Advertising
Advertising

Understanding Luck: What It Is and How to Control It

Understanding Luck: What It Is and How to Control It

Luck is quite an interesting concept. When we look at ancient man, and the cultural traditions that developed within ancient societies, we can easily understand why the concept of luck played such an important role in early societies. Early rains and an abundant harvest might be easily explained by today’s current meteorological understanding, but to ancient civilizations it was seen as good luck or fortune sent from the gods and goddesses on high. Likewise, a drought or other natural disaster often was attributed to bad luck.

Nowadays we have a better understanding of the science of luck beyond superstition, and can correctly equate what is and what isn’t affected by the hand of chance–but this hasn’t kept people from losing millions on roulette wheels in Las Vegas, or on video slot machines and other lotteries around the rest of the world. It also hasn’t stopped young dreamers from pursuing unlikely ambitions, even though, statistically, they don’t stand a chance of ever “breaking through” to a mainstream market or “making it” as a professional in their field.

The beauty of luck is that whether or not we believe in it, everybody generally understands it as a concept, and many can recount their own experiences with it, either positive or negative. So what exactly is luck, in scientific terms? And how (if at all) can somebody control it?

What is Luck?

    Roman Goddess Fortuna, also known as “Lady Luck”

    According to Wikipedia, the definition of luck “varies by the philosophical, religious, mystical, and emotional context of the one interpreting it.” What this means, basically, is that some people think luck refers to completely random circumstances, as seen in the Oxford Dictionary definition of the term: “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”

    Advertising

    This view of luck is more descriptive, used to explain events after they’ve happened, especially if they produce outcomes that are combination of favorable, unfavorable, or improbable. On the other hand, some people decide to view luck in more of a prescriptive way, where fortune is more of a supernatural force that can determine the outcome of events before they happen. Somebody who blows on a pair of dice before he or she rolls them might believe this heightens their odds of rolling a favorable number, especially if reinforced by a favorable outcome. This prescriptive belief, while amusing, holds no scientific weight–the laws of physics do not change simply because somebody blows on a pair of dice, and the outcome of a purely identical roll would not differ sans “blow.”

      A good example of this in action can be traced back to an episode at the Le Grande Casino in Monte Carlo, August 18, 1913. On this night, the roulette wheel produced the color black 29 times in a row, a feat that David J. Darling has calculated to be a 1 in 136,823,184 probability in his book, The Universal Book of Mathematics. This night lives in infamy because of the millions of francs casino go-ers lost betting on the false logic that because black had come up so many times before, it could simply not come up black again. Nevertheless, every time the wheel spun there was an 18 out of 37 chance that it would come up black, same as the time before it and same as the time after. While there was definitely no prescriptive reason that the casino-goers suffered bad luck that night, even people who “don’t believe in luck” can, in retrospect, descriptively ascribe the term “unlucky” gamblers in such an improbable scenario.

      Psychology and “Making Your Own Luck”

      The roll of the dice, the turn of the card, and the spin of the roulette wheel–this is just one way to portray luck. It works because it’s the most concrete example of how blind chance affects an outcome. But what about the idea of somebody or something being lucky or unlucky?

      Advertising

      The interesting thing about luck is that it deals heavily with both perception and chance. Lou Holtz has a great quote stating that “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” As it turns out, people who consider themselves unlucky don’t tend to believe the above, and would rather blame external factors for their misfortunes in life. People who consider themselves lucky, on the other hand, generally look inward for the reasons things in life happen to them, and try to adapt positively to situations that might otherwise seem negative.

        Psychologists call this the locus of control. An external locus of control means that you believe the world around you controls you more than you control yourself. Alcoholics suffer this quite often, and it’s one of the reasons that A.A.’s first step is “admitting you have a problem.” By internalizing your locus of control, you grant yourself the agency to quit. It’s kind of like the old tale of the tortoise and the hare–the rabbit didn’t lose the race because he was unlucky and napped for too long, he lost the race because he decided to nap in the first place.

        So while those who may consider themselves “unlucky” generally have an external locus of control, those who consider themselves “lucky” have an internal locus of control. The perception of chance between these two generally reflects their view of luck, and even affect health. If you look at cancer survivor Paul Kraus, for example, who had to dramatically change his lifestyle, diet, and therapies to survive three types of cancers including meningioma (a type of brain cancer), mesothelioma, and metastatic prostate cancer, (on top of being born in a Nazi forced labor camp during WWII!) you might think the man unlucky. Kraus would disagree, insisting that his survival is related to his belief that “a diagnosis is not destiny” and that people can conquer cancer because “there is far more to this illness than just a doctor’s bad news.” Kraus is the type of man who made his own luck.

