Our mindset is a powerful thing. I often speak and write about research that shows how our views of the world influence our reality. One of the most widely discussed studies in this field comes from the compelling work of widely respected psychologist Ellen Langer, who documented how targeting the thoughts, feelings, and actions of elderly men profoundly impacted their psychological and physical well-being. I recently came across another provocative study, which looked at how our beliefs about luck also influence our drive to succeed.
A team of researchers from UCLA and Columbia University found that our beliefs about luck can be divided into two camps: stable or fleeting. As the name suggests, the first group would be those who feel that luck is a fairly constant phenomenon. Essentially, people are generally lucky or unlucky. These individuals would say that they consistently have good luck or they consider themselves to be lucky. People who see luck as fleeting would be more likely to believe that “Rather than following a stable pattern, luck follows a path of ups and downs.”
What was most interesting to me about this research was how the participants’ beliefs about luck impacted their success drive. People who saw their luck as stable tended to have a significantly higher drive to succeed than those who viewed it as transitory.
Another interesting finding from this research was that part of the relationship between luck and achievement motivation was accounted for by the fact that people who possessed stable luck beliefs also felt they had more control. This makes sense when you think about it. If we feel luck is ‘stable’ and within our sphere of influence, we are much more likely to persevere towards our goals. However, if we see luck as an essentially random phenomenon, we may wonder “what’s the point?” which may effectively undermine our desire to push on.
Given the above, we may do well to revisit how we see luck. Viewing it as something beyond our control may significantly impact the likelihood of our future success. Reflecting on our beliefs about luck may actually be the key to improving it. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I am a big believer in luck, the harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Although fairly simple in design, this study has an important element for us to contemplate. How do we view luck? Given the above results, it may be beneficial for us to adopt a more stable versus fleeting definition. In doing so, we may maximize not only our luck in general, but our success as well.
What do you think? Do you feel lucky?