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Better luck next time

better luck

Better luck next time

I have a weird special talent. One of those unique things that really has no benefit in real life, but people tend to find amazing all the same: I can find four-leaf clovers like you wouldn’t believe. 

It started when I was in fourth grade, and my school’s playground was a grassy field with plenty of clover. My best friend, Tiffany, and I would spend our recess with our heads lowered, searching the ground for the special oddities that we were certain would bring us magical good luck. Not being into sports, we were content to talk as we slowly walked, eyes peeled for clovers. We were terrible at it at first, but we were undaunted and had nothing better to do, so on this went throughout that year. By the time we were in sixth grade, we regularly found four leaf clovers. I changed schools that year, but I continue to successfully find them almost every time I look, and often, even when I’m not trying to find one, one will “jump out” at me. 

So what does this have to do with life? I’m getting to that, I promise. Four-leaf-clovers are supposed to be lucky. Today I was thinking about this as I spotted a four-leaf clover while putting away my garden hose. Luck is a funny notion, isn’t it? “Fortune favors the prepared mind” said Louis Pasteur. I believe that luck, in many ways, is more about how many times you try, than any magical force or even mere chance. But it isn’t just the times you try that are magical–it’s the times after you try that happen almost by themselves.

You see, neurologists have an explanation for why four-leaf-clovers “jump out” at me when I’m not even looking for them. I’ve trained my brain to look even without me telling it to. Those hours of wandering the fields with my best friend, half-conversing and half searching, taught my brain to always be on the lookout when a patch of clover is nearby for that square in the sea of triangles. The synaptic path in my mind that filters the view for that four-leaf-clover is so well-greased that it happens without any effort at all. It’s similar to a habit, or being on autopilot. Not to get overly technical, but every thought, action, neural signal runs a path from one neuron to another, and each run that is made will grease the path it took, thickening the myelin sheath and making that signal faster. Imagine if every time you made a commute to the grocery store, the route became smoother, with fewer red lights and less traffic. Now apply it to your thoughts and behaviors. What thoughts are so frequently-used, so automatic, so reflexive, that they happen at the speed of light? What behaviors, cravings, avoidings (I made that word up), and habits are like a needle in a groove because of how often they are done? A greased synaptic pathway is a powerful thing indeed. 

My point about the four-leaf-clovers is that we are more in control of our synaptic pathways than we think. Finding four-leaf-clovers as often as I do is not because I’m lucky. It’s because I practiced searching for them. Finding opportunities can be the same way. We see some people as lucky for having the good fortune of amazing opportunities or great connections or landing that dream [fill in the blank]. These “good fortunes” are the result of persistently looking, OR having been so consistent at looking, that they do it absentmindedly. 

There is actually scientific logic to explain this. In an article for Popular Science, Alexandra Ossola concludes “… many studies have found that what a person might perceive as ‘luck’ …is actually just one’s own positive attitude that keeps him/her open to new opportunities or perceiving patterns in random acts of chance.” 

In 2006 a film (and later a book) by Rhonda Byrne called “The Secret” claimed that the secret to success was the law of attraction, and that this was a law of the universe like gravity, that “like attracts like” and therefore having expectations of success would lead to success, and conversely, fears of failure would lead to failure. It’s my belief that this law of attraction isn’t about metaphysics–it’s about neural pathways and what you have trained your brain to seek out. When you buy a new Jeep you start to see Jeeps everywhere. The number of Jeeps on the road has not changed significantly since you bought that car. It is your awareness of it. We know that confirmation bias seeks answers that fit our preconceived notions. If I believe that I never get good parking spots, I will notice and say, “see, I told you” each time I don’t find a great parking spot. Whereas I could instead believe that I always find great parking spots and each time I do, I  notice and say, “see, I told you.” Either way, I reinforce my own belief. It isn’t metaphysics. There’s no actual increase in available parking spots. But what I notice changes. What I record in my mind as reality changes. “What you aim at determines what you see,” says psychologist Jordan Peterson. Your reality is your perception, and your perception can be altered. You may not be able to think something into existence from nothing, but you will find yourself seeking (and finding) ways to bring it into existence.

In my experiences in the “pink bubble,” I know we have talked about “self-limiting beliefs” and “positive affirmations.” You’ve probably heard about vision boards and goal posters and “putting your goal where you can see it.” The reason these are talked about is because they really do influence success for many people; they do this by giving you concrete ways to alter your perception, your aim, your brain’s autopilot. You have the power to influence your synaptic pathways, and tell your brain what clovers it needs to be on the lookout for, AND which ones to ignore. You can hack the system that can very well guide you to greatness, mediocrity, or utter misery, depending on the setting you use.

Ask yourself this: what are already automatics for you? What have you consistently done or said that affects your perception of your reality in negative ways? Are you ready to create a new pathway instead? What can you start seeking deliberately, so that you can start seeking it automatically at some point in the future? What can you do now persistently, so that in the future, you can do it consistently without much effort at all? What idea, habit, or goal is just on the other side of your ability to master the skill of seeking it?

“The most certain way to succeed is to always try just one more time.” –Thomas Edison

Comments

Leah Treann Pourdavood

Erin, I appreciate this blog & your insights! I hope I can find this again! I’m not sure how I came across it but I value your work and really like how you couple scientific with explanation and reason while weaving this into your story!!! You are a bright one!!!! Thank you for putting time into this and I look forward to another one❣️

May 18, 2022
Margaret-Ann Aquaro

Really enjoyed this article!!

May 21, 2022

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