        Advertising

        How to Be Lucky Yourself

        Even though we understand that luck is simply chance, it still plays heavily into our culture, even if not in a prescriptive way, but in a descriptive way. A great display of this can be found in the culture surrounding America’s favorite pastime: baseball. The 2016 World Series, for example, saw the Indians and the Cubs go head to head, where the highlight of the series was the nullification of either Cleveland’s or Chicago’s decades long curse. Now, while these types of “curses” might show up in other sports, they’re more pertinent in baseball because of both players’ and fans’ susceptibility to superstitions in almost every aspect of the game. Indeed, because the ball is so small and moving so fast, there’s no way to predict every curve it will take, or whether or not it will make an unlucky bounce, etc. Eric Garcia McKinley writing for BeyondTheBoxScore.com actually argues that luck plays an undeniable role in baseball. The minor variables make the game so complex that you have to take into account that some players are simply in the right place at the right time.

        This analysis is not only correct in baseball, but is useful when applied outside of the game as well. Jennifer Aniston, for example, was about ready to call it quits with her acting career in 1994–but a chance meeting with the then-president of NBC’s entertainment division at a gas pump landed her on the cast of Friends, solidifying her career as we all know it. If we’re to take this as an example, we have to realize ourselves that Jennifer Aniston wasn’t just at the right place at the right time–because if you or me were to run into the president of NBC at the gas pump, there’s almost no way we’d get a shot at a hit TV series.

          What Anniston had that most of us don’t, in that specific situation, was preparation. Another Lifehack article on luck quotes the Roman philosopher Seneca, who said: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Anniston had prepared by doing at least four other failed TV sitcoms before she was put on friends, and these sitcoms had made her well-known to the NBC executive she met.

          Advertising

          You Already ARE Lucky! Now Maximize It!

          Half of luck is the right mindset, while the other half is being in the right place at the right time. If you’re always in the right place, you’re only depending on the right time.

          The first part of this is realizing that you already are lucky. Every day that you don’t get in a freak accident while driving or walking down the road, you’re lucky. To have made it this many years into your life, you’re lucky. To be born in a time when you can look up almost anything on the internet (like this article!), you’re lucky! If you start focusing on all of the reasons that you’re lucky, and stop believing that you’re unlucky (you’re not), you’ll already start recognizing how much good luck you have.

          The second half, about always being in the right place, means simply to be proactive and persistent. If Anniston would have given up after the first failed Sitcom, she would never have been known to the NBC executive. Even Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times before it was published.

          The point is that luck often happens to people who are dedicated to a field, which is why luck happens in that field. Adopting a positive mindset and believing in yourself enough to persist are all the ingredients it takes to be lucky.

          So get out there, and do whatever it is you feel you were meant to do–by simply doing with a positive mindset, you’ll find fortune is already smiling on you!

          Featured photo credit: AdinaVoicu via pixabay.com

          More by this author

          Andrew Heikkila

          Owner-Operator of Earthlings Entertainmnet

          5 Crazy Future Tech Trends to Start Preparing for Now Understanding Luck: What It Is and How to Control It 12 Strange Remedies for Whatever Ails You 7 Ways the Internet of Things Will Change Driving Forever 7 Ways We’re Slowly Becoming Our Phones

          Trending in Brain

          1 How to Improve Your Brain Memory Naturally: Foods to Eat And Skip 2 Do Memory Supplements Work? 10 Supplements to Boost Brain Power 3 How to Improve Your Memory: 7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways 4 10 Best Brain Power Supplements That Will Supercharge Your Mind 5 Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on August 8, 2019

          How to Improve Your Brain Memory Naturally: Foods to Eat And Skip

          How to Improve Your Brain Memory Naturally: Foods to Eat And Skip

          Staying focused and maintaining high performance in a hectic work rhythm leads to stress and mental exhaustion. So how to improve brain memory naturally?

          The good news is that the negative effects of increased cognitive efforts can be prevented: brain foods, combined with healthy sleep regime and exercise, improve memory, concentration, and intellect.

          What’s more, cutting many foods that we consider “generally harmful” out of the diet improves brain function and reduces brain health risks.

