March 10, 2010 > Counseling Corner: Become Lucky!
Counseling Corner: Become Lucky!
By Anne Chan, PhD, MFT
There is a funny story of a man who wished to win the lottery. Every evening, he unfailingly prayed to God that he would hit it big. "Please let me win the lottery," he would pray fervently. For years and years, he said this same prayer. But his prayer went unanswered. Finally, he shouted at God, "I have been faithful. I have prayed and prayed so much all these years. Why won't you answer my prayer?" To his amazement, God actually replied this time. But it wasn't an answer he was expecting. God said, "I would have answered your prayer but why didn't you buy a %^&!! lottery ticket??!!"
Okay, so God probably doesn't swear at us poor mortals, but the point of the story is worth our attention: luck happens to those who make it happen.
We don't often see luck as something that is within out control. Instead, we tend to think of luck as something that happens out of the blue and strikes only a very few people. We often envy those who come upon an amazing opportunity and achieve extraordinary success. "They're so lucky!" we might say enviously, wishing that we too could have similar luck.
I want to introduce an idea that goes against the grain of what most of us think about luck. This is not a new idea but one that can be traced back as far back as the Roman Empire. Observed Seneca, the ancient philosopher and politician, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
Seneca's observation appears to go against our very definition of "lucky." According to him, luck is not a random occurrence, but is instead a result of preparation and effort. In more recent times, John Krumboltz, professor at Stanford University and author of Luck is No Accident, notes that there is no such thing as luck. Instead, he recommends that people make the most out of chance events.
Interestingly enough, we tend to focus on the end-result, thinking that it was just a lucky break that made Chris Rock a superstar comedian or Evan Lysacek the Olympic gold medallist in men's figure skating. What we don't often dwell on is the intense preparation that these men made before stepping into the limelight. Chris Rock is well known for practicing his routine in numerous small clubs. He hones each joke to perfection in these trial runs. By the time you see him on HBO, he has already practiced his routine innumerable times. Evan Lysacek recently won the gold in the Vancouver Olympics. His work ethic is legendary, to the point where his coach sometimes has to tell him to stop practicing. Yes, a certain amount of luck may have a small role in the success of these two men, but outstripping luck by a wide margin is the amount of effort and hard work that both put into their craft.
What does this mean for you if you want to be "lucky?" Take a tip from all the "lucky" examples that I have cited so far. Think about what you need to do in order to be prepared for luck to happen in your life. Maybe you think of ways to improve your job performance by thinking of ways to be better prepared. Perhaps you can practice just a bit more the next time you have to make a speech, teach a class, or lead a meeting. This might lead to you giving a stellar performance that is noticed by your supervisor, who then remembers you when it comes time for promotions. You've then created a lucky break for yourself!
Or perhaps you are looking for a job and need a lucky break. Instead of staying at home on your couch, go out and volunteer. It might well happen that the person working alongside you has a job tip for you. Again, you've created your own luck.
If you've always had a dream that seemed unattainable, take a step back and see what you can do to take one small action to make the dream a reality. You never know how a tiny investment in yourself blooms into something incredible.
You don't have to be lucky to have all the luck. You can create the conditions that make lucky breaks more likely to happen. Taking just one small step can mean a giant leap in luckiness!
Anne Chan is a career counselor and licensed psychotherapist in Union City. She specializes in helping people feel satisfied and fulfilled in their careers, lives, and relationships. She can be reached at 510-744-1781. Her website is www.annechanconsulting.com
(c) Anne Chan, 2010.