Lucky Girl Syndrome: More Than Just Wishing Upon A StarMay 24, 2023
by Anna Svetchnikov, LMFT
Despite the popular belief system of “if you dream it, it can be achieved,” a phenomenon called the “Lucky Girl Syndrome” has been observed that challenges this notion. This syndrome refers to the mindset where individuals rely too heavily on luck, visualization, and wishes, and neglect the importance of concrete action and planning in achieving goals.
As a therapist, I have had countless encounters with clients wrestling with anxiety – an all too common issue. It often takes the spotlight as the primary concern or at least features among the top three complaints. But as we delve deeper into these concerns, a recurring theme emerges, revealing an unseen roadblock.
Many clients voice a variation of, “Why am I not able to…?” You can fill in the blank with a myriad of aspirations, from finding a partner or a new job to pursuing a passion or even writing a book. When I ask them what steps they’ve taken toward these goals, I’m often met with, what was once, an odd revelation. The answer, more often than not, is surprisingly simple: not much.
This response is a stark contrast to their generally positive mindset. They find themselves perplexed, unable to fathom why their dreams and aspirations haven’t materialized despite their hopeful outlook. What’s more interesting, is that although I have wished for many things none of them ever materialized. This dichotomy had me perplexed as my understanding and belief that deep down we all know, or at least I thought, that things don’t appear out of thin air just because we really, really, truly want them.
Lucky Girl Syndrome is an apparent variation of the concept popularized by 2006’s The Secret, incorporating cultural references to “manifestation”, laws of attraction, and assumption. Despite their pervasiveness, the key problem with these ideas is the overemphasis on visualizing success and underestimating the importance of concrete action and diligent planning in achieving goals.
The reality of accomplishing goals is not as straightforward. It requires more than just wishful thinking or waiting for the stars to align perfectly. The journey to success is not about merely dreaming or wishing upon a star but about setting a goal, devising a plan, and persistently taking steps toward that goal. The following discussion unravels the enigma of Lucky Girl Syndrome, emphasizing why it’s not enough to simply visualize the goal, and how essential it is to break it down into small, achievable steps. Let’s dive deep into why the journey to success is not simply about wishing upon a star but needs a comprehensive, step-by-step plan.
What is Lucky Girl Syndrome?
“Lucky Girl Syndrome” is a term coined to refer to the mindset where individuals overly rely on luck, wishes, or visualization to achieve their goals, bypassing the necessary steps of planning and execution. This mindset often creates a disconnection between reality and the envisioned dream, which could lead to procrastination, lack of motivation, or even failure to reach the intended goals (Hansen, 2020).
The Power and Limitations of Visualization
The power of visualization in goal attainment cannot be overstated. Several psychological studies have demonstrated that visualizing desired outcomes can enhance motivation, boost confidence, and even improve physical performance (Cumming & Williams, 2013).
However, the risk comes when visualization becomes a substitute for action. Research shows that merely fantasizing about successful outcomes can lead to reduced effort and lower chances of achieving goals (Oettingen & Mayer, 2002). This tendency to merely daydream or wish, without taking appropriate actions, is the crux of the Lucky Girl Syndrome.
The Deep and Dark Side of Lucky Girl Syndrome
While the allure of Lucky Girl Syndrome can be captivating, it’s crucial to shed light on its darker implications. The detrimental effects of over-reliance on visualization at the expense of action can lead to a cascade of counterproductive outcomes.
Firstly, substituting action with visualization can foster a sense of false security, leading individuals to believe that they are closer to their goals than they actually are. This perceived progress can, paradoxically, demotivate individuals from taking the necessary steps toward their goals (Oettingen, Pak, & Schnetter, 2001). The result is a dangerous cycle of wishful thinking, inactivity, and unfulfilled dreams.
Moreover, the lack of action can engender procrastination, which is a major obstacle in achieving goals. By continuously visualizing and dreaming about success without corresponding action, individuals might delay starting the necessary work, leading to persistent avoidance behavior (Sirois, Melia-Gordon, & Pychyl, 2003).
Finally, the deceptive comfort provided by mere visualization without effort can result in heightened disappointment and self-doubt when the expected results do not materialize. This can potentially harm self-esteem and create a negative spiral of self-criticism and demotivation (Koole & Spijker, 2000).
In the grand scheme of things, these negative outcomes not only hinder individual progress toward goals but also adversely affect overall mental well-being. Hence, while visualization is a valuable tool, it should be a complement to action, not a replacement.
A Focus on Persistence
Moving away from the pitfalls of Lucky Girl Syndrome, it’s critical to explore the alternate side of the spectrum — the essence of persistence. A prime example is Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc., all controversy aside, embodied the spirit of persistence and hard work.
Jobs famously said, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance” (Schwantes, 2018). He underscores the importance of tenacity, resilience, and doggedness in the face of adversity, rather than relying on luck or wishful thinking.
Jobs’ philosophy aligns with research demonstrating that perseverance and grit are more reliable predictors of success than intelligence or talent. It is the unyielding commitment to goals, even in the face of setbacks, that sets successful individuals apart.
Indeed, breaking down goals into manageable tasks is part of this process, but it also demands a mindset of persistence. This mindset allows individuals to continue progressing, one step at a time, without being deterred by challenges or delays.
“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”
In the context of the Lucky Girl Syndrome, this quote by Seneca, a Roman philosopher, provides a powerful perspective. It suggests that ‘luck’ is not merely a product of chance or wishful thinking. Instead, it arises when preparation—through careful planning, goal setting, and execution—intersects with opportunities.
