Is luck simply a mysterious, unpredictable force–the whim of the gods, if you will–, or is it something that you can attract more of into your life? The two authors I discuss below argue that there are steps that you can take and mental attitudes that you can adopt in order to make yourself lucky.
Scientific Research on How to Be Lucky
Many people believe that “luck” is simply something that happens by chance and is completely out of their control. However, Richard Wiseman, psychology chair at the University of Herfordshire in England, conducted scientific research with a group of 400 exceptionally lucky and unlucky people from all walks of life.
As a result of his research, Dr. Wiseman claims that lucky people simply possess four basic psychological traits which unlucky people don’t:
- They have the ability to maximize chance opportunities.
- They listen to their “gut feelings”.
- They expect good fortune.
- They see the bright side of bad luck.
Read more about each of these below.
Lucky People Maximize Chance Opportunities
Within the principle of maximizing chance opportunities there are three sub-principles: lucky people build and maintain a strong “network of luck”; lucky people have a relaxed attitude toward life; and lucky people are open to new experiences.
Lucky People Build and Maintain a “Network of Luck”
Wiseman indicates that lucky people build a strong “network of luck”. The more people someone meets, he explains, the higher their opportunity of running into someone who could have a positive impact on their life.
Lucky people tend to exhibit behavior that attracts others, such as smiling, making eye-contact, and using open body language (they point their bodies toward the person they are speaking with, uncross their arms and legs, make gestures that display open palms, and so on).
Wiseman adds that lucky people are better at building long-lasting attachments and at keeping in touch with a larger network of friends and colleagues than unlucky people are.
Two exercises that Wiseman suggests to become luckier are the following:
- Each week next month strike up a conversation with someone who looks friendly and approachable, and who you know very little or not at all.
- In addition, each week next month go through your list of contacts and reach out to someone you haven’t heard from in a while.
Lucky People Have a Relaxed Attitude Toward Life
Lucky people also have a relaxed attitude toward life, which means that they’re more likely to notice chance opportunities. Wiseman reached this conclusion after carrying out an experiment in which he did the following:
- He gave a group of lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell him how many photographs there were inside.
- He secretly placed a message halfway through the newspaper that said “Tell the experimenter that you saw this and you’ll receive $250″. The message took up half the page and was written in type that was more than two inches high.
The unlucky people tended to miss the message and the lucky people tended to spot it. Wiseman notes that unlucky people are generally more tense than lucky people, and this anxiety disrupts their ability to notice the unexpected. (Source).
Wiseman reports that many lucky people describe using various forms of relaxation techniques to lower their stress levels. Therefore, you should identify techniques that you can use to become more relaxed and thereby draw more luck into your life.
Lucky People Are Open to New Experiences
As an additional character trait, lucky people like variety and novelty in their lives. They love trying new experiences, new foods, and new ways of doing things. This greater openness to new experiences helps promote new opportunities.
Wiseman suggests that in order to attract luck into your life you play “the dice game”: make a list of six experiences you’ve wanted to try for a while, number them from one to six, roll a die, and carry out whichever experience is selected.
Lucky People Listen to Their Intuition
Dr. Wiseman had over a hundred lucky and unlucky people answer a short questionnaire concerning the role of intuition in their lives. He found that lucky people listen to their intuition and to their hunches, whereas unlucky people tend to dismiss their gut feelings.
Wiseman also discovered that lucky people do things to enhance their intuition, such as clearing their mind, meditating, and spending time in peaceful settings.
Lucky People Expect Good Fortune
Wiseman found during the course of his research that lucky people’s expectations of good things happening were far higher than the expectations held by unlucky people. He explains that our expectations have a remarkable effect on the way we think, feel, and act.
Expecting positive results makes people act in a way that is more effective and more conducive to achieving what they want. In addition, lucky people’s high expectations motivate them to persist, even in the face of adversity.
Lucky People Look for the Bright Side of Bad Luck
Another interesting finding Wiseman made was that lucky people do encounter negative events, but when they do they have an uncanny ability to transform the negative event into something positive.
For example, when something negative happens, lucky people will think of how things could have been worse, which makes them feel much better about themselves and about their lives. In addition, when bad things happen, lucky people tend to take a long-view and expect that things will turn out for the best in the end.
An exercise that Dr. Wiseman suggests you try is to create “a phoenix from the ashes“. You do this by spending a few minutes thinking of the positive things that could come out of an unlucky or unfortunate event that has happened in your life. Then ask yourself these two questions:
- What evidence is there to suggest that these positive events won’t actually happen?
- What evidence is there that something even more positive won’t come out of your ill fortune?
The answer to both of these questions is “none.” You don’t know what the future has in store for you. It could very well be that what looks like a negative event in the short-term turns out to have a positive effect on your life in the long-term.
In addition, lucky people don’t dwell on their bad luck. There’s a two-way relationship between mood and memory: when unlucky people ruminate on a negative event that has happened in their life they feel bad, which makes them think of other bad things that have happened to them, and they continue down a spiral of negative feelings and sad memories. This plunges them down further and further into a negative worldview.
Lucky people do the opposite: they focus on the good things that have happened to them, which makes them feel happy and lucky, which then brings up more memories of positive events in their lives, and so on and so forth.
As a last point, lucky people approach negative events in a much more constructive way than unlucky people do. While unlucky people have a tendency to give up when something goes wrong, lucky people do the following:
- They see negative events as a challenge that they need to overcome;
- They try to discover why they weren’t successful;
- They try to learn from their mistakes;
- They examine their options and look for ways to move forward.
Getting Lucky by Influencing Others to Send Luck Your Way
Marc Myers, author of “How To Make Luck: Seven Secrets Lucky People Use To Succeed” says that luck “depends on the actions of other people and whether or not they decide to help you get what you want.” If you stop to think about it, most of the good or bad things that come into your life have come by way of others. So how can you influence others to send opportunities your way?
Myers writes that you can’t attract good luck to yourself unless you know what you’re trying to achieve. Once you know what you want, a big part of attracting luck is identifying “the gate-keepers of opportunity” or the people who can help you achieve your goals. It’s not just about meeting these people, it’s about being prepared when you meet them.
As an example, Myers talks about a woman who won $34,000 on “Wheel of Fortune”. Why was she lucky enough to be selected for the show when there are hundreds of people trying to be contestants on “Wheel of Fortune”?
She watched several past episodes of the show and noted how the contestants dressed, their body language, their mannerisms, and how they reacted when they did well and when they didn’t.
Then, when the producers asked possible contestants to play a mock game, she mimicked the behavior she had observed in those who had been picked as contestants in the past. Myers writes that she “influenced the odds of getting in the game by convincing the producers to give her what she wanted.”
Myers notes that another characteristic of lucky people is that they take risks. In addition, although it’s important to take an active role in your life and pursue what you want, you have to be careful not to be too aggressive. The more people you rub the wrong way by being too pushy or overbearing, the less help is likely to come your way. Lucky people are assertive, but not aggressive.
Here’s what Myers suggests that you do:
- Start by getting clear on what you want and then go through your address book and identify everyone you know who has expertise in that area. These are your gatekeepers.
- The trick is to come into contact with as many people as you can who can help you get closer to what you want.
- You have to be careful of how you ask for what you want. Make others want to help you by finding ways to help them first. In fact, if you’re a resource for people in general, your luck should improve.
You can increase your luck and increase the likelihood of having good stuff come your way by following the tips and strategies explained above.
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