Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. Ralph Waldo Emerson
I don’t know if you recall the scene from the 70’s movie Dirty Harry in which detective Harry Callahan, played by Clint Eastwood, asks a question of a criminal he’s holding at gunpoint about whether he knows if Callahan has any bullets left in his gun. He says through clenched teeth, “Ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?” It’s a memorable line – when day-to-day things go badly, you may be asking this of yourself. And you may conclude that there’s nothing you can do about your luck – you’re always gonna ride the up and down seesaw of life, heading to your grave thinking that the odds are stacked against you, that the “house” always wins, success is a fifty-fifty proposition and that you can only hope to break even at best.
The very definition of the word luck seems to bear this out. Here are two from the Merriam Webster dictionary:
- A force that brings good fortune or adversity
- Luck was a big factor in the outcome.
- The events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual
- The loser muttered something about bad luck.
These definitions imply that there is randomness to the luck you have in any situation from conditions outside your control. Yet your luck is not random – the circumstances in your life are largely the result of your thoughts; conscious, or more typically, unconscious. If your thoughts are random, your results are going to be random – some good, some bad. Only when you take conscious control of your thinking does your “luck” change and you start to manifest what you want. That wouldn’t be due to luck – your thoughts are the cause, the results are the effect. This notion predates Emerson – it goes back to Aristotle somewhere in the 300’s BC, who was first to articulate that for every effect there is a cause.
So how do you change your outcomes? Here are what I call the “Five Causes of Good Fortune” that I have utilized over the years and share with all of my coaching clients to help them take control of their thinking.
Purpose The effects in your life, especially in your business, begin with your sense of purpose, or mission if you will. Not to judge others, but the majority of people go through their lives taking things as they come. This leads to feelings of resignation, frustration, even hopelessness: “Well, that’s life – gotta take the good with the bad, suck it up, that’s just the way it is.” I personally felt resigned to mediocrity back in my 20’s before I began to embrace the ideas in books like Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, in Nightingale-Conant audio programs from people like Brian Tracy and from personal development seminars I attended like The Landmark Forum. These ideas resonated so well with me that I decided to make a career of coaching people on them. Thus I created a meaningful raison d’etre for myself.
Decades later I still feel a strong sense of determination, as reflected in the essence of my Mission Statement: My purpose is to create happy, successful clients. This is what gets me out of bed every day – the feeling that I am going to make a difference. And I help all of my clients craft a goal-based Mission Statement for their business so they can embrace the idea that what they do isn’t just a job, it’s a calling.
Attitude I describe myself as a formerly shy, low self-esteem unassertive underachiever with a bad attitude. The operative word in this description is “formerly” – if you meet me today I fully expect you would describe me as positive and optimistic. I woke up to the fact that it was my thinking that caused my bad attitude. I wasn’t aware that I was carrying around a bunch of negative thoughts about my self-esteem, my capability to succeed, even my worthiness. I began to adjust my attitude with daily affirmations, consciously doing “mental push-ups” with positive statements like “I am a champion, I am a winner, I am a great success! I am a positive force in the world!” Still do them today.
Just like physical exercise builds your body’s muscles, affirmations build your attitudinal muscle. So I and all of my clients, for whom this exercise is prescribed, work with daily affirmations to create the effect of belief in ourselves. Think about it: If you have a negative attitude, even when something good happens, you would discount it as a fluke. That’s why a positive attitude is essential for good fortune.
Goals I trust you understand the importance of time-bound goal setting. By committing your goals to writing you are literally upgrading your thoughts (causes) to the effects you want by a given date, within one year for example.
The key to overall good fortune is to set goals in all areas of your life — Mental, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual. Mental goals are your goals for your career and financial well-being. Physical goals are for the shape of your body and what you put in it. Emotional goals are for enhancing your relationships, both personal and professional. And Spiritual goals are those things you do on a regular basis that will get you more in touch with your Self, however you define that. If you don't set goals in these four areas, you will eventually find yourself out of balance, and you’ll subsequently get an “unlucky” wake-up call to address it. (You don’t want to wake up to a heart attack, divorce or bankruptcy, do you? That’s what I’m talking about here.)
Time Management Many people appear to be victims of time poverty – they live in a stressed-out state of reactivity, jumping from one task to another. At the end of the day, even though they’ve rushed here, there and everywhere to get stuff done, they feel like they haven’t accomplished anything of significance. They’re convinced they don't have enough time, walk around constantly saying, "I don't have time! I don't have time!" to themselves, almost as their mantra. And they also talk to others about how busy and stressed out they are, as if this was some badge of honor. Yet if I were to ask them, "Can you think of someone who's more successful that you?" the response would be, "Of course!" Then I'd ask if they had the same 24 hours in a day, to which I usually get a dumbfounded look and, "Well, yeah, I guess so ..." So the real issue is not having enough time, it's how they are managing (or, in most cases, NOT managing) their time. This is because they haven’t made the effort to define what actions they need to take that would be significant for them.
Scheduling the “significant acts” you need to execute based upon your goals is the key. These acts need to be written into your calendar (electronic or hard copy) in advance each week, entered as appointments. Then it is a matter of following your calendar, saying “no” to interruptions from others that seem urgent but are actually unimportant in regard to what you’ve set out to accomplish. This would allow you to live a proactive life, necessary for peace of mind even if you have a full schedule.
Visualization Perhaps our greatest human gift is our ability to use our creative imagination. Properly deployed in mental rehearsal sessions, it turns your goal-thoughts into mental pictures so you can see yourself achieving the effects you desire. All great athletes, from golfers to hoopsters to Olympians, practice visualization as part of their training regimen as well as when competing – it’s no different for you, both professionally and personally.
When you make visualization a daily habit you'll stay mentally on track to achieve any goal you'd like. This habit will help you to follow through on your goals, as you'll have already experienced in your mind the images and feelings associated with making things happen. It’s practicing good fortune in advance.
The Bottom Line You make your own luck by taking conscious control of your thinking about the effects you want. Your thoughts are the cause of your results – change your thinking and you’ll change your life. The place to start is to utilize these Five Causes of Good Fortune, which stop the pattern of randomness to bring you a sense of control every day. Good Luck!
Success Skills Coach Jim Rohrbach, "The Personal Fitness Trainer for Your Business," coaches Financial Advisors around the US by phone to help them grow their clientele. To learn more about how he can help you, visit Jim on the web at www.SuccessSkills.com.