What Are The Odds? Learning From Coincidences.

One of the cardinal rules of fiction writing is: do not use coincidence to solve a a character’s problem.

When coincidence is used in this way, readers feel manipulated–(which writers do all the time. The point is for the reader not to notice.)

Used cleverly, however, coincidence in fiction can set off a chain of events and deepen the meaning of the story. 

But what about in real life? Do coincidences have meaning?

The answer depends somewhat on your life outlook. Do you see the universe as a series of random events with no inherent connection? Do you seek scientific explanations for improbable events?

Or, do you believe some things are fated ?  Maybe you subscribe to the notion that “everything happens for a reason”? Perhaps you see Divine intervention in some coincidences.

You run into your former lover in a city you both have never been ten years after your parting with no contact in between. Each of you say you were thinking of the other in the past month.

Psychologist Carl Jung called these kind of events “synchronicities”, surprising juxtapositions that scientific rationale can’t explain. The word synchronicity means “together in time” and suggests an underlying order to our reality. A connection between everyone and every living thing. 

Jung saw synchronicities as a tool toward personal growth and meaning-making.

Just as we can derive meaning from reading a novel we know isn’t real, I think life’s coincidences can offer meaning, as well. Synchronicities evoke wonder and amazement. They remind us of life’s mystery.

The stranger or more improbable the coincidence, the greater our astonishment. 

A common category of coincidences is finding an uncanny connection with a person you meet.

On a recent flight from Boston to Chicago, the woman sitting beside me, to whom I hadn’t said a word the whole flight, asked me if the American Airlines terminal was very busy. 

“Oh, you’re not from Chicago?” I asked.

“No, just getting a connecting flight.”

I offered a few tips for navigating the O’Hare terminal. “Where are you headed?” I asked.


I smiled. “That’s where I grew up.”

What ensued was an enjoyable conversation with my seat mate.

We discovered that she and I had grown up in the same city just a mile apart. We’d both taken ice skating lessons at the same arena. We were both from large families and now had daughters the same age. We both had family still living in the area.

This in itself isn’t so incredible. What struck me is that the only reason we’d met is because I had taken the wrong seat. 

The woman who was assigned 22F told me not to bother moving. She was fine with taking 22A across the aisle.

While I’m usually friendly and enjoy meeting new people, when on “airplane mode” I’m either white-knuckling through turbulence with music piping in my ears, or busy working on my laptop.

Add a mask to the above mix and you might call me an anti-social flyer.

Once inside the airport, Lauren and I each unmasked to reveal our smiles. Then we exchanged contact info.

And the lesson from this coincidence?

Talk to people! Some strangers turn out to be friends you’ve not yet met.

Author: EvelynKrieger

I'm a people watcher and word crafter, author of fiction and essays. I also blog on living the creative life during hard times. When not writing, I work as a private educational consultant. Special interests: dance, the moon, astronauts, beaches, poetry, staying alive.

29 thoughts on “What Are The Odds? Learning From Coincidences.”

  1. Life is a mystery! It is amazing the synchronicities we can discover if we are willing to stay open to people and circumstances and talk to people as you wrote. My life is flavored with them. ✨ I once sat next to a gentleman, flying into Phoenix who lived in my neighborhood. He may still, I don’t know, we did not exchange contact info. 😆 Interesting post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In researching coincidences, I learned that those who have tend toward being religious, spiritual, optimistic, intuitive, and meaning-seeking are more likely to report frequency of coincidence. You are right, Michele, in order to notice them, we have to pay attention! I love the way you describe your life as being “flavored” by them. Coincidences and synchronicities can certainly enrich the palate of everyday life.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. A fascinating subject to research, Evelyn. I enjoyed your intro for this piece that led to the question you posed, “Do coincidences have meaning?” I believe they do but sometimes that meaning is not initially revealed. Sometimes they do offer a clear sign that we are on the right path and other times it may take longer to reveal their significance. Either way, they do keep life interesting and life enriching, yes! ✨

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It is a fascinating subject! I had no idea that there were actual psychological/scientific studies on coincidence. I agree with you about meaning be “revealed”. That is so true in my life. I’m thinking about writing a follow-up on serendipity. Thanks, for taking the time to read and offer your thoughts, Michele.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. You are welcome, Evelyn. It is a phenomenon that has played a meaningful role in my life, so thank you for writing about it! I look forward to your follow-up piece, should you choose to write about serendipity.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. I need more magic in the air, Wynne! I’m traveling more these days and have never been a comfortable flyer. The current state of air travel doesn’t help, either. But yes, magic is around if we pay attention.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love serendipitous moments! I see these as little everyday miracles which the universe, God and our Angels give us so we can a) know that they have our backs and are working things out in amazing ways we wouldn’t have thought of, and b) to show us that there is magic in our everyday lives if only we open our eyes and hearts to see it.

    This attention to detail they show us underscores the points above, and can show us that even in the seemingly most humdrum life there is mystery and spice, which seems to elevate everything else to being part of something amazing!

    For me it helped me feel nurtured and cared for, which was crucial to overcoming my past. I cherish those moments when I get to peer behind the veil!


      1. My pleasure Evelyn! Serendipitous moments are easy to overlook if we’re not looking for them or if we aren’t aware, but are there far more often than we might think! Once I learned of them I could see them in the everyday moments and that made them special!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely post.
    I believe in coincidences, meeting random people briefly but the encounter etched in memory forever and that some things are fated.
    I like, “Talk to people! Some strangers turn out to be friends you’ve not yet met.”
    Bst wishes


    1. Thanks, Chaya. I’ve certainly had the experience of, as you decribe, an encounter etched in memory forever. I think the social distancing and mask-wearing during the pandemic, though necessary, caused us all to be less social with strangers. Thanks, for visiting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s SO cool! How fitting that you both ended up meeting on a plane yet had grown up near one another the entire time. I loved the writing advice too. Thanks for sharing!


  5. The more writers I encounter like yourself through Word Press, the greater the chance that serendipitous moments will strike. Or perhaps I’m only experiencing wishful thinking.


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