was a striking. Jung saw synchronicity as more than random coincidence and noted that it is more likely to happen when we are in a heightened emotional state.

Synchronicity and serendipity are like sisters, similar but not quite the same. Serendipity is the sweet and surprising little sister, synchronicity is the big sister with edge. If serendipity is the coming together of opportunity at just the right moment, providing you are ready to see it, then synchronicity can be opportunity or threat at the best or worst moment. It’s like waking up with a brilliant idea, then finding that your client has had the same idea, but so has your competition.

Synchronicity at the pool could be about a wonderful ballet that defies gravity. Those beautiful twins who are both mirrors and mimics in the water. Synchronicity is the dance of fireflies performed to the music of night creatures. It is also the crowd that becomes a mob.

To what degree we are creatures of synchronicity is unclear, but like flocks of birds or schools of fish we are connected to one another. I think we send things out into the universe and the universe responds.  That’s the beauty and horror of synchronicity. If we send negativity and aggression we will find violence and rejection. If we send joy and peace, those things will also wing their way back to us.

My single mindedness at work has helped me avoid pitfalls while those around me stumbled and fell. It has also unnecessarily excluded me. My love of team has had me proudly singing in a choir of ideas and it has caused me to chase red herrings as part of a pack. That’s the challenge of synchronicity, it doesn’t tell us when to follow and when to lead. It isn’t always good though it is often appealing.

The older I get, the less often I find myself engaging in negative collective behaviour.  I’d like to think it’s a sign of growing wisdom.  More likely, it’s a consequence of my profession. The communications sector forces me to continually scan the horizon.  What’s coming, what’s trending, what’s sinking, what’s changing are some of the questions I have to ask on an ongoing basis.  When I stop asking, then things like LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest show up and change all the rules of engagement. Asking means I learn all kinds of things along the way, some pertinent for now, others relevant for later.

Looking outward on a regular basis also disengages me; it sets me a drift. When strange or counterproductive decisions are made back at home base, that’s what they look like to me, counter productive and strange.  I don’t get distracted by the internal culture or prevailing paradigm because I’m not embedded in them.

Strong personal values do the same thing. They ground you, give you a moral compass when things get foggy. They inform your decisions and guide your actions. When synchronicity wants to pull and lull you, your values will provide guidance.

What about you? Have you ever gotten into synch at just the right time?  Had an amazing coincidence that left you surprised or inspired? Or have you travelled down a road only to ask yourself later, “What was I thinking?”

Image: Silhouettes – School of Parrotfish (Photo credit: CAUT)


0 responses to “Synchronicity, both beautiful and challenging

  • I had a great sales team that I was fortunate to have hand picked. That was one time (of many) in my life when everything seemed to come together and all felt in sync. But as all things do, life changed and I moved on to another opportunity. What I find so interesting is how things go in and out of sync. It’s as if we need to reminded what it is that really works for us. 🙂

  • Moving to my current city and the job that I’ve taken have been a combination of Serendipity and the title of a great Police album, Synchronicity. Everything seems to be working right now and I truly hope that continues into the future with subsequent moves to different places upon arrival back home.

  • TheRecipeHunter says:
    July 19, 2014 @ 04:30 pm

    Oh I have certainly traveled down the ‘what was I thinking road’ but arrived at a new destination wiser and better for it. And I do love the synchronicity that I feel with my husband. There have been so many times that I have said something to him and he immediately tells me that he was thinking the same thing. How does that happen? And so often? Kismet!

    • There’s nothing quite like realizing that you have not been in charge of your own decisions and you’re so right, as embarrassing/painful as they may be, they are incredible learning opportunities. One of the things I love about my husband is that he has the knack of waking me up to myself. He’ll ask a simple question and it’s as good as giving my head a shake. 🙂

  • Sometimes, I catch myself thinking of a particular person. I will remember many things about the person and the next thing is I get a phonecall from the same person. Sometimes, I will say something and my hubby will respond” don’t think in my head”, meaning he is also thinking the same thing with the same wording.
    Glad to know it happens to other people too.

  • What a beautifully written article! It seems to me that synchronicity happens to me when I am happiest. Being in love is one example.

