We’ve just celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. Some of us like to celebrate it all year long no matter what color the beer is. Leprechauns, shamrocks, pots of gold and the luck of the Irish are all part of the folklore surrounding this holiday. Let’s talk about luck.
Some people appear very lucky. Opportunities fall into their laps. They ‘just’ happen to meet the right people who take a liking to them and give their careers a boost (example 1). Or the entrepreneur coincidentally runs into someone who wants to produce a show about them and give them free PR (example 2). Or the right person just stops in, gets hired and turns out to be the best employee (example 3).
Is this really just happenstance? Let’s look more closely at luck. The saying often goes that ‘luck is where preparation meets opportunity.’ Certainly if the individuals in the above examples had not been in their positions, they would not have been ‘ripe’ for the happenstance that occurred to them. I would even say that if the person hadn’t been prepared, the occurrence would not have even been recognized as an opportunity. Let’s look at a few elements of this.
Barbara Fredrickson is the author of the book Positivity. She has worked and researched in the field of positive psychology for over 10 years, since it was first developed. We often think of psychology like the medical model, fix the body when it breaks. On the other hand positive psychology is more like wellness. How can we create states of happiness and mental well being? In the research that she has performed those who were trained to think positive thoughts on a 3 to 1 ratio over negative thoughts, lived a more ‘flourishing life’. They not only were happier, they attracted more opportunities for what they desired. This makes sense. Don’t you like to do more and go out of your way for positive people? Doesn’t honey attract more bees than vinegar? Why wouldn’t someone take a liking to you and want to give you the gift of a career boost if you make his day a better day every time you meet (example 1).
Secondly, there is power in intention. Did you ever buy a car and then start noticing all the same models on the road that you never noticed before? If you set a defined goal and focus on achieving the action steps leading to the completion of that goal, you become like an icebreaker plowing through the icebergs and creating momentum as you go. A business leader who has passion for her big ‘why’, the reason she wants to be in business, talks about her mission and draws to her others who feel the same way, who admire her energy and dedication, and who want to help. (example #2)
Some things that appear to be luck are just unrecognized capability. In example #3, where a ‘drop-in’ becomes a great employee, who is really responsible for that person becoming a great employee? It could easily have turned out badly if that employee had been belittled, micromanaged, unchallenged, and denied opportunities to excel in alignment with his best talents. Instead the manager most likely placed him in the right role, encouraged him to train and excel in alignment with his strengths, let him develop a sense of mastery and freedom in his role and motivated him toward a greater purpose or company vision. It wasn’t luck. The manager unconsciously set it up that way and didn’t even realize it.
What do these 3 examples mean for us in our work situations? We have choice. We have more control over our destinies than the ‘luck of the Irish’. First, we can train ourselves to be positive and appreciative and improve our outlook. It’s like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the stronger and more consistent it becomes. Secondly, we can set goals, put intentions and passions out into the world and attract others who want to help us and join us. Isn’t that a big part of leadership, earning the trust and devotion of followers? Leadership is a skill that can be developed. Thirdly, we can look at our relationships with others to bring out their best. We can adjust our behaviors to draw out the best in others to create the best working environment. When we choose to run our businesses and live our personal and professional lives with conscious awareness of these choices and their potential opportunities, it can lead to more ‘luck’ than any pot of gold, leprechaun or shamrock can provide.