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The psychology of luck

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Imagine going into a casino and playing  a slot machine and winning every time. Then trying other games like roulette and winning again. If you started with just a pound (or a dollar) and doubled your money twenty times, you would be a millionaire. Imagine how you would feel…

You might feel like your luck was in and you couldn’t lose. You might feel like putting it all on just one more spin of the wheel.

We often have a run of luck. We drive to work every day, without incident. We have a fantastic holiday every year and really enjoy it. We look forward to Christmas, because Christmas has always been a good time.

Lucky streaks do come to an end though, they don’t go on for ever and we should be cautious of them. The racing driver who survives crash after crash, should see that as a warning and not push his luck. The big winner in the casino should perhaps take the money and run. What would you do, faced with a million in chips on the roulette table after a run of 20 wins? Would you gamble and hope for just one more red to make you a multi-millionaire? Would you take the money and run?

The past is no real indication of the future. It can allow us to make an educated guess and assess the risks; but there is no certainty. We have never won the lottery, but does that mean we will never win? Our luck so far in life does affect our perception of what we believe will happen in the future. Some people are lucky in life and they are confident that the future will be the same. It does have a good chance of being the same. Someone who buys lots of lottery tickets and wins ten pounds quite regularly will probably continue to do so. It doesn’t mean that they will win the jackpot though. The smaller prizes will probably keep coming. It’s the same with other aspects of life, the little things will probably be the same. It’s the big things that might be different and so quite unexpected.

It is the unexpected that takes a big emotional toll on us. That unexpected car accident. That unexpected expense that sends us near to bankruptcy. That unexpected failure at something we are usually very good at. The unexpected death of someone that we assumed would always be there. That unexpected illness that we were so unprepared for. There are some things that nothing can prepare us for like suddenly finding that we are alone or disabled. These things happen, but we tend to think they won’t happen to us. They can be emotionally devastating when they do happen, making us severely anxious or depressed.

It’s not just bad things that can happen unexpectedly, but also good things. For things to happen, both good and bad we do have to take some risks. You are never in a car accident if you never drive a car. You never lose someone you care about, unless you actually care about people. It’s the same with the good stuff, you never experience the really great stuff, unless you take risks. Racing drivers experience the thrill of driving at 200 miles an hour and risk the devastation that a crash would bring.

We have to try to balance the risks. We have to take risks or we would never experience the really great things in life. Even telling a joke can be a risk, it can be embarrassing if it falls flat. We do have to take the risk, if we want the applause of our audience. You can’t really crash and burn telling a joke though. There are safer pursuits than racing cars.

The best thing to do when you’ve been lucky so far is to make an educated guess of what the risks are and don’t risk too much. Don’t gamble all that you have, because you might regret it for the rest of your life. The rest of your life could be very short too, if you gamble too much of it. If you have hours to live and surgery could change that to years; the gamble is probably worth taking. If you have years to live and the gamble might change that to minutes. Is that worth the risk?

Please comment and share you thoughts. Do you take risks and enjoy life’s highs and lows? Or do you always play it safe?

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