Serendipity = natural to-do list

I am starting to believe in the universe. I am carefully avoiding the term “god” because I still do not believe in the almighty old man with 5 fingers and occasional temper. What I am considering is the existence of a universal law that even god(s) must surrender, and that is called serendipity.

(Unlike us, god has five fingers)

Here is an example. After I left my employed life in an office building and started to lead a more physically active life, I began realizing a constant numb pain in my lower back, especially when I stood right up, straightening my spine. That was strange—I gave more exercise opportunities for my body and took proper posture, and I was creating a new problem? But the pain usually cooled down in seconds so I never paid serious attention to it.

Yesterday when I got up from my couch and felt the usual sour pain, instead of brushing it off, somehow the word “chiropractic” popped into my head and I decided to follow it to go see a chiropractor, even though I did not have any chiropractic experience. I simply decided to follow on that small lead and take a baby step: ask for recommendations on Facebook.

Within an hour I received replies from four friends, each with his or her own practitioner’s (= proven) contact information. I called the first one. A slot was available three hours later that day, so I made an appointment. (Even though some friends were against going to that particular place, I decided to honor the first-come-first-served tradition. I kept their warnings and alternative recommendations in my mind though.)

The first thing I did at the chiropractic office was to take an X-ray photo of my back. There I found out the reason why I was having the pain: my spine was already deformed too straight-up from its natural curvy shape due to my years of sitting posture in my office environment. How serious was it? The angle of my back was off the norm by 10 degrees. The pain I was having was the pain of trying to move the spine back into its original shape. What an irony.

Along with the treatment the doctor gave me suggestions and one of which was to buy a pair of loose pants for my exercise. I owned only tight-fitting pants at that moment. Thinking of where and what to buy, I checked Facebook again and a friend just posted how wonderful the stretching hiking pants she bought were. The shop was on my way home. Thirty minutes later I was a happy man continuing my way home wearing those perfectly stretchable pants, with an additional benefit of 25% discount. I became not only chiropractic-proof but also outdoor-proof.

So, in a matter of several hours I took an important step in addressing a fundamental issue, found out an equally fundamental problem in my (past) habit, had a list of awesome chiropractors, got a new pair of pants I not only needed but also did not know I needed. These all happened by following the initial small hunch.

How come I rarely experienced this in the past? The answer is simple: Because I killed it. I always had plans lined up in front of me, and I took pride in finishing them one by one, turning every event into a to-do list. Anything unexpected was treated as anomaly and was thrown straight into a mental garbage can. I was doing my best to kill serendipity moments right away, or allocate them into another to-do list, which also killed them anyhow.

Serendipity is the universe lining up to create a natural to-do list on its own. The difference between our tired list is that you can only see one item at a time. The entire path can only be seen backward when a journey is completed. In order to let serendipity occur, I have to give up the idea of “plans” and have the courage and curiosity to follow the small lead in front of me, one by one.

Visibility is almost zero at any given time. But when I take a bold first step based on a small hunch, the next step does appear and guide me. Even stepping right back turns into the “next step” and I will arrive at where I ought to arrive. I cannot say that this way is more efficient than our tired list. But I assure you, it is a helluva lot more fun.