Contrary to the implications of the Lucky Girl Syndrome, luck isn’t a mystical force that grants our wishes. Instead, it is the outcome of our efforts, the preparation we’ve made, and the actions we’ve taken. By recognizing this, we not only disentangle ourselves from the pitfalls of over-reliance on visualization but also empower ourselves to create our own ‘luck’.
The Positives of Positive Thinking and Mindset
While we’ve examined the potential drawbacks of Lucky Girl Syndrome, it’s crucial to acknowledge that a positive mindset, inclusive of hopeful thinking and visualization, can indeed have significant benefits. They are tools, and like any tool, their effectiveness depends on how they are utilized.
Positive thinking has been scientifically shown to contribute to improved health, higher resilience, and increased life satisfaction (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). It can help manage stress, foster a proactive attitude, and even bolster the immune system (Mayo Clinic, 2020). Similarly, a positive mindset can influence how we perceive and respond to challenges, helping us navigate obstacles more effectively and maintain our motivation (Dweck, 2006).
Visualization, specifically, has been widely used in sports psychology to enhance performance (Cumming & Williams, 2013). Athletes often visualize successful outcomes as part of their training, reinforcing neural pathways in the brain akin to physical practice. This doesn’t replace physical training but complements it, strengthening the connection between mind and body.
However, as highlighted by Dr. Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, it’s crucial to balance positive thinking with an understanding of reality (Cleveland Clinic, 2023). The ideal is grounded optimism, where individuals maintain a hopeful outlook while acknowledging the effort and action required to realize their dreams.
Therefore, positive thinking and visualization can serve as powerful catalysts when used as part of a comprehensive approach to goal achievement, alongside concrete planning and consistent action. By harnessing the power of positive thinking in this way, individuals can shift from the pitfalls of Lucky Girl Syndrome towards a path of purposeful and productive action.
The Importance of Breaking Down Goals
The notion of breaking down goals into smaller, achievable steps has been recognized as a crucial part of effective goal-setting (Locke & Latham, 2006). This process, also known as “goal decomposition,” helps transform the abstract and often overwhelming vision into actionable tasks, thus reducing procrastination and enhancing motivation.
Studies show that individuals who break down their goals into smaller tasks and milestones are more likely to be successful than those who don’t (Doran, 1981). This practice promotes a realistic understanding of what it takes to achieve a goal and allows for the tracking of progress, which serves as a motivator in itself.
Beyond the Wish: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Define the overarching goal: This is your big dream or ultimate ambition. Make it specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (Doran, 1981).
- Break it down: Decompose your goal into smaller tasks or sub-goals. These should be clear, manageable actions that step-by-step lead you toward the bigger picture.
- Create a timeline: Set a realistic timeline for each sub-goal, providing a clear path and timeframe for achieving the overall goal.
- Take action: Begin with the first task and work your way through your list. Remember, it’s not about rushing to the end; it’s about steady progress.
- Review and adjust: Regularly review your progress and make adjustments if necessary. This is not a sign of failure but a part of the process toward success.
Achieving goals requires not only a vision but also a detailed plan and concerted action. Remember, the journey to success isn’t about being lucky; it’s about being strategic and diligent.
The “Lucky Girl Syndrome” refers to a mindset where individuals rely heavily on luck and visualization to achieve goals, often bypassing the essential steps of planning and action. While visualization can boost motivation and confidence, substituting it for action can create a false sense of progress, leading to procrastination, lowered effort, and unachieved goals.
This syndrome reveals the dark side of over-reliance on visualization, creating a cycle of wishful thinking and unfulfilled dreams, and potentially damaging self-esteem and overall mental wellbeing. Conversely, successful goal attainment involves breaking down the overarching goal into smaller, manageable tasks and following a realistic timeline with concerted action.
Persistence plays a crucial role in success. It involves a commitment to goals despite setbacks, aligning well with research showing that grit is a more reliable predictor of success than intelligence or talent. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” where we are able to create our own luck through careful planning and execution.
Positive thinking and a positive mindset, when grounded in reality, can indeed bring about significant benefits, including better health, resilience, and life satisfaction. Visualization, when used as a supplement to action rather than a replacement, can enhance performance and reinforce motivation. The key lies in balancing a hopeful outlook with the acknowledgment of the necessary effort and action.
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- Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management Review, 70(11), 35-36.
- Hansen, K. (2020). “The ‘Lucky Girl’ Syndrome and how it affects your career”. Forbes.
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- Oettingen, G., Pak, H., & Schnetter, K. (2001). Self-regulation of goal setting: Turning free fantasies about the future into binding goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80(5), 736-753.
- Sirois, F., Melia-Gordon, M. L., & Pychyl, T. A. (2003). “I’ll look after my health, later”: An investigation of procrastination and health. Personality and Individual Differences, 35(5), 1167-1184.
- Koole, S. L., & Spijker, M. (2000). Overcoming the planning fallacy through willpower: Effects of implementation intentions on actual and predicted task-completion times. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30(6), 873-888.
- Schwantes, M. (2018). “Steve Jobs said 1 key trait separates successful people from everyone else.” Inc.
- Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5-14.
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). “Positive thinking: Reduce stress by eliminating negative self-talk”. Mayo Clinic.
- Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.
- Cleveland Clinic. (2023). “Can Lucky Girl Syndrome Bring You Success?”. Cleveland Clinic.
About The Author
Anna Svetchnikov, LMFT
With 15 years of rich experience in supporting individuals, couples, and families in navigating through life’s challenges and achieving their goals, Anna Svetchnikov, LMFT is a force to reckon with in the field of therapy. A certified trauma therapist, author, speaker, and presenter, Anna’s advocacy for mental health awareness and stigma reduction resonates in her professional pursuits.