  • crystalzakrison says:
    July 17, 2014 @ 09:29 am

    Debra, I looked up the word syncronicity and your articles came up in the feed! How awesome is that. 😉 there are times in my life where I have been in sync with people. As if at that moment they where ment to be in my life and we are connecting on the same level in that moment in time. My husband and I happened to be at the same coffee shop one night and his friends where being loud and hitting on my gfs and I as we where enjoying our conversation. I have my number to his friend Roy for a potential roommate and my husband Chandler called instead. The rest is history. However, I do think it was funny how being at the same place at the same time resulted in five years of marriage. This is a great article and thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • I love the story of how you and your husband met and I hear stories like that more often than you would think. Chance encounters that have life altering outcomes are normal. If we took the time to step back and think about how much synchronicity, serendipity and and good old fashioned coincidence play a role in determining the direction of our lives we might get paralyzed into indecision. 🙂

  • Debra, I often have what I call ‘feelings’, guiding me in one direction or another and which I see you refer to as being in sync.

    • Lenie, there was a time when letting your feelings guide you was considered a weakness. Hopefully we’ve all gotten a lot smarter since then because feelings are a simple way of describing years of accumulated insight, experience and your ability to connect and assess a situation quickly.

  • I had my own moment of synchronicity, if I’m understanding the term, the night I met my husband. I was going out of town and decided to skip a cocktail party I had been invited to. I thought, “what the heck, I’ll go for an hour, and then taxi to the airport.” Yes, Charles was there. I only met him for a moment but as I was leaving an hour later something made me go over to him and ask him if he was having a good time. He said, “no,” and ended up driving me to the airport. We were married 7 months later and we often discussed that moment and what was it in the universe that made me go over to him. By the way, he was a private press publisher and the name of his press was “Serendipity.”

    • Excellent story!! I so get that!!! The first time I met my husband it was only for a moment but we stuck in each other’s brain. Years later when we met again at a party, his sister suggested he give me a ride home. We had barely spoken and I don’t even now why I was getting a ride but I distinctly remember sitting in his car and thinking, I’m going to marry him. It took another two years before we even started dating, but I knew it would happen.

  • Arleen says:
    July 16, 2014 @ 04:23 pm

    I am amazed when I use the power of the mind to program something in and it happens. It is also scary. My children come to me and ask me what I feel about this or that. My daughter’s husband thinks I am a witch. I have always felt no matter what curve ball I have been throw I am able to land on my feet of which I am truly grateful.

    • That’s excellent. I’d be proud to be called a witch. Witches are underrated and suffer from poor public relations. 🙂 We all have the ability to dial into the “magic” around us, but I think having the self-confidence to act on what we are feeling is the difference between success and failure.

  • Meredith says:
    July 16, 2014 @ 11:53 am

    I never stopped to think about where the term “In sync” comes from. This was an interesting subject, and I like how you relate it to your personal values. If you are sure of your values, then when things line up with them, you get a moment where everything comes together and you know whether to act on your impulses.

    • One of the most common mistakes I see in business is that people forget their values. It’s not so much that they become “evil” or anything, it’s just that they don’t stop to ask themselves, “Would I do this in a personal setting?”

      Just because a colleague is being rude, does that mean you should be rude too? When I speak about brand with colleagues, I usually ask them to treat even the most irritating customer/patient/client/collegue like they would their favourite aunt.

  • One of my relatives seem to find what you might call synchronicity in historical facts. For example, just as Hitler invaded Russia, the weather was such and such. I just nod my head and move forward. Like Jon, I’ve got songs by The Police now going on in my head.

    • Those are cool facts. Imagine the possibilities if something had been a little different, would the world look the way it does?

      I’d finally forgotten that Police song out of my head!!!! Ugh! I like the Police, but no song sounds good when stuck in replay.

  • Yes, that kind of stuff happens to me all the time. Like I will be getting ready to text a friend and while I am typing, a text comes in from them. It’s kind of spooky, actually. But, I think there is a Higher Power that some how oversees all of this stuff. Call me crazy, but that’s just how I feel about it. Loved reading this.

  • Hi Debra; this time I’m not quite sure I understand the message or have any experiences that match up with it. a couple of times someone has asked me to find them a ride to buy and i managed to meet someone new who had what they wanted. there have been times I was having trouble with the website or the blog and people came forward to help without being asked. Or at least I didn’t ask them out loud. I guess I need to learn more about these two terms. thanks for sharing, max

    • Max, I think that finding that part just as someone is asking for it is a pretty good description. Synchronicity is essentially what happens when things line at the perfect time as if they were meant to be.

  • Brilliant post Debra. There is more and more science that points to the power of positive thinking but I think it can also be misunderstood. So often I hear people talk about positive thinking as though just wanting something badly enough is sufficient to make it happen. I think you’re clear when you say that there is beauty and horror to synchronicity. My belief is that gratitude and ‘other thinking’ must have a huge role. ” I don’t get distracted by the internal culture or prevailing paradigm because I’m not embedded in them.” I think, for me, this is the key. It’s not always apparent…not like a boomerang that has an immediate return…but somehow I manage to get a feeling of being synced up very often. Right time -right place, serendipity, have an angel on my shoulder…all those things. But like you, I think values…the internal compass that guides, has a great deal to do with the path we choose and what awaits on that journey.

