What's luck got to do with success?
"I'm a great believer in luck. And I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it" (Thomas Jefferson)
Do you believe in luck? If so, I wonder how much of your success (or lack of success) you attribute to good or bad luck? It's an important thing to think about from time to time because often it is our attitude to luck, rather than luck itself, that has the bigger influence over our lives.
To illustrate the point, here are three key issues associated with luck that we all should bear in mind:
1. Luck and perspective
Whether or not you think of yourself as a lucky person often has more to do with perspective than anything else. For example an "unlucky" person might arrive late for work one morning, distraught that once again the bad luck that always follows them around has led to them being involved in a car crash that has resulted in their lovely new car being written off. But a "lucky" person might arrive at work after exactly the same incident amazed that Lady Luck had once again been with them and they had walked away from the accident without a scratch!
Regularly counting your blessings has much to recommend it; and the happy emotions that come from feeling lucky in life are particularly beneficial. Because our lives are often less determined by what happens to us but more by how we react to what happens to us!
2. The lottery of life
We all know the expression "you have to be in it to win it". But it doesn't just apply to the National Lottery. Footballers have a similar expression: "You'll never score if you never shoot!". And we should remind ourselves of the simple truth behind both these sayings every day. No matter who you are, if you want something to happen, you have to try! Whether it's finding a new job, starting a new relationship, or having a great new experience - the odds of that happening if you just sit at home waiting for the phone to ring are extremely small.
But we can all become "luckier" by shifting the odds in our favour and doing something - anything - to make our dreams more likely to happen. Lucky people don't wait! They make good things more likely to happen by stepping out of their comfort zone and taking chances - not just once but on a regular basis! And they increase their odds of success even further by telling others about their goals. Because you never know who might be able to help you or what advice they could give.
3. Try and try again!
Here is an experiment for you to try. It involves rolling two dice and trying to get a "lucky" seven. Before you start, decide how many rolls of the dice you would be prepared to commit to and still count yourself as "in luck" if you were to roll at least one seven? One, two, three rolls of the dice or even more? Now ask a few friends to do the same.
Not surprisingly you will find that "unlucky" people often won't think of themselves as being in luck unless they throw a seven with their first roll, for which the odds of success are just one in six. But "lucky" people shorten the odds with every additional throw they commit to. For example, those who decide they will roll the dice at least 6 times and still count themselves as lucky, have odds of 50:50 (even money) that they will be successful. Lucky people shorten the odds of being successful all the time. They don't give up after the first throw!
But truly lucky people also seek to learn from each unsuccessful attempt and do things slightly differently each time to increase the chances of changing the outcome. This doesn't make much difference when rolling dice, of course, but it can dramatically increase the likelihood of success for more complex goals.
How coaching can help improve your luck
Coaching is a forward looking process that involves helping you draw up an action plan that can literally transform your life - whether in a work or a social context. As we have seen, it is by taking the right actions and not giving up at the first set-back that you can dramatically increase your odds of success - and so to the rest of the world look as if your luck has suddenly changed for the better!
Coaching can also help you see that true success is more about the way you live your life than the outcome of your actions. Or as one of my favourite sayings goes: "Happiness is a journey, not a destination!"
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About Paul Hemphill
Paul Hemphill is a leadership and well-being coach who specialises in bringing a positive psychology approach to his coaching. Over the last five years he has helped literally hundreds of clients to restart their lives, develop new levels of confidence, change careers, improve their work/life balance, or become better leaders and managers.