Although I had heard and possibly even used the word before then, I was introduced to the origin and full meaning of the word “serendipity” while reading some online articles by Richard Eyre.  Serendipity and its implications for living more fully is fascinating to me.

Before delving into serendipity, Eyre starts with a series of articles on what he calls the “deceivers.”  He then presents the “alternatives.”  In this case, the deceiver is “control,” and the alternative is serendipity.  In today’s post I hope to summarize Eyre’s ideas regarding the problems with our efforts to control our lives; my next post will deal with the alternative of serendipity. 

Think about a time when you experienced frustration and stress.  Very often, these negative and counterproductive feelings result from our attempts to control outcomes in our lives.  We try to control not only things in our own life but also things in others’ lives- things that are often uncontrollable.

It is much easier for me to talk in generalities than in concrete examples, but here are a few ways we might try to control outcomes- we want to bake a treat, and we become frustrated that it doesn’t turn out as perfectly as we had planned; we want a child to be respectful, to obey, to do what we want them to do, to graduate from college, etc. but we stress when the child makes mistakes or does not share the same vision that we have for them; we want to have the perfect job, car, house, family, etc. but feel as failures if any of these seems less than perfect.

I suppose some desire to control outcomes isn’t necessarily bad.  Who begins making a treat hoping that it will burn or taste awful?  Who doesn’t want their child to be successful?  Who doesn’t want to have a good job, car, home, or family?  A certain degree of control, stress, and frustration are probably necessary to achieve good things in our lives.  The trouble arises when our need to control begins dominating our lives and the level of stress and frustration we feel is more prevalent than the joy, peace, and happiness we experience.

Eyre proposes serendipity as the alternative to the “white knuckled,” will-power approach to controlling our lives.  My next post will explore this serendipity- the origin of the word, what it means, and how we can develop this ability to live more joyfully and productively.

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