Cleere’s Corner: Are you Lucky or Internally Motivated?

Are you lucky or internally motivated?

By Dr. Michelle Cleere

Luck is an interesting concept. It sounds much like I got lucky winning that race or luck wasn’t on my side so I didn’t do well. I think there is an element of luck in everything we do but should we rely on it as a source of motivation?

Luck vs. control

Luck is the result of chance. Win or lose, good or bad, it’s not something you have control of. It just happens. But here’s the real story. As human beings, we either have an internal locus of control meaning we are motivated internally and feel like we have control over our actions. Or, we rely on a very unreliable source of control and motivation which comes from external sources. Luck is the latter. It is an unknown, undetermined, external source of motivation and control, but one ironically that isn’t motivating and we can’t control at all.


Attributes ‘lucky’ people have that leads to success

There are some positives of being a person who feels like you have luck on your side. People who feel this way also seem to have a more optimistic, positive outlook on life which as a performer can be helpful. Lucky people tend to be more confident and have an overall better sense of wellbeing. These lucky people also tend to handle adversity pretty well. They are able to see it as the setback it is and move on. They tend to take risks because they think that good things will happen.

How using luck as motivation impacts performance

The most important thing to recognize is that if you’re using luck as a determining factor of success, there’s no way to define it or control it. When you compete, you’re either lucky or unlucky and it doesn’t have anything to do with you. When you use ‘luck’ as your barometer, then winning and losing doesn’t have anything to do with how much training you’ve done or how you’ve prepared. This can leave you feeling anxious, lacking confidence, and feeling out of control because you have no compass. No direction.


Take control of how you perform

You can develop an internal locus of control or internal motivation. It is not as difficult as you might think and it has huge implications on performance. You get to perform for the love of performing. When you realize that you are in control of your performance, you get to decide what you want to have happen and how. You define the process versus letting others do it. You realize that you can’t do anything about the sun, the wind, or what your competitor does.

Outside factors, and people are out of your control. What you can control is you.

So how do you do that?

  1. Think and realize why you’re participating in your sport. What motivates you to get up every morning to work hard and train?
  2. Think and recognize what is in your control versus what is not in your control and learn to take control of those things and use them to your advantage.
  3. Set realistic goals that keep you internally motivated. Besides being realistic, your goals should be tied to the process not the outcome. If I didn’t get the outcome I wanted but I finished this race having done these two things, I still feel a sense of accomplishment.
  4. Learn to move away from using luck as your indicator of success. Stop comparing yourself to other people and use your own performance as a benchmark for improvement and continued success.

Luck is usually a product of fear of failure, or sometimes fear of success. However, if you don’t take the control you have, you are setting yourself up to fail anyway. Wouldn’t you much rather train hard, work hard, develop an internal sense of motivation and be able to perform the way you know you can perform? After all, that is why you spend so much time doing what you do.


Dr. Michelle

Elite Performance Expert

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