What we tell ourselves and those around us play important roles in how we think, feel, and behave. With the passing of St. Patrick’s Day, I have been thinking about how much we incorporate “luck” in our understanding of our experiences and the consequences of attributing our successes solely to fortune or fate. While some element of serendipity may play a role in our outcomes, most experiences are likely not determined by one single person, event, or thing. For example, people will often say that they are “lucky” to have supportive/loving friends or family or that they “happened to be in the right place, at the right time,” when it comes to positive professional or personal outcomes. While in passing this type of statement may seem relatively inconsequential and even polite, it is important to check-in on these thoughts from time to time, especially if we are beginning to feel stuck or unsure of where to go next.

Here are three reasons why it can be helpful to be mindful of our “luck”:

Take Back Control. Attributing our successes solely to luck can be dicey because it can take away our power. When people describe themselves as being “lucky” to have achieved certain successes or to have some positive outcome, it is important for me to pause and explore the degree to which a person’s own skills and efforts influence these outcomes. What role did we play in how things turned out? How much time or effort did we put into ensuring things go smoothly? It can be uncomfortable to unpack, it is important to balance our feeling of “luck” with our actual contributions to ensure that we feel empowered as move towards other goals in the future.

Increase Predictability. Another tricky aspect of “luck” is that it is impossible to predict. When we rebalance our thoughts about our successes to include our own skills or efforts, we can find that life is a bit more predictable, and success can be easier to replicate. Unlike luck, skills can be called upon when we choose, and we can ask for help appropriately when we reach our limits. Although we might not be able to guarantee success, we can certainly increase the odds by taking the time to take ownership of our roles in effecting positive outcomes.

Build Confidence. Putting “luck” back in its place can also help us build confidence. By focusing on our own inner strengths and skills and embracing our roles in creating successful outcomes, we can build our sense of ability to overcome challenges and take on other goals in the future.

It can be helpful for us all to take a moment to reassess the degree to which we incorporate “luck” into our narrative, as shifting our focus to our own skills or efforts can help us all feel empowered and confident in our lives. Being mindful of how much we attribute to luck can also help us identify moments when we are struggling to cope or are feeling stuck. Depression and anxiety tend to attribute our success to luck or other external factors—and they can also take too much personal responsibility for hardships or failures.

If you or someone you know is finding it hard to rebalance these thoughts, it might be time to consider reaching out for help. A trained mental health professional can help individuals rebalance these limiting thoughts and help you manage stress and reach your goals with confidence.

Dr. Rika Tanaka, Ph.D. (PSY30925) is a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Coronado Psych, a psychology private practice in Coronado, CA. As a resident of Coronado and an expert therapist herself, Dr. Tanaka’s mission is to increase accessibility to the highest-quality mental health services to Coronado and the broader San Diego community. Coronado Psych’s expert team of therapists are dedicated to providing the most effective psychological services to clients of all ages (e.g. children, adolescents, young adults, adults, and seniors) and are currently accepting new clients. For more information about the services provided at Coronado Psych, please feel free to call (619-554-0120), email (info@coronadopsych.com), or visit their website at www.coronadopsych.com, to learn more.

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