A contemplation of the roles that human effort and chance play in realising goals and ambitions
Do people achieve their goals by working hard or because they are lucky?
It is impossible to deny that some elements of hard work and some elements of luck both play a significant part in determining the destinies of human beings in the contemporary world, and specifically whether they achieve their goals or not. Hard work has been touted by many cultures – particularly capitalist societies which have distanced themselves from traditional social stratification based on heredity and essential factors – as an eminent human virtue that can eventually enable the fulfilment of one’s desires: indeed, this is a key feature of the ‘American Dream’. It is certainly true that actively seeking out opportunities, working towards the improvement of one’s mind, and maintaining excellent health through exercise confer innate advantages over not doing any of these things: activity, knowledge, intelligence and good health are much-prized assets, and, to varying degrees, make the attainment of various goals a more likely prospect than if, for instance, one continually remained in a state of pure hedonism with no development.
Yet luck, or rather what may be termed chance, remains a factor in human achievement. One cannot work towards the circumstances one is born in – whether in affluent or deprived countries, whether among privileged or unprivileged social groups (the sociological notion of cultural capital is particularly of note here, in positing that certain classes are able to ‘buy’ their way towards success through the ‘spending’ of valued aspects of culture that other classes are more distanced from), or whether into a favourable or unfavourable physiological and neurological setup (the presence of defects or disabilities tends to remain a large part of someone’s life, along with how prone they are to illness). There are countless further aspects of random chance that can serve to deny goal fulfilment to some while conferring it upon others. If a person truly experiences ‘bad luck’ or innate disadvantages, hard work can only go so far in overcoming these to realise prosperous ambitions. In addition, continually working hard exerts a certain toll upon everyone’s physical and mental resources – if this is done to the point of stress, it can in itself contribute to poor health, confusion, illness and lasting psychological issues which make goal achievement more difficult.