“The grass is always greener where you water it.” ~Unknown
Is there really such a thing as being lucky? Are some people genuinely luckier than others, blessed with a mysterious predisposition toward regular good fortune? And what does that mean for the rest of us? Are we all doomed to face the worst possible outcome at every roll of the dice?
Alternatively, is the whole thing just an illusion born out of random circumstance? And, most tantalizingly of all, is it something we can create for ourselves?
“Why Does It Always Happen to Me?”
Growing up, I always felt as if I was in someone else’s shadow. Not merely struggling to live up to the achievements of my older siblings, but daunted by the accomplishments of my peers. My friends were more confident than me, more outgoing, and, worst of all, luckier than me.
I vividly remember one particular incident in high school. All students were required to apply for one optional course to study the following year, and like many of my closest friends I desperately wanted to study textiles and sewing.
You can probably guess what happened when the class registers were posted on the notice board before the start of term: my friends were together in textile class, and I was one of the only girls in the woodwork group.
Once again I cursed my bad luck, envious of the successes of my friends—successes that, I told myself, were made possible only by the inexplicable good fortune that so often befell them.
It wasn’t until we left school and job offers began to fall into the laps of my “lucky” friends that I questioned my perspective on life. At the time, I believed that opportunities would present themselves to me, and all I had to do was wait for them. As a result, I didn’t embrace the search for a job with any conviction.
I had none of the frenzied enthusiasm with which so many of my close friends seemed to approach their every undertaking. I occasionally sent off a CV, and meandered half-heartedly around a couple of recruitment fairs.
I was even invited to a couple of interviews, but attended them unfocused and unprepared. And naturally, I blamed my lack of success on my bad luck.
I justified my inaction with empty words, telling myself that my patience would be rewarded sooner or later with a change of luck. Only when a whole year had passed, spent largely aimless and idle, and I found myself the last of my friends to still be jobless, did I realize that the problem lay in my attitude.
Daunting as it was, I vowed to make a change. And to my surprise and delight, it took nothing more than a concerted effort to change my outlook to change my so-called luck.
The Lucky and the Unlucky
I was not alone in perceiving the occurrence of positive and negative events in series or patterns. The majority of people do this without even realizing it.
When favorable events repeatedly occur against the odds, we attribute it to good luck; likewise, when things take a turn for the worst and misfortune seems to strike us when we are least able to handle it, we curse our bad luck.
Notice that this pattern of thinking attributes our fortune and misfortune to external factors that seem beyond our control. This attitude diminishes our ability to effect true change, and alleviates us of our responsibility to take control of events.
Not once during my search for employment did I stop to question why my friends were landing their dream jobs.
In my mind, it wasn’t anything to do with their enthusiasm, or their scrupulous and dedicated approach to the hunt. It was simply blind luck, and soon enough, I told myself, it would strike me too.
While the occurrence of any event likely involves some degree of random chance, by attributing it to luck, we fail to credit ourselves for establishing the circumstances that allowed the positive event to occur in the first place.
Likewise, when we thoughtlessly curse our bad luck following an unfortunate turn of events, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to consider whether our own actions may have caused the misfortune.
Therefore, we lose the chance to bring about positive change in our lives, and cause the cycle to repeat again (the “constant bad luck” that I thought plagued me growing up).
Luck is an illusion. While we cannot control everything that happens, by breaking the habit of attributing things to luck, we can embrace our ability to make positive change for the future.
To start changing your outlook:
- Try to raise your awareness of new possibilities and endeavor to act upon them. Try to avoid letting opportunities pass you by.
- Expect good fortune to befall you, and remember to credit yourself when it does. Consider which actions led to your success, and plan to repeat them.
- When things don’t work out as you intended, keep positive and ask yourself: What you will do differently next time? Perhaps even consider whether the misfortune could be a blessing in disguise. As the Dalai Lama said, “Sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”
Make Your Own Luck
By dismissing the illusion of luck and embracing our own ability to change our lives for the better, we are empowered to such a degree that we can be said to make our own luck.
Far from being a mystical power that is out of our control, or something that can be stored in amulets or charms, this new kind of luck comes from deep within ourselves.
It is something we have created with nothing more than a shift in perspective, a realignment of attitude—and it’s highly empowering.
Tomorrow, Be Lucky
The realization that what I called luck was something I could make for myself radically changed my life. This simple shift in attitude is all it takes to break the cycle of bad luck.
To use the example of the job hunt, a little proactivity on my part was all it took to bring about the same “luck” enjoyed by my friends.
Be fastidious, pro-active, and eager; your efforts will be rewarded, as mine were late last year when I found the job I was destined for.
Whatever you do, don’t sulk through a year-long woodwork course wishing you were studying textiles—build a beautiful chest of drawers. Rather than meekly acquiescing, and attributing your successes and misfortunes to good or bad luck, make the absolute best that you can of everything that comes your way.
I encourage you to embrace this new outlook with an open-heart and a positive attitude, free of the negativity and powerlessness associated with the cycle of luck. Challenges are unavoidable in life, but those who consider themselves makers of their own luck set themselves up for success and happiness.
Make the change, and remember: the grass is always greener where you water it.
Photo by JD Hancock