Post No.: 0464
I’ve pondered many times about the inescapable role that luck plays in our lives but sometimes – such as here, or when acknowledging our own inevitable mortality, for instance – dwelling on the facts too much isn’t always mentally healthy!
In most situations, it’s healthier to feel in control of our own destinies. We’ll also feel more optimistic if we believe that we are fortunate. Lucky individuals expect good luck, especially in the coming future.
Those who feel personally fortunate in their lives tend to feel happy. Although it obviously could be the case that it’s feeling happy that makes us feel fortunate? Whatever the case, feeling fortunate makes us feel hopeful and optimistic, which can in turn reduce our stress levels and improve our well-being. It makes us feel more confident to try new experiences, more generous to share with and help others who might be less fortunate than us, and makes us more grateful about life. When we don’t feel lucky or we blame bad luck for everything that goes wrong, it reduces our sense of agency or control of our own lives, which may reduce our self-motivation to learn new things, self-improve, pursue ambitious goals or try again after a failure.
Although this is by definition contradictory – it helps to believe that we create our own luck. It’s more motivational to believe that we are in control of our own outcomes through what we do, through the opportunities we create, the things we give a chance of happening, and the things we battle on with despite the obstacles and adversities we face.
Know that everything will be okay in the end. Confidence (without overconfidence) is vital whenever we want to try something we’ve never tried before. You’ve got to believe that you can do something before you’ll even give yourself a proper chance to try and do it, to conquer whatever you wish to do, and to achieve to the best of your ability. For example, one isn’t going to even try jumping to the Moon under one’s own unassisted leg power because one (in this case sensibly) lacks belief that one ever could – so we’ve got to believe that success in doing something is possible before we’ll even attempt it.
Believe in yourself. This belief is not about empty dreaming, blind optimism or hubris though – it’s about understanding that if we really want to do something but currently can’t then we can learn and practise what’s needed until we eventually get good at it or make it possible. So believe that you can do anything you put your mind and body into if you really want it. There’s no obstacle too great for you to overcome with ingenuity and effort. Have applied confidence in your own talents, capabilities and stamina. Believe, act and dedicate, to give yourself the best chance of success!
Prime your mind with positive words to think positively. Visualise yourself as a confident person with amazing charm. These sorts of techniques work for some people. For me, positivity and confidence comes more through making positive actions such as preparation, practise and most of all through making progress – words, thoughts, dreams and visualisations feel empty and can possibly breed arrogance without positive action and at least some plan.
For some, dreaming about success, about winning and receiving the rewards (success visualisation), and picturing themselves (sometimes literally with an edited photograph) being on their own super yacht or wherever they want to be, helps them to be or stay hungry or ambitious. For me, I think that if you need to do these things to be or stay hungry for something then you’re perhaps chasing something that isn’t what you really want – after all, I don’t need to remind myself that I want peanut butter every night in order to want peanut butter every night(!) You are perhaps trying to chase something that you think society measures success and happiness by? Woof.
Anyway, it generally improves our happiness to expect to be fortunate with things within and outside our control. It’s better to expect the best out of the people around you rather than the worst (unless we have firm evidence to accuse particular people). Such beliefs affect our own behaviours, such as smiling more with strangers, which in turn affects our outcomes because people are more likely to help and trust people with friendly smiles :). Grumpy people who are fearful and suspicious of strangers as a rule in life therefore partly bring it onto themselves. So even though it’s sometimes said that a pessimist is never disappointed – be optimistic because you might get what you want or more. The future is bright!
So think through any important interactions, such as phone calls or meetings, with people beforehand, and imagine the other person to be pleasant, positive and productive towards you. Some find it helpful to visualise experiencing good fortune with any important upcoming situation. Find a quiet room and relax, then imagine in your mind’s eye being in the upcoming event – think of the surroundings, the people there, the sights and sounds, in as much detail as you can, then see yourself being successful and giving a great performance in that place and time. Imagine everybody is friendly and cooperative. Try to anticipate what others might ask or say and how you will respond. Have fun and flip between their point of view and your own. Most of all – focus on expecting to be fortunate. Now prepare what you need and make it true! Give everyone a fair chance – everybody as an individual is good unless proven beyond doubt as otherwise. Give people the benefit of the doubt by assuming benign rather than malicious reasons for what they (apparently) did. Expect or hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
Try and try again until your ambitions come true, with the only variable being the plan or strategy after learning from your mistakes or failures.
