“Luck is believing you're lucky.” Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams nailed it 20+ years before psychologist, Richard Wiseman, proved his quote to be correct. Wiseman has studied luck for over 15 years and what did he find? He explains here in his article written for The Telegraph, “[My] findings have revealed that although 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.”
That’s right, if you’re unlucky, it’s your own fault. But don’t feel bad for not knowing. Our minds are prone to playing tricks on us. A German study out of The University of Cologne found that activating good-luck-related superstitions with charms like rabbit’s feet, sayings like “break a leg,” or actions like keeping fingers crossed actually enhanced performance. How? Because these tactics make subjects believe they perform better and so they do. Activating a superstition boosts confidence and therefore competence.
So again, it’s all in your head. Here’s the good news. You can change what’s in your head. In fact, Wiseman put subjects through Luck School and, “almost all participants reported significant life changes, including increased levels of luck, self-esteem, confidence and success.”
Here are the four principles he says guide lucky people through their blessed lives:
1. Lucky People Maximise Chance Opportunities
Lucky people create, notice, and act on unexpected opportunity. Here’s his scientific example: Wiseman carried out a simple experiment to discover whether lucky people better spotted random opportunities. He gave self-declared lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and count the photographs. On average, the unlucky people took about two minutes to do this task, but lucky people found a trick. The second page of the newspaper contained a half page ad with the message: "Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper." The unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.
2. Lucky People Listen to Intuition
Lucky people are in touch with gut feelings and make better decisions because of it. But how do you listen to intuition better? Wiseman says it’s about being in the present moment and clear headed. Lucky people take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities by, for example, meditating.
3. Lucky People Expect Good Fortune
Yep, they’re optimists. And just as in the superstition study, when you think things are going to go well, they go well more often. Wiseman believes this can be attributed to optimisms role in persistence as well. He says, “Expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure and shape their interactions with others in a positive way.”
4. Lucky People See Good in The Bad
Their well being is not grounded in circumstance and because of this they cope better with the ups and downs of life. See “optimism.” Wiseman found that when bad luck does strike, the lucky people often find the luck within that moment by imagining how things could have been worse. As in, “I’m so glad I blew a tire today instead of next week when I have so much more going on!” But ultimately, they take control of the situation and move on.
For more hands-on, verbal examples of how these principles play out in daily life, check out this Psychology Today article, Make Your Own Luck, which offers what they call “Think Luck Tips,” using some of Wiseman’s principles.
"For Work instead of saying: 'I need to finish this project by 11, team meeting at 12, lunch at 1, finish that report this afternoon, and I'm home free by 6.’ Try this approach instead: "I want to try to accomplish two major things today, but in my downtime, I'm going to explore a few other ideas that could help the company or my career.’
For Friendships instead of saying: ‘I already have a handful of really wonderful friends. I don't need or have time for anymore.’ Try this approach instead: ‘I love to make new friends, even if it never goes farther than a conversation and Facebook friending.’
For Romance instead of saying: ‘Here's my checklist. He has to be smart, attractive, financially secure, subscribe to The New York Times, love to cook, and love dogs.’ Try this approach instead: ‘I don't really have a type. I'm open to anyone as long as he's a good person. I'll know it when I see it.’"
So, good luck out there making your own luck!