I have learned to pay attention to coincidences. If something comes up multiple times within a short time frame, it gets my attention.
Many people rely on the Rule of Threes, or the idea that things happen in threes. But when it comes to coincidences, I am willing to stand up for things happening in pairs. After all, if you think about someone, and then they call you, aren’t you usually willing to say, “Wow, what a coincidence! I was just thinking about you!”
In fact, just the word “coincidence” points to a minimum of only two events. “Co” means “with” or “together,” and “incidence” means “to fall on.” So only two events happening together can be a coincidence.
This may not appeal to statisticians who look for at least five data points in a certain direction before they are willing to pronounce the existence of a trend. (That’s for another blog.) But I submit that it only takes a couple of incidents to get my attention, and a pattern of events really gets my attention. It doesn’t have to be trend, just a Coincidence in order to make me stop and ask questions. A Stereophonic Theory of Incidents is fine with me – I don’t require Quadraphonic Incidents or Surround Sound when it comes to noticing something and making me wonder.
Case in Point: Multiple Events have come up recently that asked me to stop and think about my beliefs and the effect of my beliefs on my actions.
In their Triple Impact Practitioners Programs, Michael Broom and Edie Seashore recently asked participants (including me) to stop and think about their beliefs about support that guide their behavior about getting support for themselves. Hmm. Then we were asked to consider where those beliefs may have come from and whether they are appropriate now. Hmm.
Then, within only a few days, Marcia Wieder, in her Dream University’s “90 Days to Transform Your Life” program, asked participants to articulate their beliefs around their dreams, and to think about whether they are limiting beliefs or empowering beliefs. Hmm.
Double Hmm. Within only a few days, I have been asked to stop and think about my beliefs, many of which I take for granted, and how they affect my actions and the choices I make. That was enough of a coincidence to really get my attention.
If we take some beliefs for granted, how do we even identify them? How do we bring them forward, or to the surface, so we can look at them objectively?
I think that asking the question “Why?” is a great tool for this. If I make a statement, or a decision, or a choice, such as “I couldn’t possibly do that,” “I must do X,” “That person will or won’t do that,” or “The universe works this way,” and then I ask myself “Why?” (or “Why Not?”), the answer is probably a Belief. It may be helpful (or even necessary) to ask “Why?” several times to get to the core belief. (Or the Root Cause, in the language of various Quality programs, although they do not typically talk about Beliefs. Consider the “5 Why’s” of Taiichi Ohno’s Toyota Production System and Lean Manufacturing.) Once that core belief is uncovered, I can then ask myself why I may have adopted that belief, whether I really believe it, and whether it still makes sense.
This can be a very useful practice for identifying why I may say one thing but do something else, or why I may have trouble with X, Y or Z. It can help me to be authentic, to be the author of my own life. It can help to shine a light on the beliefs at the root of tunnel vision. Because the truth is, we can choose what we believe, once we stop and think about it. Coincidences may make us sit up and notice things, but we do not believe things because of coincidences. We believe things because we choose to accept them – or not.
If you are facing a stumbling block in some part of your life, whether it is a pattern of events that trouble you, or a project that has gone poorly, or a relationship isn’t what you would like, or you are stuck in some way, think about the statements you have made about it and then ask yourself “Why?” Then ask “Why?” about the answer. Take the elevator to the ground floor and see what is there when the doors open.
It might be scary, and you may feel like you don’t have a net. Don’t worry, we’re here to catch you.