When I was a kid, my father liked to gamble his paycheque at the racetrack rather than spend it on life’s little necessities, like rent and food. He was not a bad man. Au contraire. I think he wanted to be a hero; to come home with an epic win that would change everything. But there was all that losing, then trying to retrieve what was lost.
My dad believed deeply that his big pay day was coming. And eventually his luck did change – he had a stroke and never gambled again.
It occurs to me, all these years later, that we gamble in our work lives, enjoying a serotonin-induced high when we score new contracts, clients or jobs, and blaming bad luck for the failures. And sometimes, when our misfortune seems relentless, we can do drastic things, like bet it all when we really should hold.
Dad’s been playing the ponies in the sky for a couple of decades now, but the memory of his life remains rich with lessons. He taught me that if you’re still breathing, you can change your luck:
- Stay calm… That’s where the luck is
Research shows that unlucky people tend to be more anxious than those who consider themselves lucky, and that anxiety inhibits their ability to notice new and interesting possibilities. Even worse, your anxiety can spur you to take action – like taking a job you don’t want or agreeing to a contract with bad terms – when it’s not the most advantageous option. Lucky people are more likely to see alternatives.
Though it may feel counterintuitive, what you need during a spate of bad luck is not action, but calm. Relax so you can think clearly and see the opportunities in front of you. Sleep on it, take a trip to the ocean, visit a spa. For me, mindfulness really works.
- You screwed up: Lucky you
Lucky people don’t give up, but they don’t keep making the same mistakes, either. While my dad was persistent, it was pointless because he refused to learn from his mistakes. Sure, stick it out, but only if you’re managing your risks and being honest with yourself about outcomes. If you’re lucky, you see opportunities hidden in those mistakes of yours.
When what you’re doing isn’t working, open your mind to new possibilities. Examine your routine and change it up so you can have fresh experiences and meet new people. Go to meetings instead of phoning in, connect with colleagues or join professional groups.
- Look at it this way and you win
Lucky people know that things could be worse. It’s the difference in attitude between, “Why do all my clients take so long to pay me?” and “I’ve never had a client stiff me.”
Look on the bright side and maybe your luck isn’t so bad. Perhaps, you are lucky and you don’t even know it. Does someone love you? Do you have money in the bank? Do you have a gift? You win.
Now consider the fact that people who think they’re lucky are calmer and thus enjoy better luck. If you can make yourself feel lucky, your luck will change. Wild, right?
When I grew up and had a kid of my own, every other night it was my turn to put him to bed. Each time, as he was settling in, I’d pull him close and say, “I’m so lucky to have you.” My dad’s obsession with his bad luck taught me to appreciate my good fortune. Thanks to him, I know that I already have everything worth winning.
The successes at work? Just gravy. Important gravy, but gravy.