…All in all, the hard sciences suggest that free will is an illusion. We may believe that we have it, but that could be just our instincts making us believe this. And mere belief doesn’t make something true. Our thoughts and beliefs are the result of deterministic or random physical processes because they involve physical matter such as the atoms and molecules that make up our brains. (Perhaps the perception of time is an illusion too because it’s just another dimension like the three dimensions of space?)
Depending on one’s perspective, these kinds of things and a sense of futility might not be what people want to hear. People want to hear that they’re in full control of their own thoughts, behaviours and destinies. People also want to hear that everything will be alright, that they’re the greatest or at least above-average, that there are no limits to what we can do, that karma will right all wrongs in the end, that the spirits of their loved ones are always around them, that love can last literally forever, and so forth, too. We might say some things as figures of speech or in order to give someone or ourselves solace, but we might actually truly believe them too.
If we want to understand human behaviour combined with how the universe works though then we’ve got to accept that these things are not necessarily true rather than ignore or deny what we don’t want to believe in. In this case, we’re putting a ‘hard science hat’ on because perhaps ignorance isn’t bliss.
Yet there are times and places for believing that luck has nothing or little to do with anything; plus the other things, such as when comforting people in this otherwise objectively meaningless world, or when trying to encourage people to be good by teaching children that good only comes to good people and bad only comes to bad people. Believing that luck plays a lesser role in our lives than it does gives us a greater sense of responsibility for our own actions, which could make us behave more morally. So we need to somehow understand that luck, however it is generated, plays a fundamental role in everybody’s lives – yet in a contradicting manner believe that luck isn’t that fundamental so that we’ll believe that the application of personal hard work and making moral choices will not ever be in vain i.e. we should have a high internal locus of control to accept that hard work still plays a role in our outcomes.
Our instincts evolved not for believing in the truth as much as for believing in whatever better helps us to survive and reproduce (at least in the environments these instincts mainly evolved during – for in a different environment, even the instinct to reproduce can lead to sub-optimal over-reproduction, for instance). So we intuitively believe that we have free will, amongst other beliefs, for this helps us to survive and reproduce rather than because it’s (necessarily) true, and so sometimes embracing an empirical fact isn’t the best thing for our mental well-being and social lives.
A belief, faith or positive thinking can be hugely beneficial, even though what’s believed might be false or unprovable. For example, if something like spirituality or praying improves our well-being then science says it can do so, even though science cannot find evidence to support some of its more specific claims and mechanisms, such as crystals really emitting vibrations that affect our minds and bodies. The placebo effect shows us that lies work in some cases, and there are many ways we could interpret and utilise such findings, such as from a psychology versus a biochemistry perspective. (This highlights an example of if we want to ‘follow the science’ – which science?) Irrational levels of optimism can make us feel psychologically upbeat about something until the inevitable happens, rather than glum until the inevitable happens.
And it helps significantly to really, really believe these things to be true i.e. have faith in them, otherwise they won’t be as effective. For instance, to truly believe in karma and that divine forces will sort things out for us so that there’s no need to stress or take personal revenge.
On the other paw, should we just ignore injustices like this? For instance, is it right or fair for the privileged to tell the underprivileged that their hardships aren’t down to systemic social inequities but their own lack of optimism and so forth?
We’ve therefore got to somehow be able to switch hats depending on what context we’re in – and that’s what Fluffystealthkitten and I personally try to do. When we want to talk about what the hard sciences suggest then we should accept that luck fundamentally affects everybody’s lives, and we should be grateful when we are fortunate ourselves, and help those who are less fortunate than us around the world.
But when we want to talk about what the soft sciences (generally) suggest then we should talk about how we can choose our own paths and that our own choices and actions will make all the difference to whatever we pursue whilst diminishing the role that luck plays, to not be resentful when we are one of the unfortunate ones but to understand that changing this kind of world is possible, and to raise children who’ll have a sense of responsibility and purpose.
So please bear this in mind whenever we discuss the subject of luck. This understanding is the result of our diverse forays into both the hard (e.g. physics and chemistry) and soft (e.g. psychology and sociology) sciences and our attempts at trying to marry all of the findings together.
Woof. Well even though luck does play a huge part in each our lives, we should virtually all realise that we are all fortunate – to have had this chance of experiencing life in the first place. It’s a privilege to be able to ponder!