by Matt Jones, M.A., LPC, CADC
Like most people, I’ve had days where almost everything seems to go right – I woke up feeling rested, hit all the green lights on the road and at work, and enjoyed my evening before falling asleep. I’ve also had days in which everything appeared to go wrong – I woke up tired, showed up late to an overwhelming workday, and got in a fight with my significant other. Despite the differences between the two, both days had a distinctive flow. In the first day, it was as if I was at the right place at the right time and everything worked effortlessly. The second day was the opposite; every little thing that could go wrong did go wrong. Within each day I felt as if the seemingly separate events were somehow meaningfully connected.
Carl Jung coined the term synchronicity, which means a meaningful coincidence. He theorized about synchronicity and borrowed ideas from physics to explain a phenomenon in which two events that do not appear casually connected seem to be meaningfully related. Looking for examples of synchronicity, or meaningful coincidences, in your everyday life can help you find another psychological concept called flow. Developed from Positive Psychology, flow involves that blissful feeling when you’re “in the zone” and your thoughts, emotions, and energy are completely focused on the task at hand. If you’ve ever stayed up all night reading a book without realizing what time it is, you’re not only a nerd, you’ve also experienced flow.
Sports psychologists do their best to help amateur and professional athletes harness flow, which helps them achieve peak performances, but this experience is not limited to athletes: anyone can experience flow. In fact, the experience of being fully present and all-consumed by the present moment can be practiced. Mindfulness meditation is one type of practice that helps you stay in the present moment. Yet maintaining a meditative stance throughout an entire day is often challenging. One way to help yourself find that zone of quiet headspace is to observe small synchronicities within your day, which can help you harness flow and live in the present moment.
When you start viewing coincidences as meaningful, it forces you to take a mental step back from the ongoing chatter in your head. You are able to soak up the subtle humor in running late and then having a full and unexpectedly chaotic day at work, which decreases stress and takes the sting out of the unexpected. By creating this cognitive space, you are able to appreciate and feel gratitude for being alive and being able to witness all of the small things that make living enjoyable. For example, while searching for synchronicities you might feel more inclined to notice the subtle ways the leaves shake in the wind, or you might take a second to appreciate the way the sun warms your skin and energizes your surroundings. You begin noticing the connections between your smile and the way others respond to you. You start seeing larger patterns and synchronicities emerging, some of which may lead you to take a chance and move to a new location, or others that compel you to apply for a new job opening. Acting on synchronicities tends to have positive results—it’s almost as if you’ve cracked the code of the universe and are following your innermost voice at all times. What started as a simple observation of two events that seem to be related in a way you can’t quite explain, ends in the ability to witness larger movements and flows in your life – which enables you to enjoy the ride.
Today, I want you to try something new: pay attention to the small things that you intuitively feel are connected. There’s no need to label or overemphasize them, just notice as they occur. Observe how your own awareness of their presence makes you smile or laugh. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotion they elicit without trying to do anything with that emotion. Do your best to be a surfer and embrace whatever patterns and waves come your way. Despite what society tells you, there’s no reason to fight the flow—if you’re going to be late, you’re going to be late. You might as well enjoy each wave as they come rather than becoming frustrated when you can’t control the entire ocean. Witnessing synchronicities will allow you to live a lighter, joy-filled life because you recognize subtle patterns that help you find your flow.