If I wanted to just answer this without any waffle-waffling, I’d say yes. But really, I don’t believe in luck. Here’s the definition of luck, according to Dictionary.com:
2. good fortune; advantage or success, considered as the result of chance: He had no luck finding work.
3. a combination of circumstances, events, etc., operating by chance to bring good or ill to a person: She’s had nothing but bad luck all year.
All of these definitions appear to place the power and control for what happens in your life, outside of you, as though things just happen to you with no input from you at all. But let’s look at each of the examples given and see just how much luck was involved in each of them.
Example 1, ‘with my luck I’ll probably get pneumonia’. With the Law of Attraction at work and that gloomy prediction you probably will. It’s called self-fulfilling prophecy. Example 2, ‘he had no luck finding work’. The fact that he had a poor resume, lousy interview skills, and applied for jobs that he wasn’t qualified for had nothing to do with it, I guess. Example 3, ‘she’s had nothing but bad luck all year’. Really? Nothing but bad luck? Did she keep a record? I bet if she did she’d find that lots of good stuff happened but expecting and only recognizing the bad will definitely make it seem like it’s all bad. What you focus on increases; focus on the negative, you get more negative. And finally example 4, ‘the rabbit’s foot is my luck’. That’s funny. Not so lucky for the rabbit though, was it?
When you think that everything that happens to you is because of some force outside of yourself, it’s called an external locus of control. People who have an external locus of control tend to believe strongly in luck and, usually, they don’t see it as being in their favour. There are certain groups of people who tend to be more likely to have an external locus of control, such as people who are on social assistance, gamblers, criminals, emotionally or physically abused people, people in extremely punitive and controlling religious groups, and conspiracy theorists.
Now before you jump all over me for sounding like I’m down on people who are on social assistance, let me tell you that I was a welfare recipient for years when I was a single mother, before I got my business going. Some people on social assistance have an internal locus of control, where they believe that they have the primary influence over what happens in their lives, but the system certainly tries its best to bully it out of them. The social welfare system, while necessary and helpful to many people, in some ways acts as a disincentive to really change your life. In fact, the minute you do try to change your life, you are often ‘rewarded’ with dire consequences like being cut off with no income, having your income sharply reduced, or having to jump through many hoops to keep a roof over your head. If you have a child, you may be willing to accept these limits and you might be worn down over time.
After I managed to pull myself up enough to get off of welfare, and I had started my business, I had a job teaching life skills and small business start-up to, you guessed it, people on welfare. I got the job primarily because the people who operated the program thought I could be a role model. It certainly wasn’t because I was qualified. To be honest, I was feeling pretty uppity at the time and I also thought I could be a role model. I think I thought I would be admired and respected because of how I had started a business and managed to create an income and a life for myself. Silly me! The reality was that most of the people in the group had an external locus of control and thought I was ‘lucky’. And in fact, they were resentful of me because I had it so easy. Okay, they might have also been a bit resentful because I had that ‘holier than thou’ attitude at the time.
I developed quite a program that I still use. I introduced the idea of ‘spheres of influence’ and led groups in analyzing what they could and couldn’t control in their lives and then working out a plan to use their control when they could and when they couldn’t, exert more influence over the things they could only influence. A key part of this is recognizing that if you accept that you have control over certain things, you also then have the responsibility for those things.
Ultimately we only have control over what we think, say and do, but if you think about it, that’s a lot of control. You can’t blame someone else for you being fat, for example, unless someone is tying you down and force-feeding you. You can’t go and sue McDonald’s because you’re fat when you are the one going through the drive through and scarfing down a Big Mac every day.
You can’t blame someone else for making you mad and making you smash a frying pan over their head when you’re the one who picks it up and swings it. If you are on the receiving end of a frying pan however, you may be willing to admit that you had some influence in having the pan hit you in the head. Unless you were just innocently walking down the street when a stranger came up to you and smacked you in the head, you probably played a part in provoking the attack. Not always, because I am well aware that some people are abusive and will set up a situation so that they get to play it out. However, you still have the control over your action in the whole scene even if that includes staying in a situation where you are likely to be battered. I absolutely know that it’s all very easy to say. I deal with that extensively in discussion in the workshops. It’s clear that sometimes a situation is complicated and you have to choose between a bad and a worse option. However, once a person recognizes that they are ultimately responsible for their own thoughts, words and actions, it is amazingly freeing.
In one program I was teaching, there was a woman who was pretty badly battered on a regular basis. I have no background or experience or training in that area but I did what I could. I brought in a speaker to talk about options. I talked to her privately but she refused to discuss it or even admit that she was in a bad situation. But the day after we finished dealing with the Spheres of Influence, she was gone. She was one of the people who accepted the concept and once accepted, took responsibility and took action and left the bad situation. I never saw her again but I truly hope that she was able to move ahead into a life where she was able to decide what she wanted and then do what she needed to do to make it happen.
But I digress. This is something I obviously am very passionate about. I wanted to address the whole issue of ‘luck’ and a self-managed life and I haven’t really commented on whether I think I am lucky and how it affects how I live my life. I will answer the intent of the question tomorrow. This is going to be a two part answer.