I have a “versus” series on this site, which breaks down black and white thinking – one really common cognitive distortion we all struggle with.

But this entry is a little different. It’s not so much a distortion as a suggestion: the difference between “Good luck!” to “Do your best!”

I was turned on to these differences by two very different methods.

Fuck Luck.

The first was a CBT workbook that I actually don’t recommend – but it had a sentiment that stuck with me:

“In the journey that lies before you, I won’t wish you luck. That leaves too much up in the air. Instead, I wish you the will to persevere. Through willfully acting against your fears, you are likely to learn a great deal about yourself and the resources you have available to uncouple parasitic threats from the unpleasant arousal of fear.”

I loved this sentiment. The OED definition of luck is, “Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”

When you leave everything in life up to luck, you aren’t depending on what you can do. You’re depending on an uncaring universe. And so if you fail, you come out of the situation with no will to improve; why try when the result is outside your control?

The Wisdom of Anime Children

Yes, the alternative statement “Do your best!” comes from anime. First, watch this adorable clip from one of my favorite anime (which also happens to talk about depression), March Comes In Like A Lion:

Now, I don’t speak Japanese – but I’ve been watching teh animoos long enough to pick up a few words here and there. (You don’t get through Toradora without the phrase baka inu permanently etched into your brain.)

There’s one phrase featured in this video that the Japanese use in place of “Good luck”: ganbatte (Do your best!).

And if you’re wondering, ganbarimasu means “I’ll do my best.”

Think about that. If you fail a test, but you know you did your best, you might think, “well, I tried.” Or, “I could not have done better with the knowledge I had.” This mindset prompts you to go back and study, not to mope and blame it on luck or fate.

And About Your Prayers…

There’s one alternative to “Good luck!” or “Do your best!”, and that’s “I’ll pray for you!”

Faith has power. Positivity has power. If you believe a deity is watching over you, that’s wonderful, and it just might bring you enough inner peace to help you focus on the task at hand.

I grew up in the church, so I really believe that. The power of faith and prayer are amazing… if you’re a believer.

If the person you’re praying for doesn’t believe in God, it isn’t just useless or awkward to tell them this – it can be downright painful. The church is responsible for a lot of pain in this world – guilt, fear, and in some cases corruption and abuse. You want to remind someone of all that baggage right before they go into their interview? What if they fail? Does God hate them?

This is why I recently replied to a statement of prayer with, “Thanks, I’ll pray to Satan for you.” And I’m not a militant atheist — I’m one of the tame ones! Don’t shove your religion in someone’s face unless you know they want it. No one wants that. Kind of like a dick pic.

What do you think?

Do you think it’s weird to say “Do your best!” to friends? Is there something else you say instead? Comment here or on Twitter and let me know!