    • True!!! I have never heard anyone suggest the power of positive passive thinking as a way to succeed, but that is how it seems to get interpreted. We have to be alive to possibilities, take action and consequently take responsibility for those actions. I was listening to a positive psychologist (a psychologist engaged in the study of happiness) and one of the first things he said was that if you want to be happy, then don’t focus on achieving happiness. It sounds crazy, but it made sense to me. Being grateful for what you have and looking towards what you can contribute are a much more fruitful way to engage in life.

  • You may have expected this response from me but… The entire time I was reading this the only thing going through my head was, Synchronicity from the Police. To make matters worse, I find I don’t have any music from the Police right now so I will have the song stuck in my head for ever.

  • Making the decision to work in Yellowstone is probably the time in my life when everything was most in sync. Those experiences taught me what truly made me happy as a human being. Then I had to go and get busy with the rest of the rat race, only to eventually swing back the other way again.

    • Jerri I’m amazed at how many times I don’t realize I’m in-synch until I step out of it and then suddenly everything feels weird. The trick for me is getting it when I’m in it and then having the sense to stay there. 🙂 It sounds like you knew, but life dragged you in a different direction for a while.

  • It’s fantastic when things work out synchronistically, and always feel aware,that things have fallen into place well. But when it’s the opposite, it feels like the universe is against me. I agree with Catarina actually, that being positive goes a long way to things working out , and at the least being serendipitous.

  • Always have serendipity happen. It can be as small as driving into a typically crowded parking lot, just in my mind thanking God for the parking space (in advance) and then there it is. My husband always finds this remarkable.

    What I really love is when I get in the flow for days with GOOD synchronicity.

    Thanks Debra.

  • Hi Debra,
    You have written about one of my favourite topics. I have read most of Jung’s writings. When I think of the terms synchronicity and moments of serendipity, I think of John O’Donohue’s observation in “The Secret Landscapes Of Imagination And Spirit,” when he said, “I would love to live like a river flows carried by the surprise of it’s own unfolding” and “There is an unseen life that dreams us; it knows our true direction and destiny. We can trust ourselves more than we realize, and we need have no fear of change.”

    Have a great week!

    • I love the quotes, particularly, “There is an unseen life that dreams us; it knows our true direction and destiny.’ People often think of destiny in a fatalistic way, but I’m less of a skeptic. If we are putting good things into the universe, why would we find the idea of destiny daunting?

  • I totally agree with the heightened emotional state bringing forth a synchronicity of events. I have seen this occur multiple times in my life when I am extremely excited about a prospect of business or travel. It’s like the world opens up and provides what I need…sometimes even things I didn’t know I needed.

    • Tim it’s like a gift from the world but we have to open ourselves up to receive it. I am amazed by how often things “just come together” when I need them to, but after all of these years I shouldn’t be. 🙂

  • jankedonna says:
    July 15, 2014 @ 11:55 am

    I connected with the comment that synchronicity is more likely to happen when we are in a heightened emotional state. When I nurture my creativity, I find myself more open to recognizing moments of synchronicity (and serendipity) and that enhances creativity further.

  • Debra, I think this is your best post ever. My favorite sentence: “I don’t get distracted by the internal culture or prevailing paradigm because I’m not embedded in them.” Those words describe my philosophy behind my blog. Synchronicity.

    • Thank you, I wrote this post while I was relaxed and staring in awe at the ocean. 🙂 Nothing like being close to nature to remind you that we are all connected.

  • The universe is so complicated, but the events surround us on an individual basis. Like the fish, birds, animals all swarm together. We too connect to each other like they do. In a swarm or crowd, it takes the personality of one person to change the course, be it taking a stance of strength or a stampede of panic.

  • Hi Debra, I tend to think of synchronicity as a permanent state of which we are only intermittently aware though I do believe that an eye on the horizon and a recognition that the prevailing paradigm are limited help us to tune in more often

  • Mind over matter is a fact. If you concentrate hard om something the universe often manifest it. Was, for instance, recently thinking of a particular building a lot and suddenly someone I talked to suggested I should talk to someone that works in that building. I did and the result was fantastic. Actually got more than I bargained for when I was thinking on the building.

    However, generally speaking, just being positive will not make synchronicity happen. You have to act as well:-)

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