Planning for Success: How Effort Makes Good Luck More Likely
I've seen a lot of people get stuck. They want to achieve something or make a big change, but they never seem to get there. Maybe it's a boost in income and a new job, or a bigger house. Or finding a spouse. Or having more friends. These things are not entirely under our control. We can feel like we have no control at all and are just waiting for something good to happen to us, only it never does.
Well, there's a way to make good things happen to you: plan for them.
A lot of success is setting up the right conditions—the things you can control. If done right, you can make the things that you can't control more likely to go your way. To some extent, you "create your own luck." It's a mindset.
Setting up success
For example, let's say Bob wants to get married. He's working a good job and generally doing well. Most of his friends are married now, and he's getting left behind. It just hasn't happened to him. He's tried going to bars and using dating apps, but those relationships never last. He feels stuck and hopeless. What can he do?
Well, he can make it more likely that he'll meet the kind of girl he wants to marry. First, he should think about what that kind of girl would be like. What does she like to do? Where does she spend her time? Is she the kind of girl that hangs out at bars and has a Tinder profile? No? Then Bob is wasting his time. He can get out of the "dating scene" and go where his ideal girl would be. Maybe that means volunteering at a homeless shelter, taking horseback riding lessons, or getting involved in his church groups. He can't guarantee any of this will work, but he can make meeting the right girl more likely to happen.
Here's another scenario. Tom hates his job and wants to change careers, but he's afraid to take a risk and leave because he has kids to feed and he's barely getting by as it is. So he avoids all risks and stays in the nightmare job for years, waiting for an opportunity that never comes.
What could Tom have done instead? He could have put in effort actually looking for a new job! Not just browsing job listings, but getting out there talking to people. What's his ideal job? Sales? Programming? Being a mechanic? He could do something on the weekend to build the skills he needs. If he builds the skills and keeps talking to employers (even if they don't have jobs posted), he'll put himself in a position where he's more likely to get that ideal job offer.
This mindset works for little things too. Need to have a difficult conversation with your spouse? Offer a foot massage and maybe some alcohol first—make it more likely to go well!
Make your own good luck
If you continually put yourself in positions that make good things more likely to happen, then good things will happen to you more often. It's a pretty simple principle, but can be hard to apply intentionally to everyday life. So here's an exercise: write down five things you wish would happen in your life. They could be big, like buying a house, or small, like making a new friend. For each one, brainstorm three things you could do to make that thing more likely to happen.
Here's an example:
- I want to buy a house. I could...
- Save up money for a down payment by not eating out.
- Clean up my credit score by cleaning up old debt and paying things on time.
- Start researching the housing market and planning out what I can afford.
- I want a promotion at work. I could...
- Work extra hard so that I get noticed.
- Work on the skills I need to be a better fit.
- Dress better so that I stand out from everyone else.
- I want a regular date night with my spouse. I could...
- Build a relationship with a babysitter so that hiring one is easy and normal.
- Show my spouse that I'm interested, and talk about what I want to do.
- Make sure I get my duties done quickly so that we don't feel so behind.
- I want to have more friends in my community. I could...
- Go to church or community events and talk to people.
- Invite people over for dinner and get to know them.
- Try to be the most helpful and kind person that my friends know so I get invited to more things.
- I want a stronger relationship with Jesus. I could...
- Spend more time in prayer every day.
- Talk to people further along in their faith journey for advice.
- Take up regular spiritual reading from the Bible or Church Fathers.
Don't sit around and wait for good things to happen—make good things happen! What does your list look like? What can you do this week to plan for success?