The Myth of Luck

When I was a kid, I used to play pool with my friends. Some in particular seemed to win far more often than I did. At the time, I put this down to luck. They would sink a ball and the next shot would be easy too. When I played, I tended to end up with difficult shots following good ones, so I rarely had a long run of successes.

Years later, it’s apparent to me that no luck was involved – just good planning. The key was to hit the ball so that it would end up in a position where the next shot would be easy. This is something that one can gain control over through practice. To the uninitiated, it seems like uncommonly good fortune. The difference is something that can be learned through practice and feedback.

I’m not suggesting that you can learn to be lucky. What I am saying is that looking at events through the frame of good/bad luck can be a defining limit on success in life. By definition, luck is something that you have little or no control over, putting the responsibility for your success in the hands of fate, impersonal cosmic forces, or the deity of your choice.

If you look at the world through the eyes of luck, the mechanism for your success becomes placed in hands other than your own. As a result, there is no possibility for you to improve that mechanism through feedback from your life experience in order to improve your chances in future. In that sense, luck can be a disempowering myth.

Taking the Power Back

How do you restore your potential? First, put all ideas of luck aside and think about planning instead. Does that seem a bit mundane? It should, as we’ve gone from contemplating unknowable cosmic forces to considering your deeply personal ability to decide your future.

Planning and practice do pay off. A bit of foresight can go a long way to reduce the pressure. Crisis seems to regularly visit those who do not take the time to plan long term. Such an experience may lead to believing that other (more prepared or better practiced) people have it easy and get all the luck.

Consider this well – if you don’t have a strategy or don’t plan, the best chance you have is luck. Knowing you have a better choice makes all the difference in the world. You could place your fortunes in the ‘lap of the Gods’ or use your time to plan your way out of the need for luck.

How do you develop such a plan?

I’m not about to go into the entire process of planning for success within this article, as there is enough to goal planning to fill a book. In fact, our forthcoming book covers the specifics and much more.

With that said, there are certain things you should focus on which will reduce the luck factor greatly. These can be added to your planning, whether you use Well-Formed Outcomes, SMART objectives or some other method to set goals.

1. Is it possible to achieve?

A lot of people forget to check if anyone has already done what they intend to achieve. In a few instances it’s crucial to be the very first person to do something. However, this is rare. The surest way to plan for success is to work to a plan that has already proved successful. This is known as ‘blueprinting’ because all the details are already available and fully mapped out. After all, why bother re-inventing the wheel?

2. How will you know you’ve achieved it?

If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s near impossible to get there, so it’s vital to have a measure of success. That means living into your future a little bit, using your senses and doing some comparing. How will the result look, sound and feel? By continually comparing that world with your present conditions, you can know when you’re heading in the right direction and when you’ve arrived.

3. How much of the outcome is under your personal control?

Some methods ask “is the outcome under your control?” That’s not entirely a fair question in my opinion, as it presupposes only two possible answers – yes or no. Common sense tells us that there are degrees of control and influence we have over our surroundings, other people and circumstances. By maximising your degree of control over circumstances, there is far less need for ‘luck’ in order to become successful. You can do this by choosing your methods carefully.

4. Can you get everything you need to get there?

It’s best to develop some idea of whether you can obtain all of the resources and skills you need before starting off on a course of action. Critically assess what you have right now. You may be able to pick up some skills along the way and you should plan that in. Resources can also be people – teachers, mentors, vital contacts, good listeners, idea people, coaches and people with expertise specific to your project.

5. If you could have it now would you still want it?

Here’s where you really live into the future you’ve planned. Imagine it in every detail and ask yourself whether that’s what you had in mind. Are there any trade-offs involved? Perhaps you took less leisure time in order to get more work done. What are the consequences and are they okay? In this future, how are your family, friends, co-workers, clients? How are your health, happiness and lifestyle? How are your self-esteem and your bank balance?

Are the consequences acceptable? If not, you can find another way to succeed, or you may uphold another goal as more worthwhile. It’s worth taking time to examine your proposed future for significant flaws before you go to the trouble of creating it for real. In this way, you can plan out incidental ‘bad luck’ by thinking ahead.

The Challenge

While random forces do still exist in the universe, you can remove the filter of good/bad luck and take more control of your life. My challenge to you is to test it. Stop believing in luck this month and plan to be fortunate instead. When you notice your fortune, thank your unconscious for it, because your inner faculties of mind make plans too.

Philip Callaghan is an NLP Trainer and Coach who has been working full time with private clients for several years. He is a Licensed Master Practitioner and Trainer of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and a member of the International Association of Coaches.

Visit Phil’s website for further articles.

Get Phil’s new book at

Further Reading:

Positive Attitude Tips – Push Or Pull, I Decide

How to Maintain a Positive Attitude

Abundance Or Lack? – You Are What You Think!