Hello, Good Planner! Do you have time for Serendipity?

Planning is something we do all the time. Amidst the planning and keeping that control, some little space must be given to the power of serendipity.

We like to plan. We are told planning is a good thing, and we must keep making new plans and keep updating our old ones.

We plan a project, we plan a meeting, we plan a pitch, we plan future goals, we plan about how to reach our present goals and we plan our career. We plan a holiday, we plan our ‘me’ time. We do short-term planning, and we do long-term planning.

In all this planning, life happens to us. As the famous line by the famous John Lennon goes:

Life is what happens when you are making other plans…

Planning is good. It helps us remain secure and prepared. It’s a necessary activity which enables us to develop foresight and become good managers and leaders. It ensures a workable structure for the times when we might not know what to do, or when life throws its surprises at us. When we plan, we are being prepared for everything and anything.  

In all this pressure to plan and be prepared, we sometimes forget to keep a little breathing space. A little breathing space for serendipity.

What is serendipity?

Serendipity is when the unexpected works in just the right way. Some people call it a ‘happy coincidence’. Sometimes the events- unexpected ones -work out themselves without you having to do any planning.

Think of all those times when you gifted the exact thing the person needed without really knowing that the person indeed was looking for the very thing you gifted them.

The times when you were wondering how to contact a client and you received a connection invite from them instead.

The times when you may have chosen a different route for your commute and ended up having the client you were supposed to give a pitch to be your co-passenger. 

These are some very simple examples, but serendipity can work out in much more complex ways, and that is where the need to keep that space for it to act out comes in. Serendipity works when we keep that 1% space for the events to unfold themselves. We have to let the ideas unfold themselves. After a point, there’s a only so much planning one can do. The wisdom of sitting back and letting it unfold comes in handy.

Letting the Ideas Unfold on their Own:

A little insight from Paul Graham who wears multiple caps of an essayist, computer scientist, venture capitalist, investor and entrepreneur:

‘The best new ideas always have unanticipated benefits.’

In other words, after a point, we must let serendipity do its job.

Good planning is necessary. We should try our best to chart out a good plan with all the contingencies but once an optimum level of planning has been achieved, we should just let things unfold on their own. Overplanning is the enemy here: planning too much leaves no space for improvising, adapting and things to fall into place. It leaves no space to change tracks or put on the brakes. Overplanning can make ideas crash.

How to let serendipity do its job?

Plan but don’t over-plan: If you have ten steps charted out, but the eleventh step seems tricky, let it be, and let the ten steps do their work onto the eleventh step.

Be open to experiences: If a situation is not working the way you want it to work, and there’s nothing you can do about it, be open to the supposedly different situation that seems to be unfolding. Say for example, if your interview or the client meeting did not go according to the plan, be curious and see what could happen next, instead of trying fruitless damage control measures like frantic calling or emailing for a fixed result. The ‘alternate’ results might surprise you, pleasantly.

A job you thought you would hate but ended up genuinely enjoying? A situation you thought had failed but once you gave up control, solved itself? Yes, that is serendipity doing its work.

Thinking Ahead At Present: Life After COVID-19

Everyone has talked a great deal about how to go about with present situation, which has forced us to change our lifestyles. But how about we try to think a little ahead, and try to see how to go about after it’s all over? How do we go about creating, or re-creating our life after COVID-19?

No one really knows when things will entirely “unlock”. Perhaps a wise thing to do right now thus is to utilise this new pace of living and think about some important things about our life and career. Instead of thinking about it when things do get back to normal and ending up getting overwhelmed, it might not be a bad idea to start on a path right now, so we might reach to an answer sooner or later.

A little mental health warning first, before we embark: we are not advocating over-thinking and driving oneself into a panic mode. It is ideal to take one day at a time in the present situation. What we are saying is this: now is a good time to think about all the things we have been sweeping under the carpet since ages, and sort one’s priorities.

The Museum Analogy:

In an article by FastCompany, author of the book “Curating Your Life: Ending The Struggle For a Work-Life Balance”  Gail Golden gives us a wonderful analogy to think in terms of when we are on our path to setting our priorities.

The expression “work-life” balance implies as if we are on a tight-rope, balancing things like an acrobat. Instead of that shaky and stressful analogy, Gail Golden suggests we look at our life the way a curator of a museum does. We think of three or more important “artworks” of our lives, which need care, attention, in other words, the main focus of our museum. The others, the side exhibits, and then those which can be put aside for now.

This a novel way to direct one’s time and energy in the right direction.

