When the stars line up: on luck, grace, and goals

When the stars line up, and you catch a good break,
People think that you’re lucky, but you know it’s grace.

“Timing Is Everything,” Natalie Hemby/Troy Jones

I’m a huge fan of podcasts: for those of us on the go from morning until night, reading is often a luxury, and podcasts can be added to commuting, workouts, mundane chores, etc. in a way that books normally can’t. (And yes, I confess that I’d rather spend my morning 15 minutes over coffee and a book on something like Outlander than anything too serious.)

So far this month, most of the podcasts to which I subscribe have somewhat predictably been talking about goals and resolutions, so I was intrigued to see The Good Life Project covering the topic of luck—in a season when many of us are contemplating the year ahead in terms of how much commitment and work lies ahead, it provided a refreshing perspective.

Being somewhat of a systems geek, I love Jonathan Fields’s formula for discussing what he believes luck really is: Luck = (Quality x Volume / Serendipity) + Openness. But this doesn’t feel complete because I think that in some ways, we tend to conflate luck with grace, which to me feels like a much “heavier” concept.

Over the past year, particularly in the process of publishing my book, I experienced innumerable moments when the stars lined up, and yet it didn’t feel like luck. I know for a fact that I had some agency in the events that unfolded, and I don’t mean agency as in the amount of work it took to create a book—that was the messy middle.

What I mean by agency is found at the beginning and end of a project: specifically, the setting of the intention in the beginning and the awareness and giving of gratitude at the end.

Maybe the next level formula—the one for grace—can be written: Grace = Intention + [(Quality x Volume / Serendipity) + Openness] + Gratitude?

Aiming for grace feels like a hefty goal—a bit “squishy,” not too S.M.A.R.T. as any health coach will tell you. But maybe that’s what makes it a worthy one?

My daughter has been applying to colleges the past few months, and it seems like an apt metaphor for goal setting: you have the safety schools you pretty much know will accept you, the schools you think/hope you can get into, and the “reach” schools that are a little less certain…but would be amazing to be accepted at.

Perhaps our goal-setting this year should likewise contain a good mix: one you can easily achieve to give you some confidence, one that will push you slightly outside your comfort zone but with some work and added support feels achievable, and one so big and scary that reaching it would take you to a whole new level.

It is possible to come into such profound alignment with the moral and spiritual axis of the universe that every moment of your life is a walk in grace, and that you know without any doubt that you are in the right place at the right time.

Craig Hamilton