I was lucky not to break my neck

Before you offer me your sympathy, this didn’t happen to me. It’s from some research that I read a few years ago. It’s always stuck with me. I use it whenever I’m feeling lucky or unlucky.

If you fell down the stairs and broke your leg, would you consider yourself lucky or unlucky?

It turns out that if you ask a bunch of people this question, the answer will depend on whether they consider themselves to be generally lucky or unlucky.

In the study that I read, the researchers split the participants into two groups. One group considered themselves to be lucky people. The other group considered themselves to be unlucky.

They then asked them a series of questions, including the one above about breaking a leg.

The “unlucky” group said, of course, they would consider themselves unlucky if they fell down the stairs and broke a leg. Isn’t that obvious? How the hell can breaking your leg be lucky?

In complete contrast, the “lucky” group said they would rejoice at how lucky they were. They could have ended up paralyzed or even dead. They only broke a leg. You can’t get any luckier than that.

So, which group is right?

I don’t think either group is right. They’re both seeing what happened through their belief systems.

If they fell down the stairs and broke a leg, that is just a fact. It’s not lucky or unlucky.

Consider this: you’re a young Russian soldier who falls down the stairs and breaks his leg. You’re unlucky, right?

Next week you get called up to fight in the war in Ukraine. If you go, you have a good chance of being killed.

But you’ve broken your leg. That means you can’t go and fight in the war.

Are you still unlucky that you broke your leg?

If you were this soldier, you’d probably think it was the luckiest incident of your entire life. Breaking your leg could have potentially saved your life.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that we’re seeing the world through our belief systems. If we feel like an unlucky person, we’ll pin the unlucky label on anything that happens to us that seems bad. And vice versa if we think of yourself as a lucky person.

Before you label any incident as lucky or unlucky, take a few moments to think it through. Maybe it’s neither. Maybe it just is.