Do Ya Feel Lucky? Well, Do Ya, Punk?—Dirty Harry
While pursuing graduate studies at Arizona State University, I decided I wanted to work for the Foreign Service so I could travel and live an exciting life. I applied but didn’t pass the foreign language aptitude test. I refused to let this stop me from pursuing my path; I wanted to live an exciting life., so I turned my attention toward the FBI.
Within six months I was hired as an FBI agent—a record in speedy recruitment. The average waiting list is three years. I had people walk up to me and say, “You were very lucky.” But no, I don’t think so.
It’s not that I don’t believe luck doesn’t exist; it’s just that I think it can be created and controlled. Luck happens when we seize opportunities to improve ourselves and our situation. It definitely doesn’t happen if we silently wait and hope for our lives to change.
I wanted to be in control of where I took my life—not a passive spectator. My experience with the Foreign Service is only one example of where life has not always unfolded in the direction or manner that I had planned. When disappointments, roadblocks, barriers, or obstacles kept me from my path, I took them as opportunities to re-evaluate both my plan and my options.
Here are 4 ways you can be in control of your own life:
1) BEWARE OF GOALS
We live in a very goal-oriented society. Once we achieve our goal we feel terrific, but then there is the realization that we have just lost the thing that gives us direction. Goals are temporary and temporal; they can be too rigid to change with circumstances. If we’re too wedded to them, we won’t be able to adapt to those changes.
If I’d continued to beat my head against the closed door at the Foreign Service, I would have gained nothing but blood and bruises. That is not mental toughness; it’s being hard-headed.
Instead, hitch your heart to your purpose. Your purpose will not change, even if your circumstances do (click to tweet). You will always find a way to connect with your purpose: your beliefs, values, and priorities. When confronted with obstacles, keep your eye on your purpose but be prepared to let go of your vision of an immediate goal in order to get there. Other, more expansive goals might become available as you move forward.
2) REMAIN POSITIVE
Living on a cattle ranch, I had a couple of different options on how I looked at cow turds. Either something to be avoided, or something to be used. When dry, they make excellent frisbees, and they are also dynamite fertilizer for the garden!
When you are positive about the events in your life, you are more alert to the possibilities that whiz around you everyday. People who are positive and in good moods actually take in more visual information, while those in bad moods don’t see as much around them.
When you are always looking for opportunities, luck happens because you’re motivated to take the steps necessary to succeed. You make it easier for luck to find you because you are more open to life’s forking paths, and see possibilities that others miss.
3) DEVELOP FLEXIBILITY
Luck tends to smile on folks who have a more relaxed approach to life (click to tweet). They have clarity of purpose and don’t worry too much about the details. For example, rather than aiming to become the top cardiac surgeon at John Hopkins, they vow to be a doctor who helps save lives.
Once you have pinpointed the direction you want your life to go and attached your heart to your purpose, there are many different ways to get there. Goals can be good, but don’t let them interfere with the direction your heart is telling you to go.
4) MOVE OUT OF YOUR SHELL
Researchers have found that people who call themselves lucky are more likely to be extroverts. Because they are curious about others, they are more likely to have opportunities present themselves since they not only meet lots of new people, they also keep in touch with a larger group of friends.
Whether or not you are an extrovert, you can still be curious about your environment and the people around you. Inquisitiveness is one of the most important traits of mental toughness. It is having the curiosity to see beyond your current circumstances so you can create your own luck and move forward.
Control your own luck by seizing opportunities to improve your life and situation. The result will either be a lucky break or the regret of a road not taken.
What would you add? How do you take control of your own life?
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