We’ve all had the experience of carefully planning our day only to have everything go haywire. No matter how hard you try, obstacles arise that prevent you from doing what you need to. Mistakes get made. Flights are missed. Deadlines are unmet. Your to-do list grows instead of getting checked off. It’s frustrating.

Then you’re faced with redoing your task or at least correcting the errors. So much more time-consuming than anticipated. You might have to change your schedule, work late, get someone else to pick up your kids from school, buy take-out for dinner. Bummer.

But sometimes you do something by accident, and it turns out better than you’d expect. Maybe you get lost, and the person you ask for directions ends up becoming your new best friend—or your spouse. Or you misspell a word, and the typo makes you think of an amazing twist for the story you’re writing. Or you load your brush with too much water, and the way your colors run together changes the way you continue your watercolor painting.

Maybe these random events are not as unplanned as they seem. Maybe they are orchestrated by your own subconscious, or by God, or by your muse. Sometimes it’s beneficial to just go with the flow and see where it leads you rather than forcing things to go your way or starting over from scratch.

There’s even a name for these happy accidents—serendipity, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.

Inventors and health researchers occasionally stumble on discoveries and new technologies by accident. Artists, musicians, and authors often give examples of serendipity when discussing their processes. Friends have told me of having an unexpected repair they have no way of paying, only to get a surprise refund check in the mail for the exact amount they need.

Some people say everything happens for a reason. Maybe it’s true, maybe not. But when you’ve been given a situation that’s not your first choice, maybe it’s worth it not to react too quickly. Breathe. Wonder. Let possibilities present themselves.

Related reading: More discoveries made by accident.

Now it’s your turn. Have you ever experienced serendipity? Does it ever surface in your work? Share in the comments below.

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