Can Science Explain Luck?



Some may rely on the random occurrence of good fortune while others may use science to create their own fortune. When you throw a die, it falls down due to gravity, and that is well understood. But the outcome, one of the six numbered die faces, is often attributed to luck. That too is something which can be explained by simple science. Calculating exactly which number ends face up requires you to know all the forces involved, the movement of the air molecules and so on. That not being a scientific experiment, but just a game, we ignore other factors and attribute the result to ‘chance’.

The point here is that how often we let things to happen the ‘roll of a dice’ way and use chance as an excuse to avoid putting our actions into motion and creating the conducive circumstances for the occurrence of our own good fortune. So, most often when there are too many parameters to figure out the outcome of the event in the given time, or we can’t calculate them accurately enough, ‘luck’ is the word we use to describe that particular outcome. If a die rolls a 6 we might call it good luck, if it rolls a 1, we might call it bad luck. But if every number has the same probability of rolling, then ‘luck’ is just a story we tell ourselves to make sense of the event retrospectively.

Humans are innately creative. Our creative skills allow us to find meaning and add value which in turn enables us to identify and define ourselves. Storytelling is one such skill or rather, an ability that comes naturally to us. We look at the world as a narrative, usually with ourselves at its center. The science of psychology has something to say about why we find luck such an attractive concept, and maths can explain why some random events happen more often than we intuitively feel they should. But physics can’t explain luck itself, because it is a fiction of our own making.

There are certain principles of luck which have their own way of interpretation of how luck is effective in one’s life. Being clear on what particular goal is to be achieved can get us through most of our worries. Clarity simply means that we know exactly what it is we want and is perhaps the most important luck factor of all, at least at the beginning. The more definite we are about what we want, the more alert and aware we will be of opportunities and possibilities to achieve it faster. All successful people are absolutely clear about who they are and what they want, and what they need to do to get from wherever they are to wherever they want to go. Unsuccessful, unhappy people, on the other hand, are usually quite fuzzy about what it is they stand for and believe in, and what it is they really want from their lives.

Certainly the outlook towards what is going to be the outcome when an opportunity arises can make the difference. There are two main approaches when such an opportunity arises, one may ask “Will it work for me?” while the other may ask “How will it work for me?”.

The difference here is in the main success determining question, “How?”.

When one thinks of something that he or she wants, they always ask themselves, “How can I achieve it or acquire it?”  The attitude of always asking how seems to trigger both our subconscious and superconscious mind so that you are constantly seeing possibilities and getting insights that will help us achieve it.  But when we ask, “Whether,” we shut down our creative capabilities.

The reticular cortex in our brain controls the messages that are allowed to hit our eyes, ears and other senses. This reticular cortex enables us to focus and concentrate on those elements in our environment that are relevant or important to us, and ignore the rest. The reticular cortex is activated by a clear goal, command, desire or even some form of fear on our part. We can treat luck as a dimmer switch in a darkened room and try to throw darts. Now as we become absolutely clear about our goals and aspirations the dimmer is turned on to full brightness and our likelihood of hitting a bull’s eye on the dartboard is vastly increased than before, when we are relying more on the ‘chance’ factor.

Here’s the thing, though: hard work, perseverance, insight and the rest are all good, important things. But so is luck, and it’s time we owned up to it. We have to be able to recognize good fortune when it appears; and we have to be ready to act on it. It isn’t just about dumb luck; it’s more about our preparedness for making the most of the luck when it arrives in your life. And this applies just as strongly to bad luck: success comes from our ability to repeatedly weather the storms of misfortune and wait for the sun to shine on us again.

Pretending that luck doesn’t matter doesn’t help us. Recognizing that it does, and being prepared for its unexpected arrival, makes us alert and watchful. Here’s the thing about ‘lucky’ people: they are usually more likely to notice important developments; more likely to have the nerve to act on them; more likely to have oiled the wheels of knowledge that help them move quickly when the time arrives. So when we call them ‘lucky’, it only means they are prepared.

Our life can change in a moment. But the question remains, will we know when that moment is?

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