Your desk lamp and overhead office light burn out at the same time. Your computer goes on the blink, and you always pick the slowest line on your lunch break.

Little things.

They can pile up, making your life seem as if it’s falling apart—one s**t storm after another. You rant. You rave. You scream, “Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong in my life, it will!” But is that really true? Many people believe in Murphy’s Law: they believe life is against them and personalize everyday random events. But then 20 % of the country believes in BigFoot, and over 40% believes in UFOs.

It’s Simple Science

Sometimes it might seem as if the world has a personal vendetta against you. When sudden out-of-the-blue situations strike and interfere with your career goals, chances are you grumble that bad luck follows you wherever you go. Not only is this untrue, but it’s your reaction to science that causes your disgruntled attitude. Over time, unchecked reactivity can cause your mind to stunt your career growth.

You drop a piece of buttered toast, and it always falls butter side down. Just your bad luck, you conclude? Not according to scientists at Aston University in Birmingham, England. After putting this question to the test, they found that buttered toast almost always falls butter side down because of the laws of physics. The rate of spin of falling buttered toast is too slow to make a complete revolution and come to face up before it hits the floor. Not Murphy’s Law at all, scientists conclude.

What about when you choose the slowest moving line? Murphy’s Law, you insist? Not according to scientists. The truth is that all lines move more or less at the same speed. Each line will have its own delays that occur randomly, such as the cash register running out of tape or a customer who forgets an item. Suppose there are three lines and you pick one. According to the law of averages, two-thirds of the time either the line to your left or the one to your right will move faster than yours.

The light bulbs that burnout at once were most likely installed at the same time and have a similar life expectancy. Chances are the situations you write off as negative things that always happen to you have a scientific basis and have nothing to do with bad luck or Murphy’s Law.

A Career Pattern Of Jail Time

Scientists say you’re hardwired with a negativity bias to keep you out of harm’s way. Because negativity has a longer shelf life than positivity, you tend to overestimate threats and underestimate your ability to overcome them. It takes three positive thoughts to offset one negative thought. Although negativity hard wires you for safety, it jails your ability to see possibilities. And unchecked, it can keep you from believing in yourself. If you live by Murphy’s Law, you essentially drink the Kool-Aid that sentences you to a negative career pattern.

You start to automatically look for the next negative curve ball, eclipsing all the wonderful gifts your career yields. And whatever you look for, you find. Believe me, this is one law you want to break. Otherwise, you collect enough evidence to strengthen your original false belief and imprison yourself in a self-fulfilling prophecy that creates the outcome you feared most. When you expect a situation to be a certain way, that’s the way it usually turns out because you unwittingly think and behave in ways that make your beliefs come true.

It’s Time To Break The Law

Statistics show that more of us have the stamina to continue to take safety risks after a car crash than to continue after a series of psychological defeats. When you break Murphy’s Law, you ditch the idea of personal vendettas and cultivate a growth mindset that your career plans and life’s plans are a package deal. You accept defeat and success equally and view obstacles and setbacks as opportunities from which to grow. You welcome rejection instead of personalizing it—no matter how painful, frustrating, big or small—and envision mistakes as lessons from which to learn.

Living from a growth mindset on a daily basis, you cultivate the belief that life’s curve balls happen for you, not to you. You take the towel you want to throw in, wipe the sweat from your brow, and ask, “What can I manage or overcome here?” or “How can I turn a roadblock into a stepping stone?” You become a creative risk taker, unafraid to stretch beyond customary bounds, a master of self-correction, good problem solver, focused on solutions and adept at following what you believe. Over time, you discover that the power within you is greater than the career challenges you face.

So when you catch yourself overreacting to things not going your way, break Murphy’s Law. Instead of saying “just my luck,” remind yourself that your job isn’t out to get you, and you’re not jinxed. Chalk it up to the fact that you’re simply experiencing life on its terms instead of yours. Accept that sometimes things don’t go according to your plans and it’s the nature of things to break down, erode or burn out.

Even as you learn to accept science’s roll of the dice, you don’t have to let Mother Nature’s hard wiring dictate. Develop the habit of underestimating career threats and overestimating your ability to overcome them. Avoid blowing a job disappointment out of proportion; look for the upside of a downside situation; underscore positive feedback instead of letting it roll over your head; focus on the solution to a workplace obstacle instead of the problem itself; pinpoint the opportunity in a career challenge; refuse to let one bad outcome at work rule your future goals; take chances instead of letting Murphy’s Law hold the cards.

Faced with a setback, instead of asking, “How is my career treating me?” ask, “How am I treating my career?” Once you flip your perspective, you’re less likely to develop a career-long, negative pattern of defeat. And you’re able to contemplate how you can fit into the life and career you’re meant to have rather than the life and career you plan to have.


  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Journalist, psychotherapist, and Author of 40 books.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself." website: