“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” -Seneca
My dad said this to me after we received the incredible news that I’d earned a full academic scholarship to Radford University. At the time, I couldn’t believe my ‘luck.’ It was as though I hadn’t toiled and stressed and cried over schoolwork for the majority of my young life before committing hours to writing statements, recording interviews, and soliciting letters of recommendation to be considered for a round of meetings with faculty who would eventually determine that I was worthy of such recognition. The concept of ‘luck’ is nothing more than an insidious diminishment of our achievements that undermines our self-efficacy. ‘Luck’ implies that our actions have no bearing on our successes or our failures. If it’s up to luck, why bother trying at all?
Thanks to my dad, I know that I can achieve my goals if I plan, prepare, and execute the behaviors needed to reach them. Opportunities can only be considered serendipitous if you’re prepared to take them on, and preparation is entirely up to you. Chance may affect your workload, effort, and timeline, but you still need to take ownership of the commitment to whatever it takes to meet your goal.
In my last blog, I explained the difference between Outcome and Process goals, and announced some of the big goals I’m pursuing this summer and fall. On their own, they may seem overwhelming. Well, climbing a mountain is easier if you can take the stairs, so I’m breaking these big goals down into bite-sized pieces using Process goals. These are actually habits I need to practice regularly in order to meet my Outcome goals.
For example, when it comes to earning my ACE Certified Health Coach credential, I can’t simply sit for the exam. I have to come up with a plan to pass it.
Many people pursue goals from the bottom up, or start with the details without a solid foundation. They might buy fancy, expensive supplements without first examining the basics of their energy balance or macros. They might purchase new running shoes and decide to start running an arbitrary number of miles or minutes each day. They might set an outcome goal of visible abs or a specific bench max but never use a periodized training or nutrition plan. There’s nothing wrong with exercising for leisure and fun, but if you have an aesthetic or performance goal, you need to make a plan and adhere to it. Program-hopping will have you spinning your wheels and possibly over- or under-training (or eating!) when you could be making progress. I had great success using Marisa Inda’s Fuerza: A Female’s Guide to Strength & Physique during my recent mass. I PR’ed on all three lifts at the end of the hypertrophy cycle. I’ve also seen gains with the RP Female Physique Templates and Dr. Brad Schoenfield’s Max Muscle Plan. The RP Transformations page speaks to the power of a consistent, evidence-based approach to one’s diet. There is no single best plan for everyone, and there is no magic to any of these. The key is consistency within the plan.
Successful athletes and business people aren’t lucky. They’re dedicated, hard-working, organized, and thorough, along with a multitude of other positive character traits and a great deal of self-efficacy. In other words, they believe they can affect change in their circumstances in order to succeed. They can then fully attribute their success to their efforts and rightfully own and celebrate the victory. Or, if they fail, they can take ownership in order to learn and improve. I see these traits in students, as well; greater self-efficacy correlates with higher academic achievements. Students who believe that their grades are contingent on the professor of the course or the time of day that it’s offered quite often find this to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Unfortunately, they rarely reflect on their own actions in order to improve their time management or study skills. Whether your outcome is positive or negative, if you attribute it to luck, you’ll lose out on something–either the credit you deserve for succeeding, or the power you have to do better next time.