But it might get a little tricky…

Gail Golden talks of the difficulties of this approach,

“There are things that you may do because they’re meaningful and enriching for you, and things you do that you don’t like very much but your boss or your family needs you to do them. You cannot ignore the priorities of the people around you. The danger is we make everybody else’s priorities more important than your own all of the time. That’s part of work-life balance that doesn’t work.”

When such a situation arises, mixing approaches can help here. One can resort to making lists of things which go along the lines of being important and urgent, important but not so urgent. One needs to be open to the idea that the necessity and urgency of needs is going to change, and that one does not discard certain “exhibits” out of impulse or unnecessary panic.

When it comes to museums, the past plays an important role.

Think about your own past decisions and why you chose something in the first place to steer clear of impulsive “de-prioritising” of things.

These are the thoughts one now has the time to consider.

A final note: although thinking like a curator of a museum is a good strategy, we cannot stress enough on being flexible and open to new ideas during and after this time. No one knows how the world is going to cope with the normal or even the “new” normal. Having a plan is good, but it is also important that we keep ourselves open to the idea of that plan getting changed.

Things to Keep in Mind Before Deciding to Change Careers

changing careers image


Change is not always easy, especially when it comes to changing careers.

There are questions asked. There is a sense of having had enough of the present career, and at the same time there is a lingering self-doubt. Whether it’s you yourself contemplating over these questions, or someone else questioning your decision, it is not uncommon to find yourself wondering:

  • Will I be able to do it?
  • Do I have what it takes to start over?
  • Is it wise to make this leap?
  • Am I making the right decision?

You may or may not be able to answer these questions with conviction, because after all, sometimes you don’t know until you try.

But there are some things you can keep in mind before you actually take the plunge and decide to change careers.


Think Why:

Why do you want to change careers? Is it because you want to take a leap of faith, or is it because you want to run away from your current job? Is it because your job has been wearing you down?

As we mentioned briefly in one of our previous posts about strategic quitting, it is necessary to think if it is the job or career itself that is the problem, or any particular assignment.

  • Would things get better when that particular assignment is over?
  • Would the storm-clouds clear once that difficult discussion is over?
  • Is it just a phase that you are dreading, and how long would it take for it to pass?
  • Are you threatening something long-term by getting bogged down by a short-term problem?
  • Is quitting the assignment an option? Can you delegate it?
  • Do you want to switch companies?


Making this distinction between a need to change workplace and a need to change career is necessary.



Think What:

Often, we think about changing careers, and stop there. As a result, we might end up in the wrong job. Again.

To get a clearer understanding of your decision, and avoid making the mistake of choosing a wrong job, it is a good idea to think about what you want from your career change.

Think along questions like:

  • What skills do I want to use or want to develop?
  • What type of challenges do I want to face at work?
  • What can I see myself doing long-term?
  • What am I missing in my present line of work?


But thinking about the skills you want to use should go along with thorough research. Read on the next bit.


Steer Clear From Generalised Rose-tinted Research:

Do you want a career change, or do you want to use a particular skill, which can be used in other ways without switching careers?

Researching thoroughly about the potential new career is important. Each career comes with its challenges and unlikable aspects; are you prepared, or willing to learn to handle those?

For example, you may think teaching is the career you want to get into from your managerial one. You have a passion to impart knowledge to young minds. But apart from imparting knowledge, teaching can also include managing unruly pupils, correcting piles of exam papers, repetitively teaching the same material for years etc,.

Taking off the rose-tinted glasses while researching about a new career will give a realistic picture of the scenario.


Prepare a Plan:

If you do decide to change careers, it is necessary to do some planning.

This includes preparing a financial plan.

Changing careers is not the same as switching companies. Sometimes, people might not be willing to wait till they get a job and then handing the notice in the present one. Switching careers can have phases of staying at home.

One might get a new job in the new career line in days, weeks or even months. It is necessary that there is some financial plan to pass those days of transition, where there will be an absence of steady income.

It is also necessary to make a psychological plan to endure those days of transition. Psychological planning can include anything from:

  • Setting up a strict routine, where you divide time between job hunting and leisure time
  • Learning new skills, required for the career change or anyway for hobby.

Psychological planning is necessary to stay sane when faced with the unstructured routine and uncertainty that comes with transitions.

Before you do decide to take the leap, it is necessary to try to make things right in your present arena. One final thing to wonder is if it a career change you want or you want to better the circumstances of your current one.

Changing careers can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. Setting priorities right, researching and planning are the first few steps towards making that necessary change in your professional life!