Why is it that some people appear to have all the luck? You know, the ones whose weekends and vacations always seem feature some kind of amazing serendipitous adventure; the ones who land cool job after cool job; or they’re under 30 and already have their own successful business. And what about Julie who always seems to be winning cruise holidays?
It’s just not fair is it?
Who are the Luck Gods and what do you have to do to get them to shine on you?
Well, a few years back a friend lent me a book that seeks to address this very question: Why do some people appear to be ‘lucky’, whilst others ‘unlucky’?
‘The Luck Factor’ by Dr. Richard Wiseman really changed my outlook. In fact, it was so impactful that I’ve since gifted a copy to a number of friends who thought they were destined to live a life devoid of luck, but have since experienced dramatic turnarounds in their fortunes.
Wiseman and his team of researchers studied hundreds of volunteers who identified themselves as either exceptionally lucky or unlucky. They carried out interviews, had them keep diaries and take part in experiments, looking for correlations, and the findings were intriguing.
The ‘Luck Project’ revealed that whilst a majority of people assume that something like 50 percent of what happens in our lives is due to chance events, in fact it is far less than that. Maybe 10% is pure chance, but the other 40% can actually be influenced by the way we think and our approach to life.
What is more, the study identified four key sets of behaviors that so called ‘lucky people’ had in common. And the great news is that they don’t involve any selling of souls to a mystic power, nor do they require horseshoes, four-leaf clovers, or rabbits’ feet – they are simple shifts in mindset that any of us can start implementing today!
So what are these common factors?
1. Lucky people maximise ‘chance opportunities’
Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon ‘chance opportunities’.
What is a ‘chance opportunity? Well, in the study Wiseman gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper and set them the task of counting the number of photographs inside.
Halfway through the newspaper was a tactically placed large message reading: “Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250.”
The text took up half of the page and was written in large type, yet strangely the unlucky people tended to miss it whilst the lucky people tended to spot it.
He found that unlucky people are generally more tense than lucky people, and this anxiety disrupts their ability to notice the unexpected. As a result, they miss opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else.
This translates to real life scenarios for example when people go to parties so focused on finding their perfect partner that they miss opportunities to make good friends, or when looking through newspapers so determined to find certain types of job advertisements that they miss other potential options.
Meanwhile, lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore notice what is there rather than just what they are looking for, increasing their chances of spontaneous good fortune.
2. Lucky people listen to hunches
Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings.
Almost 90 percent of those deemed lucky said that they trusted their intuition when it came to their relationships, and 80 percent of them said that same intuition was involved in their career choices. That is compared to less than 20 percent of the unlucky participants who were more likely to base their decisions on the opinions of others, accepted wisdom, or misinformation.
The study found that lucky people were also more likely to take steps to boost their intuitive abilities, such as meditating to gain awareness of their thoughts and emotions, reflection and journalling to make sense of what their gut is telling them.
3. Lucky people expect good fortune
Probably one of the reasons that lucky people are so comfortable with following their intuition is that they are also more certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune.
By believing in these expectations they become self-fulfilling prophecies as lucky people tend to persist in the face of failure. They understand that determination, persistence and patience are key to achieving goals and they never give up.
This is often referred to as an ‘abundance mindset’, whereas ‘unlucky’ people tend to have more of a ‘scarcity mindset’. Worried that they might lose what they already have, they take fewer risks, preferring to stick with the status quo, even if reducing the risk of losing something also means decreasing the chance of gaining something too.
Lucky people also expect their interactions with others to be lucky and successful, making them more open to introducing themselves to new people, which in turn can present new opportunities that they will also expect to be positive.
Meanwhile unlucky people were more likely to be suspicious of others’ motives and more closed to new relationships.
4. Lucky people turn bad luck into good
Lucky people tend to find the positives in even bad situations, helping them not just cope, but often thrive upon ill fortune.
For example, the study noted how they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, “I crashed my car, and broke my leg, but at least I’m still alive.”
They are convinced that any ill-fortune in their life will, in the long run, work out for the best, and so they do not dwell on the ill fortune or allow it to dominate their thoughts. They take control of the situation, learn any valuable lessons and take constructive steps to prevent more bad luck in the future.
When I read The Luck Factor for the first time I immediately thought of the apparently ‘lucky’ people in my life and identified how they indeed exhibit these four behaviours almost unknowingly.
I have one friend that we affectionately call ‘Lucky Jimmy’, because he often seems to get VIP treatment wherever he goes, wins competitions, and has countless stories about rubbing shoulders with his favourite music and sport icons.
He also happens to be a very happy-go-lucky guy who will talk to anyone. He’s gregarious, he puts himself out there and attends lots of events.
Also, I thought about when my partner started her own catering business. The day she started the biggest question was, “What if I have no clients?” But it was amazing to watch how she quickly went from no clients, to being so inundated that she had to turn down requests. How did this happen? Did she spend hundreds on advertising? Not at all. She started talking openly to people in the local community about what she was doing, plus did some low level networking and that was more than enough.
At her core she fundamentally believed that things would work out, she spoke confidently and openly about her offering, and she created her own luck.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and create your own luck today!
Do you consider yourself lucky, or unlucky? I’d love to hear more in the comments below.
Postscript: Before signing off I think it’s worth drawing a distinction between ‘luck’ and ‘chance’. Of course, there are some chance factors in life that we have no control over that I don’t wish to belittle or overlook. For instance, I don’t undervalue for a second how blessed I am to have been born a white male in Western Europe in the late 20th Century, or how fortunate I am to have not experienced war, famine, or any natural disasters on my doorstep. I am grateful every day for the start I was given in life.
But there are millions of people in the world who have also been gifted the same head start, yet find themselves stuck wondering why others seem to be enjoying so much more good fortune than them, from a comparative starting place.
At points in my life that has been me, and if you can also identify with that then the ‘Luck Factor’ might be helpful for you too.