St. Patrick’s Day is jauntily jigging our way, awash with green, revelry, and lots of talk about luck. We toast to the
“Luck of the Irish.” We exchange cards with “Good Luck” four-leaf clover imagery. And, on St. Pat’s, we make sure to wear green for “Good Luck” (and to avoid being pinched by others). Luck. We all speak of it. It is embedded in our culture and our lives. But what exactly is it? And how does our belief in luck affect us?
Merriam-Webster defines luck as “A force that brings good fortune or adversity.” The Oxford Dictionary states it is “Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than one’s own actions.” As a psychological concept, this is the struggle between an “External” and “Internal” Locus of Control, with “External” people giving full credit to a force outside themselves (the environment, other people, or a higher power) for life events and their emotional impact and “Internals” believing they completely control their lives from within, with assets like attitude, effort, and preparation.
I think that life and all it contains is actually both—personal control and luck. However, I also believe that our personal abilities and assets dominate. We use what we have within ourselves to create a significant portion of our life path and events. We also feel the blow of the “luck” that is tossed at us. But then we are able to go back to our own strengths to significantly alter luck’s impact. We can basically use thought processes and skills to “shrink” bad luck and “expand” good luck, both cognitively and emotionally.
What are these skills? Well, we can think about and interpret external events in the ways we choose, and thus guide
the way we feel. We have the ability to embrace mindfulness and take a step back to “observe” luck events in our lives vs. becoming wrapped up and consumed by them. And we can look for learning in “what happens to us,” and can
develop and use that to make our lives grow. For some, these skills come naturally, for others, more effort may be needed to learn, practice and implement these ways of thinking. But it is a possibility for us all, as was noted so long
ago in a powerful statement, “People are disturbed not by things, but by the views they take of them, ” (Epictetus, 1st
So this St. Patrick’s day, as we don green clothing, hats and pins and immerse ourselves in four-leaf clover and lucky lore, let’s toast each other differently. Let’s cheer what’s within. Let’s shout, “Here’s to a little luck and a lot of you!”