“You’re really lucky.”
I hear people say this a lot. And not just when they’re talking to me, of course! I just thought that was easier to type than the phrase “he/she/they/you is/are really lucky.”
This phrase is usually in response to a good situation in someone’s life. Getting a good job, quitting a bad job, traveling, meeting a partner. It’s always meant in good faith, with possibly only a hint of self-pity.
Anyway, I’ve always found it a curious phrase, and an oddly incorrect and even a dangerous one.
Here’s the definition of “luck” I found after a 2 second search:
(n) “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”
The reason why I don’t like talking about luck in one’s life is built right into the definition. A success not based on one’s own actions? That’s not something to be proud of or aspire to!
But this is important in one’s internal monologue as well. “I am lucky” sounds good at first listen but is actually a dangerous thing to say, because luck absolves you of all ownership in your actions. This is not what we want.
Luckily (joke) this is just a word choice problem, and not a functional problem, which means that once you become aware of the words, you can change them and let the meaning percolate into your life.
What if instead of saying that someone is “lucky,” we say that one is “fortunate?”
The definition of “fortunate” at first look seems to be a synonym for luck. But if you think about it, that’s not how we use the word. When we say “fortunate” we tend to mean actions that are in our control.
Read these two sentences to see what I mean:
“I was lucky that I was able to do that project.”
“I was fortunate that I was able to do that project.”
In the first sentence, it was up to the four winds that the project happened. There doesn’t appear to be much of “my” actions that helped the work to get done. On the other hand, the second sentence, you sense that “I” was definitely the one doing the work. This is a subtle difference, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
Don’t be lucky
I want you to happen to your life, and not have your life happen to you. And in order to believe that you are in control of your own life, you need to believe that you have ownership over how it unfolds. When success happens, I want you to feel like you are why the success happened. You showed up, and then the success showed up.
- Are you lucky if you get a good job? No, I say you are fortunate. After all, you showed up. You didn’t win a lottery. They hired you.
- Are you lucky if you meet a great partner? No, I say you are fortunate. You put in the work to make it happen and to keep it going.
Yes, there are many things you can’t control. You were born in the place and time and situation you were. People intersect in your life when they will do so, not when you will them.
And yet there are so many aspects of your life that you can control. You work hard and are grateful so you can make progress in your life. And if you never left the house, you would never have intersected with the people who have so enriched your life.
So, I guess perhaps I’ll leave you by saying “best of fortune.” Luck will happen, good or bad, so I have no need to wish it on you.
But enough about me? Do you feel lucky or fortunate?
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