"What are the odds that the next person you meet will change your day, your year, your life?" This is the opening line of an article I recently read in Oprah's February issue of O. "Chance of a Lifetime" discusses whether or not we make our own destiny. Coincidentally (or maybe not), I was looking at that magazine in the offices of Oprah's new network OWN, getting ready to pitch ideas to network executives.
I have always been a big believer in signs that the Universe provides to knock us onto our track or to assure us that we are indeed on the right track. For instance when I see a look-a-like of the dog I had as a child, I feel like the Universe is telling me that everything is okay...that I am on the right track. Then when I see two of these dogs at the same time, then I know things are really good.
On the other hand, I have been a big believer in making things happen. For example, when I wanted to work for the National Geographic Society, I called every connection I had there, requested informational interviews, and did my NGS homework. I got the job.
I have vacillated between the theories and practices of making things happen and letting things happen throughout my life. Sometimes I am totally on side, sometimes on the other, and sometimes I embrace both. Lately I have been struggling with where I am now.
Colleen Seifert, PhD, who is featured in the O article and is a specialist in cognitive psychology (the science of why people think the way they do) shed some light on this battle of philosophies. "Chance favors the prepared mind," Seifert says quoting Louis Pasteur. It sounds good to me, but what does this actually mean?
My interpretation of what Dr. Seifert says is that we are always exposed to randomness. By definition a chance encounter is a random event. Our actions however play a crucial role in the outcome. When you are mentally prepared for a chance encounter you give yourself the opportunity to change your behavior and take action. Life hasn't changed. It is still random. But you may have. So maybe Louis Pasteur had a good point. The prepared mind has a better chance of getting what it wants, or as many call it, "getting lucky."
Seifert isn't alone in believing that if you prepare yourself to make the most of chance encounters, good things are waiting to happen. Apparently there is a real science to prove that while you can't control the random events of life, you can indeed create your own luck. Take for example the research of Richard Wiseman, PhD.
Dr. Wiseman has spent more than a decade investigating why some people have more luck than others and argues that only 10 percent of life is truly random and that 90 percent is actually defined by the way we think, In his book, The Luck Factor, Wiseman says, "Luck is not a magical ability or a gift from the gods...instead, it is a way of thinking and behaving...Lucky people create, notice, and act upon the chance opportunities in their lives." Another way to say this I think is that being in the right place at the right time is actually about being in the right state of mind.
As I sort all of this out, I think back to when I have had most success and what my strategy and state of mind was at the time. I have tended to think that chance encounters, fortunate circumstances and great successes have come from the friendly Universe. But maybe it is not chance after all. Maybe I really am making my own luck. I still feel gratitude to the Universe though when I see one of those dogs.
Do you think you can make your own luck?