In Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Harry wins a bottle of a potion called ‘Felix Felicis’ from his potions master. Felix Felicis is more commonly known in the wizarding world as ‘liquid luck’, as it is a potion which makes the drinker successful in anything he or she attempts for as long as its effects last.
A short while after Harry receives his prize, his friend Ron is very nervous at breakfast about a Quidditch game he will be playing in later that day. Ron is neither a confident nor competent sportsman, and is terrified that he will let his team down in the match. Harry quietly pours a little liquid from a small vial into Ron’s drink and, much to their moral friend Hermione’s disgust, Ron happily drinks it. He goes on to play a brilliant game of Quidditch and is the hero of Gryffindor house after their amazing win, all thanks to Felix Felicis.
Or was it?
As Hermione admonishes Harry for cheating, Harry tells her that he didn’t put the lucky potion into Ron’s drink at all. The secret to Ron’s success was that he had believed that he had the best magic on his side. He went from having a crisis of confidence to achieving great things on the Quidditch pitch simply because he believed that he would.
In the Muggle world, this is known as the placebo effect. Patients in controlled medical tests who are given what they believe is a drug but is actually just a sugar pill often show perceived or actual improvements in their health according to what they believe the drug should do. There are also plenty of stories out there about how, for example, believing that certain foods are good or bad for you actually affects the way they work in the body.
Our minds have incredible power over our bodies and our circumstances. But it isn’t necessarily as easy as just ‘putting your mind to it’. If Harry and Hermione had spent NYGoodHealth hours and hours telling Ron he was the most excellent Quidditch goalkeeper that Hogwarts had ever seen, it wouldn’t have had nearly as dramatic an effect. He needed to believe, without question, that he would do well in that match.
So how can we change our minds and change our fortunes without a magic potion or someone spinning us a very convincing yarn about their latest intervention?
Sadly the effect isn’t as instantaneous, but examining our beliefs and the decisions we make based on these beliefs is key. Once we have made up our minds about something, whether it’s that our neighbours are selfish, that we’re ugly perhaps, or useless at Quidditch, we subconsciously hunt for all the evidence we can find to back up that belief. The more evidence we find, the more our belief beds in. We notice everything that corresponds to our view, and discard almost everything that doesn’t. Changing our unhelpful decisions and beliefs can be a slow process but is generally possible by using affirmations, choosing to spend time with positive people and keeping a journal of things that make us smile.
Interestingly, when Harry really does use the Felix Felicis potion later in the story, it’s not so much that things outside of him change but he becomes acutely aware of the right way to go, and he has a strong hunch about what to say and do for the best. Essentially, his subconscious is finding all the evidence he needs to get lucky – without all the bad decision filters. Nothing else has to change except his choices.
Changing everything just by changing your mind? Now that’s some pretty good Muggle magic isn’t it?
Here’s the scene from the film version:
If you had a bottle of Felix Felicis, what would you use it for? What would it take for you to go for it without the potion? Do leave a comment with your thoughts!