          How does food improve brain health? Research proves that specific elements contained in the food positively influence molecular systems and support cognitive function.[1] Here’s how:

          • Amino acids support neurotransmitters, endogenous chemicals that transmit signals between nerve cells. This helps keep the brain sharp.
          • Glucose is the main source of energy for human brain. Almost all energy that the brain consumes is derived from glucose.
          • Fatty acids strengthen nerve cells. They bring essential nutrients into brain cells and keep harmful toxins out.
          • Antioxidants protect brain cells by inhibiting oxidization, reducing its negative effects, and removing oxidizing agents from the body.

          Knowing what substances are good for brain health, it’s easier to choose a diet that improves memory, maintains brain health and protects it from damage factors. Many foods are known to have positive effects on cognitive health, so anyone can choose their favorite ones to include in their daily diet.

          10 Foods That Improve Your Brain

          1. Nuts and Seeds

          Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, contain fatty Omega-3 acids that the brain needs for its healthy function, and antioxidant vitamin E that protects nerve cells and reduces brain health risks.

          Whole grain, beans, and seeds – sunflower, pumpkin and others – are also a great source of amino acids and zinc that improve memory and contribute mental clarity.

          Nutritionists recommend consuming nuts and seeds as a healthy snack – a handful of them is enough to satisfy midday hunger and to cover your daily requirement of brain-supporting substances.

          2. Salmon and Other Fatty Fish

          Salmon is another source of omega-3 fatty acids that maintain brain health. Essential fatty acids contained in fatty fish, such as tuna, herring and sardines, have a protective effect on brain in the aging process by reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

          In a shorter-term perspective, they show positive effects on cognitive-behavioral health: they significantly reduce the risk and the symptoms of depression, ADHD, and anxiety.

          Advertising

          3. Dark Green Vegetables

          Rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, green leafy vegetables are known for their positive effects on general well-being and sharpness of mind.

          Additionally, such veggies as broccoli, avocado, or kale are powerful cancer fighters. They contain vitamin K that fights lack of concentration, prevents Alzheimer’s disease, and works as an anti-aging substance.

          Spinach, kale, and chard also contain brain-boosting vitamins B and iron that helps transfer oxygen to the brain.

          4. Dark Chocolate

          We often assume that healthy food is not tasty and our favorite sweets are unhealthy, but that’s not quite true.

          Combining the useful with the pleasant is possible when it comes to chocolate – and the darker the better: the best choice is 70% cocoa and more. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids that stimulate blood flow to the brain, and such elements as iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium that boost energy and support many body functions.

          Consuming cocoa improves cognitive function , reduces stress, and protects mental health.

          5. Tomatoes

          Tomatoes are packed with carotenoids that safeguard fat in the body. As brain is mainly made of fat, this function is especially important for it.

          Tomatoes are a great source of two carotenoid types: lycopene and beta-carotene. They are powerful antioxidants that protect brain cells from free-radical damage, regulate cell growth, have anti-aging effects, and improve memory.

          6. Eggs

          Many of us mostly consume eggs as a source of proteins, but they have much more value for our health. They contain choline that regulates enzymes essential for mental health.

          Eggs are a safe way to consume cholesterol that strengthens brain cells and structures. Apart from that, eggs are packed with antioxidants and healthy fats that nurture and protect the brain.

          Advertising

          7. Berries

          Berries are a great source of vitamins that help our body function properly. They contain vitamins C and K, antioxidants, fiber, and many other important nutrients.

          Dark berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, and cherries, are a source of flavonoids that improve brain health and boost memory.

          And while fresh berries are usually a seasonal treat, dried and frozen ones are also rich in healthy nutrients and can be consumed throughout the entire year.

          8.Green tea

          Green tea has been being used as a medicine throughout the centuries.[2] The list of its benefits for health and well-being is very long – but we’ll focus here on its positive effects on brain. It is extremely rich in antioxidants that protect brain from harmful free radicals and reduce the risk of cancer.

          In 1494, Japanese scientists identified in green tea an amino acid called L-theanine. It promotes relaxation and facilitates sleep, helping maintain concentration, regulating emotions, and boosting cognitive abilities.

          9. Sage and rosemary

          Adding these herbs to your favorite dishes not only improves the taste, but also sharpen the mind, alleviate fatigue, and increase mental clarity.

