I enjoy making plans and charting a direction for how I spend my time. Ideally I want to focus my attention on those activities that will help me get within the vicinity of my intended goals. Maintaining sustained and focused efforts over a period of time has led to many awesome experiences and learning opportunities, and I want to ingrain those habits that reinforce my learning, fitness, career, and social goals.
I also embrace serendipity. Amazing discoveries, awesome friendships, and new opportunities have entered my life even though I was not seeking them out initially. These awesome chance events have shaped the direction of how I spend my time.
Is this a paradox? Can planning and serendipity co-exist in a rewarding synergy? Definitely! I love planning but also allow unexpected things to happen in my daily activities. I want to structure my 168 hours every week but also create spaces for what Angela Maiers calls “tactical serendipity.” I want to allow for what my friend and fellow writer Jackie Dotson refers to as, “Dude, Let’s Try This!” opportunities.
Adopting either of the extremes—designing my waking hours with rigid structure or leaving everything that happens to chance—doesn’t reflect how I want to live. I want to make incremental progress towards big-picture goals (e.g. running 10k races this year, learning and mastering new songs with my bands, earning a Certified Associate in Project Management certification, relocating to a lovely smaller apartment) while enjoying these processes. But I don’t want these goals to consume all of my waking hours. Conversely, I love encountering new opportunities, meeting people, and going where the wind carries me, but I don’t want to wander aimlessly through life. I am somewhere between the two extremes. I often sway back and forth with the wind.
I’ve discovered that making time for serendipity and being attentive are excellent adoptable habits. Pursuing a direction while being open to random events allows for exploring adjacent possible spaces, evaluating the relevancy of the current direction, and making necessary changes to reorient my goals. Being exposed to engaging ideas and philosophies (e.g. powerful storytelling, short talk formats, culture-building, and lean methodologies) were influential in my decision to stop trying to keep up with technical certifications for IT support: my career goals have shifted accordingly.
Few days ago, I noticed a runner while I was performing errands couple of neighborhoods away from home. It never occurred to me until that observation that I could possibly incorporate running in that neighborhood as part of my exercise routine. About 95 percent of my running sessions follow the same route, and I have become ingrained in the habit of following the tried-and-true loop during workouts. I learned that a running course to the new neighborhood and back would be roughly the same distance that I normally run. Today I ran out to the new neighborhood and back—and found the experience exhilarating. Moments like being greeted by the bright and brilliant sun when I reached the top of the hill, seeing maneki neko statues inside a gorgeous golden-yellow house, and appreciating the ambience and the period architecture of the charming residential neighborhood made the new course a compelling win. I also learned that I can incorporate parts of my original, familiar running route when I start experimenting with running longer distances. Serendipity!
Being attentive about my surroundings has also inspired possibilities. I recently discovered a new bakery restaurant and a nifty-looking bar in my neighborhood, which I will investigate. These new places may be comfortable for a blogging session, a skunkworks meeting, a team-building event, or social outing. Or maybe not. Either way, they are experiences to be discovered. Unearthing these places happened because one day I decided to walk ten blocks to a bus stop that was farther away instead of waiting idly at a bus stop for fifteen minutes while waiting for the bus.
It is a blessing to encounter awesome people and discover new ideas while partaking in diverse activities. I met many amazing people while playing recreational sports—these people have inspired me with their passions and goals. I crossed paths with many talented musicians while playing shows—these people have become great friends and even future bandmates. People whom I have met through my work have encouraged me to unleash my creative tendencies, question the status quo, and create community- and culture-building movements. Being a part of many tribes have blessed me with opportunities to learn about others’ experiences, interact with other writers, share my experiences and stories, and participate in a community of supportive beings who want to be remarkable.
Establishing a direction and embracing randomness can work harmoniously. As long as I keep my senses engaged and be attentive to what is happening around me, I can continue to spend my time in engaging and vibrant ways.