Luck is an interesting concept. It is defined by Cambridge Dictionary as “the force that causes things, especially good things, to happen to you by chance and not as a result of your own efforts or abilities”. But I’m not so sure that’s how it always works. A psychological study from Richard Wiseman in 2003 (we’re travelling a little way back, I know) indicated that in many cases, lucky people are able to create some level of good fortune for themselves.
Now, I in no way want to make the assertion that bad things happen to people because they didn’t manifest something better for themselves. That’s ridiculous and honestly kind of cruel thinking. There are limits to the power of positive thinking. Privilege is real and it makes the idea of feeling ‘lucky’ appear much more accessible to some than others.
However, in small everyday interactions, perhaps there are ways we can change our luck. That’s what Wiseman’s research suggests, anyway.
The lucky ones
In her book How Not to Die Alone, behavioural scientist Logan Ury touches on the power of Wiseman’s research on luck in dating. She wrote on how mindset can impact your results in the world of dating and shared that per the thinking of Henry Ford, “Whether you believe the date will go well or poorly, you are right”.
Ury explained that in Wiseman’s study, he observed groups of people who considered themselves either lucky or unlucky and asked them to count the number of photographs inside a newspaper. ‘Lucky’ people took a few seconds to complete the task while ‘unlucky’ folks took a few minutes.
This, she explained, was because on the second page of the newspaper it read in large font, “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper”. Those who saw themselves as unlucky were so consumed with the task that the didn’t even see the message offering them an out.
Essentially, the message Ury was making is that because lucky people expect the best out of situations, they tend to be a little more open and so, recognise positive opportunities. In this case, she was applying it to finding love, but the same could likely be said for finding a new job or something as small as hopping over that puddle 15 metres ahead of you rather than stepping right into it.
Again, it’s not a salve for all situations, but it’s interesting to think about.
How to create more good fortune
Over a 10-year period, Wiseman researched ‘lucky’ and ‘unlucky’ people as part of a study for the University of Hertfordshire. Following that, he defined four principles that lucky people use to create more fortunate outcomes for themselves.
He shared these on his website:
Principle One: Maximise Chance Opportunities
Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, including networking, adopting a relaxed attitude to life and by being open to new experiences.
Principle Two: Listening to Lucky Hunches
Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. In addition, they take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities by, for example, meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts.
Principle Three: Expect Good Fortune
Lucky people are certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune. These 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.
Principle Four: Turn Bad Luck to Good
Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, do not dwell on the ill fortune, and take control of the situation.
Will all of the above work for you every time in every setting? Likely not. But interestingly, after collecting all of this data, Wiseman created a ‘Luck School’ which was designed around teaching folks ways to change their thinking and adopt the four principles of lucky people.
Wiseman writes that after graduating from this school “The results suggested that a significant number of participants report positive and long-lasting change, including increased levels of perceived luck, self-esteem, confidence and health”.
You can read about the study in The Luck Factor, but Ury writes in her book that the success rate was 80 per cent.
No, shifting your mindset will not undo the unjust nature of the world. Nor will it magically ward off misfortune. But maybe, just maybe, it’ll help you find a few more positive outcomes here and there. At the very least, it may mean your next date is a little more fun?