Serendipity: the Doorway to Hidden Opportunity

By Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D.


Imagine possessing the ability or the faculty for creating unexpected and fortunate discoveries by accident. You are walking down the street and suddenly something happens that changes the course of your life. You look up at a store window and something clicks inside your mind. You see a magazine cover portraying an automobile or some other product that says to you, "I can do that!" You could be in the throes of a horrible divorce and while you are sitting in a therapist's office, you look at him and say, "I can do that." The following day you enroll in your first college course that leads to a degree in psychology. You are turned down for a massive loan that could set you up in a certain business. Accidentally, you run into someone who turns you on to another company that presents you with a greater opportunity than you would have ever encountered. Serendipity!


I can give you many examples about how accidental occurrences have changed the course of People's lives. You, yourself, are probably capable of reciting exciting examples of how unfortunate circumstances presented unexpected, accidental discoveries. Many years ago, I had applied for acceptance into a doctoral psychology program in my hometown. I had met all of their entrance requirements except one. I was resoundingly rejected. At the time, I felt angry and unfairly treated. Little did I know that a serendipitous event would lead me to attend a doctoral program, 2000 miles away, in sunny South Florida. That rejection from Temple University turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me, even though, at that time, I did not realize it. My journey to South Florida turned out to be one of the most wonderful experiences of my life that eventually led to a dreamlike existence. If it were not for that rejection, I never would have met my precious soulmate and had two wonderful sons born to me. What looked like a disaster turned out to be an idyllic golden opportunity and experience.


Serendipitous events can only occur when the achievement bug bites you with the possibility of accomplishing something that is challenging but not to difficult to attain. Most people are willing to take high risks to accomplish something if they feel it is well within their capability of achieving success. Serendipity will not occur if the task is perceived as too difficult and the risks are too great. Serendipitous changes occur when intuition tells you that a new direction is a way to alter your course or circumnavigate an obstacle or problem. Serendipity also occurs when certain doors shut tight, but new opportunities exist just outside present awareness. Someone who is low in achievement motivation and deficient in the ability to grasp the necessity for change will not ordinarily encounter serendipitous opportunities. These emotional intelligence qualities must be present insufficient amounts for the phenomenon of serendipity to take place.


Circumstances must dictate that something needs to be done or something needs to happen for an individual to solve a predicament. Fortunate accidental discoveries can only occur when a person is open and ready for something to happen. It may be controversial as to whether serendipity can be unconsciously prepared for. It is obvious that serendipitous events seem to occur unexpectedly. But, I wonder how much emotional and intellectual anticipation and preparation sets the stage for accidental fortunate discoveries. This raises the question of how one may prepare for a fortunate accidental event. Prayer may be one activity that leads to accidental discoveries and fortunate events. One woman claims that she has a guardian angel that looks out for her and sets up the circumstances that resemble serendipity. Perhaps fate, destiny and karma are concepts relevant to the phenomenon of serendipity. Needless to say, serendipitous occurrences are a highly individual and subjective phenomenon.


So…be on the lookout for them.