The prevailing belief in the Western world is that luck is a matter of chance, similar to rolling dice, or being in the right place at the right time. How often have you lamented that someone you know seems to be lucky in everything they touch—getting into the best college, best job opportunities, great ideas, happy relationships, etc.
Are some people naturally luckier than others? Research reveals there is a cause and effect when those who seem to be naturally luckier than others.
Psychology profession, Richard Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire, England, has studied how luck unfolds in our lives. Wiseman conducted a study to see how chance opportunities come about and their impact on people’s experiences. Wiseman examined the difference between self-professed lucky and unlucky people.
Wiseman’s study revealed that so-called lucky people score significantly higher on charisma, social skills, and drive. They smile twice as often and engage in more eye contact than those who seem ‘unlucky’. So-labeled lucky people score higher on sociability. Wiseman conjectures sociability increases their likelihood of hearing opportunities because they meet more people, make a strong connection, and maintain those relationships through a networking quid pro quo.
Seemingly, unlucky people, on the other hand, scored twice as high on neuroticism. Neuroticism is a personality trait involving a long-term tendency to be in a negative or anxious emotional state.
To evaluate how anxiety affected people, the study participants were asked to watch a moving dot in the center of a computer screen, as large dots unexpectedly flashed at the edges of the screen. Almost all participants noticed these dots.
To increase anxiousness, the experiment was repeated with another group, who were offered a financial award to focus on the center dot. More than a third missed the large dots on the edge of the screen that randomly appeared.
While anxiety helps us focus on a task, it also blinds us to other events/activities. As a result, those who seemingly are unlucky people miss out on prospects because they’re too busy worrying about one thing. They develop tunnel vision in their career, missing viable job opportunities and other valuable experiences. Or, they only talk to a few people at social or business gatherings and then lose out on meeting other interesting people.
So-called Lucky people, on the other hand, are open to new experiences. They’re more willing to talk to new people, travel to new places, and readily engage in new experiences, as well as seeking advice from others. In addition, the lucky people have trust and faith that things will work out in their favor–albeit not necessarily identical to their desires. Trust and Faith come from their belief in a higher power, or an essence greater than oneself.
A Lucky Outlook Toward Life
Wiseman conducted another experiment. He gave people a newspaper and asked them to count the number of photographs inside. Unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs. Lucky people took seconds.
On the second page, there was a message: “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” Unlucky people tended to miss the message, while lucky people spotted it right away. This experiment proves self-professed lucky people are simply more observant.
Lucky people are also optimistic. They have positive expectations, which lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. Even if things take a turn for the worse, they can spot the good in a situation. Unlucky people might see the same situation and only point out and remember the negatives.
Not only do positive expectations help people become happier, but they also help people navigate the most difficult situations.
How to Increase Your Luck
To see if unlucky people could turn their luck around, Wiseman enrolled his participants in his “luck school.” He facilitated a series of exercises to increase their luck. The results were astonishing.
After one month of enrollment, 80% of people reported themselves as happier, more satisfied with their lives, and most importantly, luckier. The lucky people became luckier, and the unlucky people became lucky. They had been taught how to spot good opportunities, have a positive outlook, and make better decisions.
To increase your luck, you can practice what the “luck school” participants did:
- Keep an open mind (and pair of eyes–practice being observant): Avoid worrying about obtaining a goal endlessly can unknowingly close you off to other possibilities. Having an open mind, attitude, and looking around for new opportunities can open you up to lucky chances and opportunities.
- Focus on the positive: Focusing on the positive heightens your spirits and future expectations. When you go from complaining about scraping your knee to being grateful that it wasn’t any worse, it becomes easier to engage in and accomplish new or challenging things.
- Do something out of the ordinary regularly: Routines can lead to ruts, whether it’s talking to the same people, eating the same food, or doing the same type of work. Stepping outside your boundary increases the likelihood of a lucky break.
- Be social and improve your odds. Talk to new people at business events and social gatherings
- Imagine the stepping stones to success.
- Help others and find out how lucky you are.
- Leave room for randomness.
- Be on the lookout for opportunities to create luck.
- Take a chance.
- Create your luck through diligent work.
- See the positive side in everything and every situation.
- Accept that setbacks will occur–Avoid getting bogged down in ‘Why me?, “Ain’t it awful.’
- Stay focused in the present, while looking to the next steps.
Many people often attribute other people’s fortunes to good luck, while their own misfortunes are the result of bad luck. It’s true that some people are born with advantages or events that transpire that are outside your control.
You can decide to do something to build upon what you have. When you open yourself to new places, practice gratitude, and step outside your routine, you will find yourself being lucky.
Last, but not least the process of becoming luckier is easier than you might think. Read the experiment on developing luck many times until it becomes your mindset versus a mere idea.