I know many people who seem to have more than their fair share of good luck. Winning laptops, cars and innumerable trips, they seem to be lucky more than others.
Are they born under a lucky star and the rest of us simply not?
Do the gods smile on only a few favorites?
No. According to science, we make our own luck.
The matter has been studied by psychologist Richard Wiseman, a professor in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. In his book The Luck Factor: Changing Your Luck, Changing Your Life Wiseman explains what makes some people lucky and others not.
And it’s not the good fairy, or providence.
We have the power to bring good luck into our own lives
After years of intensive interviews and experiments with over 400 volunteers, Wiseman concluded that we make our own luck. He also discovered the underlying principles of luck and how we can apply it to our lives so we can all experience more good fortune in our lives.
Wiseman made a scientific investigation into the concept of luck.
He placed advertisements to find people who consider themselves exceptionally lucky or unlucky. He then analyzed their minds and their lives through interviews, their diaries, questionnaires, intelligence tests and laboratory experiments to find out what distinguishes the lucky from the unfortunate.
The findings revealed that luck is not a magical ability or the result of random chance. Nor are people born lucky or unlucky.
“Instead, although lucky and unlucky people have almost no insight into the real causes of their good and bad luck, their thoughts and behavior are responsible for much of their fortune,” says Wiseman.
His research suggests that lucky people generate their own good fortune via four basic principles:
- They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities.
- They make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition.
- They create self-fulfilling prophecies via positive expectations.
- They adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.
His groundbreaking work puts good fortune in our hands if we are prepared to pay attention to these four principles.
Lucky people expose themselves to chance opportunities
They are not afraid to meet new people. Because they meet new people they expose themselves to more opportunities.
Wiseman relates the case of one volunteer who decided he must change his habit of always speaking to the same people at social events. So he chose a color before the event and made up his mind that he would only speak to people wearing that color!
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Lucky people tend to be extroverted and enjoy connecting and relating to other people. In social situations, they don’t stick to the people they know. They are keen to speak to anyone.
Lucky people see opportunities that others might miss
Wiseman conducted a fun and simple experiment to uncover this quality in lucky people. He asked volunteers to flip through a newspaper to find out how many photographs it contained. That was that, just a simple, boring counting exercise that ostensibly had nothing to do with luck.
The group of unlucky people took about two minutes to count all the photographs; the lucky people took just two seconds.
“Because the second page of the newspaper contained the message: “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was over two inches high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it,” says Wiseman.
It gets more unbelievable.
Just for fun, a second large message was placed halfway through the newspaper. This one announced: “Stop counting, tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $250.” Again, the unlucky people missed the opportunity because they were still too busy looking for photographs.
Lucky people practice “counterfactual thinking”
Counterfactual thinking is thinking that goes against the facts. Psychologists use it to refer to our ability to imagine what might have happened, rather than what actually did happen, as “counterfactual.”
In case of lucky people, it means that in the face of something bad happening, lucky people interpret the event as lucky.
In one of Wiseman’s experiments, he presented volunteers with some unlucky scenarios and looked at how they reacted.
One such scenario was to imagine being shot in a bank robbery.
How would lucky or unlucky people interpret such an event?
“Unlucky people tended to say that this would be enormously unlucky and it would be just their bad luck to be in the bank during the robbery. In contrast, lucky people viewed the scenario as being far luckier, and often spontaneously commented on how the situation could have been far worse.
As one lucky participant commented, “It’s lucky because you could have been shot in the head – also, you could sell your story to the newspapers and make some money.”
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