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Rabbit, Rabbit. Bring on the Good Fortune

Have you heard? The first day of the month is just around the corner, and if you wake and say out loud “rabbit, rabbit” before you say anything else, you will gain good luck or good fortune for the rest of the month. It’s just that simple.

I was introduced to this quirky ritual a few months ago by a friend. Though it was unfamiliar to me, apparently it has been around since at least the 1900s. It seems to have its roots in Great Britain, and then migrated to the United States. Symbols of rebirth, rabbits have long been fabled to bring good luck.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who carried a rabbit’s foot for the 1932 election, is said to have practiced the “rabbit, rabbit” superstition monthly. During World War II, British fighter pilots were known to say “white rabbits” for luck every day. And comedian Gilda Radner would say “bunny, bunny” to bring her laughter, love and peace. Other variations include saying “rabbit” three times in a row, or saying “hare, hare” at the end of each month.

I’ve been trying to “rabbit, rabbit” since I heard this and it’s a playful way to start a month. But the ritual also has me thinking about good luck and good fortune. People tend to fall into two camps: those who believe that good fortune and positive outcomes are within their control and those who believe how things play out in their lives is largely out of their control. Essentially, whether or not someone believes they have influence over the good and bad things that happen to them.

People with an internal locus of control feel that what happens in their life is influenced by their effort, attitude and ability to be pro-active. While many factors may contribute to the outcome, they feel responsible for what they make of their circumstances and opportunities and feel their actions affect outcome.

Those who have an external locus of control feel that what happens in their life is out of their control. This is expressed in thinking like “I can’t catch a break” or the feeling that odds are just stacked against them or don't break their way. They view outcomes – positive or negative - based on luck, chance or fate. They feel little agency in impacting how things work out.

While most of us have a predisposition to one or the other, this doesn’t necessarily mean you hold that belief in all areas of your life or that you can’t change it. Like most things, we can change our beliefs and develop our internal locus of control, which can contribute to feeling more empowered and can enhance motivation, determination and creativity. An internal locus of control helps foster our ability to cultivate the lives we want, can minimize depression and anxiety, and increases resilience.

There are ways we can assume greater responsibility and personal agency that can enhance this healthy sense of control:

Be aware that you have a choice. Acknowledging we have a choice, even if it’s not ideal, can help us change – or accept – our situation more easily. Reviewing all potential courses of action reminds us that we have options to choose from, which can keep us from feeling powerless. For example, recent college graduates may have little control over the economy or hiring right now, but they do have a choice about how they navigate a difficult job search, whether they pursue alternative training or education options, or consider less desirable job prospects until other opportunities become available.

Focus on what you can control. There are clearly factors that are out of our control, but there are facets of every situation that we can control, even if it’s simply how we respond or the way in which we talk to ourselves about a particular issue or situation. It can also be helpful to assess what we are responding to by asking questions like: What specifically am I reacting to?

Is my reaction going to change anything (or make it any more manageable or unmanageable)?

Is how I'm responding going to help me resolve the issue or prevent the situation from happening again? Could a different response produce a better outcome? These types of questions can help us assess what we can and can't influence, as well as identify what we can do that may improve our situation, now or in the future.

• Be aware of your language. The language we use to talk to ourselves gives meaning to our experiences. The reality of what is happening to us in a particular moment is much less important than the meaning we assign it. If we have an inner critic that is actively shaming, judging, or perfectionistic, it’s going to inhibit healthy risk taking and our ability to identify potential solutions. It will also undermine how we process information, make decisions, or reset and recover. The stories we tell ourselves – positive or negative - become our reality. Telling ourselves that the deck is stacked against us -- no matter our work ethic or intent – can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

• Invite feedback as an opportunity for growth. It can be easy to become oriented around a fixed view of something when we are struggling, perhaps contributing to blind spots about how we can facilitate progress or change. Using trusted friends or mentors for support can help us assess our choices more expansively, by looking critically at how we are managing, and exploring whether our actions and thinking are working for or against our goals. Inviting candid feedback from our support network helps us consider where we have control and where we don’t, giving us the opportunity to double down on efforts that can contribute to a successful outcome.

As with all things, there needs to be balance. A healthy combination of both internal and external views in our life helps us to resist extreme perspectives. With balance, we can better assume both the responsibility and rewards of potential outcomes. While there are many upsides to having an internal locus of control, it’s important to acknowledge that there are always factors outside of our control. Failing to recognize this can exacerbate our sense of powerlessness, and can contribute to an over-inflated sense of accountability, and unnecessary or unproductive self-blame.

So I’ll keep trying to assume responsibility for how things play out in my life, but I’m also going to say “rabbit, rabbit” the first of each month, because who can’t use some good luck? And if you forget to say "rabbit, rabbit" first thing in the morning, you have one more opportunity for good luck if the last thing you say at the end of the day is “black rabbits” or “tibbar, tibbar.” Bring on the good fortune!

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor Frankl, Holocaust Survivor, author of Man’s Search for Meaning.