Making Sense of Luck

With another Friday the 13th having come and gone, people’s superstitious beliefs come into full display. It is on days like this that we will often hear from people about whether or not they think they are “lucky or unlucky”. Luck and superstition have efficacy for use in our lives. However if left to get out of control, the concept of luck can keep us from taking responsibility for our own destinies.

Many people believe in luck. Most of us also think that we, for the most part, create our own destinies. Good and bad things happen to people without them planning on this, but this is not necessarily related to luck. To believe in luck is to believe in fate, which in turn is saying that you are simply a player in a larger plan. This does not promote people taking responsibility for themselves and taking charge of their behavior. If the world already has a plan, and the plan isn’t in your favor, what’s the use?

When pointing this out to people, they will often ask how could I explain someone who had always been healthy, but is now dying. Why is it that someone who has worked hard his entire life loses the lottery to someone who is already rich? Isn’t this luck? If you are making the argument for luck, these are interesting points. However if we take a different perspective, didn’t these events just happen irregardless of the person who they happened to? If you don’t feel that you have any control over an undesirable destiny, you are much more likely to walk away with feelings of hopelessness and a sense of helplessness.

I understand why people believe in luck. It makes some sense that people use luck to help clarify some dissonance in their thinking about what is happening and what they think should be happening. To make sense of this, people use superstition to make sense of what isn’t fair. From an early age we are taught that the “world should be fair.” The idea of luck is deeply ingrained into our culture. There are figures of speech that we use that don’t necessarily even have to do with luck, such as wishing someone “good luck.” We are also taught lessons from an early age that reinforce the concept of luck, such as “good things happen to good people, turnabout is fair play, and what goes around, comes around.” Therefore when we are forced to come to the realization that bad things happen to good people, we can make sense of this by saying that this person was unlucky.

People would be much better served to think that everything is already how it should be and the world is not always fair. This is OK. In this unfair world are important lessons to be learned, which make us wiser. All-to-often, we hide behind the idea of luck to explain the unexplainable, rather than just except that it is just that–unexplainable. The most important aspect of any event in our lives is deciding what we do now with what we have, not what we could’ve had.

When you think of yourself as feeling unlucky, look at what you can change in your life. Is there something that you could modify so that your life would improve? Also look at what you can’t change in your life, and figure out how you are going to accept this and what you can learn from it. Although the concept of luck makes sense in that it helps us deal with the idea of fairness, it doesn’t necessarily help us reach our goals or feel better in the long run. You would be much better served looking at your life from the perspective that you can best control your own destiny, and you are going to have bumps in the road. Some of the bumps you will have created on your own, and others will appear out of nowhere for no reason at all.


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