Are You Feeling Lucky?

How to make your own luck

Posted Sep 05, 2012

The truth is that some people have had more good fortune in life than others.  Whether you call it luck or blessing or a head start, some of us have advantages in life.  Some have more money than others.  Some have more helpful parents.  Some have a more privileged race or culture or gender or status in life.  Some have more intelligence or beauty or drive or creativity than others.  We don’t like to admit it, but it’s true.  We are not all dealt the same hand. 

What matters most is what you do with the hand that you have been dealt.  In my therapy practice, I have seen those with great privilege whittle it away.  I have seen those who have been given very little turn it into something extraordinary.  And, of course, there’s a lot in between. 

From a psychoanalytic perspective, I think that Jefferson was right.  Our attitude toward work makes the difference.  It helps us build something out of whatever we have been given.  And what’s more, it helps us grow our minds.  For the mind is like money, it can only grow if we invest it.  We have to use it, apply it, and exercise it.  And the more we work the mind, the more effective it becomes.  We develop what psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion calls mental muscle.  Our minds grow stronger when challenged.  We become able to think more clearly and apply ourselves more diligently.  We learn to solve problems rather than ignore them.  We come to bear frustrations with resolve.  We think ahead.  We think smart.  We develop self-confidence.  We learn that, while we can’t do everything, we can do something.

It is easy to envy those who have more.  It is human to do so.  But if we recognize that each one of us has some basic building blocks for life, then we can do something enviable too.  We can make our own luck.

Copyright 2012 Jennifer Kunst, Ph.D.

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