When down and out, don’t blame luck
February 6, 2009
In the last several years, there’ve been challenges in droves: health, family, bankruptcies, debts, tragedy. You name it, we had it. We managed, sometimes by the skin of my teeth, but the toughest recurring theme throughout was the devolving relationship with my mom.
Once my biggest inspiration and help, she changed dramatically as the difficulties ate away at her self esteem and faith. When faced with a new obstacle, she began insisting that “bad luck” was to blame for all our problems. At one point, she began to blame the house and its “bad karma” for the bad luck. I wanted to scream/cry: this is the person from whom I learned to pick up and solve the problems, no whining. (Or rather, no whining unless you’re multi-tasking. That was ok.) What was this madness?
In the article, Professor Wiseman states:
“Luck is not a magical ability or a gift from the gods,” Wiseman writes. “Instead, it is a state of mind—a way of thinking and behaving.” Above all, he insists that we have far more control over our lives—and our luck—than we realize. Going back to the Italian Renaissance philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, great thinkers and writers have argued that 50 percent or more of what happens in life is determined entirely by chance (or Fortuna, the Roman goddess of fortune). Wiseman says no way. He believes that only 10 percent of life is purely random. The remaining 90 percent is “actually defined by the way you think.” In other words, your attitude and behavior determine nine tenths of what happens in your life.
I absolutely believe that life can be mostly determined by your choices. It drove me nuts that my role model was trying to convince me, the last person standing, that there was nothing effective I could do to turn around our situation.
Her mindset meant that she was handing off all responsibility for their/her decisions. With it went the ability and willingness to learn from the mistakes and effect change.
She chose to resign herself to my brother’s irrational and selfish behavior, to allow him to run roughshod over them, instead of standing up to him. He was only nice to her when he wanted money or help.
She would choose to forgo medical treatments to give him money, and he actually took it! (*banging head against wall* This. Is. NOT. OK!)
She railed against the whatever-you-want-to-call-it for my dad’s stupid decisions instead of refusing to bail him out. If she wanted to shelter her money from his failing attempts to make money, all she had to do was give it to me.
She had some nominal control but gave it all up because she couldn’t control other people and the outcomes of her decisions. Instead, everything went wrong because of “bad luck.” I finally realized that the sense of helplessness had overcome her ability to see solutions. I totally understand, sometimes I feel helpless, lost, whatever, you all see it here. But there is always something that can be done. Always.
~ work to build my professional reputation,
~ reduce expenses,
~ protect & preserve my emotional sanity,
~ take care of my family to the best of my ability,
~ establish firm boundaries with each family member,
~ scan the horizon for more opportunities to learn, build and flourish.
I’m sure that luck has its place – getting the prime parking spot when you least expected it, coming into a windfall, etc., but it should not be granted the power to dictate your life, not if you have any aspirations at all. That’d be the greatest tragedy.
I found this paragraph particularly interesting:
Third, lucky people persevere in the face of failure and have an uncanny knack for making their wishes come true. They’re convinced that life’s most unpredictable events will “consistently work out for them.” Their world is “bright and rosy,” Wiseman writes, while unlucky people expect that things will always go wrong. Their world is “bleak and black.” When Wiseman gives lucky and unlucky people a puzzle that is actually impossible to solve, the reactions are very telling. “More than 60 percent of unlucky people said that they thought the puzzle was impossible, compared to just 30 percent of lucky people. As in so many areas of their lives, the unlucky people gave up before they even started.”
While I do tend to expect things can and will go wrong, and spend plenty of time figuring out how, when and why, I think of it as disaster planning. Even if I think something’s impossible, I’m still too obstinate to give up before I start, unlucky or no.