          These herbs contain over 40 active compounds that benefit brain health and enhance cognitive activity. They promote focus, concentration, and calmness, which is essential for alertness and long-term memory.[3]

          10. Red wine

          While high levels of alcohol are destructive for overall well-being and for brain health in particular, small amounts of red wine are refreshing and vivifying for brain.

          Studies have shown that red wine, alongside with it relaxing effect, also improves the brain’s ability to remove harmful toxins by regulating the glymphatic system, reduces the risk of inflammation, and improves cognitive abilities and motor skills.[4]

          5 Foods That Harm the Brain

          We’ve figured out what food is healthy – but knowing what is to avoid is also essential for maintaining brain health, good memory and sharp focus. Here’s a list of the most harmful foods that impair memory, impact mood, and increase health risks:

          Advertising

          1. Sugary Foods and Beverages

          Studies prove that higher sugar levels in the blood not only result in excessive body weight and increase the risk of diabetes – they also expose you to the risk of dementia.[5] That’s why rep lacing sugary drinks and foods with healthier products is essential.

          Consider consuming unsweetened tea, water, vegetable juice, and unsweetened dairy products instead.

          2. Trans Fats

          Trans fats, or unsaturated fatty acids, in small amounts occur in natural and healthy products, such as dairy and meat, where they’re are not a major concern. Much more harmful are industrially produced ones, which are used in snacks, packaged baked goods, and fast food.

          As there’s a relation between the intake of trans fats and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, World Health Organization introduced a guide to eliminate trans fats from the global food supply.

          3. Refined Carbohydrates

          Refined carbs include sugar and highly-processed grains – for example, white flour. Due to their high glycemic index (GI), they are considered harmful to brain: foods high in GI impair memory in both children and adults, increase inflammation risks and can cause degenerative diseases.

          A healthy alternative is whole-grain foods, vegetables, and fruits.

          4. Aspartame

          A thing that is considered “better than sugar”, but in fact is not better at all. It is efficient for losing weight because it has zero calories, but its components – phenylalanine, methanol, and aspartic acid – have negative effects on cognitive abilities, mood, and alertness.

          A healthy choice recommended by experts is reducing the amount of sugar and artificial sweeteners in your diet, or cutting them out altogether.

          5. Alcohol

          While experts mention positive effects of moderate amounts of red wine on brain health, the excessive consumption of alcohol can cause severe problems that everyone needs to be aware of.

          Reduction in brain volume, metabolic problems, disruption of neurotransmitters are the most frequent negative effects. They cause memory loss, behavior disorders, and long-term brain damage.

          Advertising

          Keep alcohol consumption moderate, or avoid it at all, especially if you already have any health risks.

          Bonus Advice…

          Just eating healthy food sometimes is obviously not enough for improving cognitive performance in the long-term perspective. The key to achieving the best result is getting healthy nutrients consistently. That’s why carefully balancing your daily meal is essential for staying focused and productive.

          Here’s some advice on what foods you can choose for your daily diet to boost your memory, concentration, and brain health:

          Breakfast

          A full and healthy breakfast is an efficient way to start your day productively – so never skip it!

          Oatmeal, berry smoothies, and eggs are traditional breakfast meals, and they are a great source of memory-boosting nutrients.

          Lunch

          It’s sometimes tempting to opt for fast food or packaged baked goods, but stay away from them if you want to stay healthy and energized.

          Sandwiches and salads with fish, green leafy vegetables, whole grain and chicken are a great choice for a light and healthy lunch.

          Dinner

          Again, don’t turn fast food into a habit – such options as seafood and fish, salads with tomatoes and green vegetables, kale, and whole-grain products energize your body and are a better choice for brain health and overall well-being.

          Snacks and Desserts

          Cookies and candies are a popular (and not really healthy) option for a snack or a dessert. Instead, try choosing healthier meals for your snack. Walnuts or almonds, fresh fruit or berries (depending on the season), or fruit and nut mix give a powerful energy boost.

          And don’t forget that dark chocolate is also a healthy choice for a dessert!

          The Bottom Line

          Improving and maintaining memory, focus and cognitive abilities is crucial for a full and active life. Choosing healthy foods and avoiding unhealthy ones helps support brain health in both short-term and long-term perspective. Keep your diet consistent, and combine good food habits with exercise, healthy sleep regime and reasonable work-life balance to achieve best results.

          Featured photo credit: Thomas Evans via unsplash.com

          Reference

          Read Next