Either you’re the person who finds a $20 bill every time they glance at the ground … or you’re the one begrudgingly watching on (again) as your lucky friend scoops up the money, wondering what they’ve got that you don’t.
From the casino to the board room, we all ask these questions as we (or the person next to us) strikes it big: Does luck happen randomly? Or are some people naturally luckier than others? If so, what are they doing right?
We turned to Dr. Richard Wiseman, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in England, for the answers. He’s devoted the past two decades to studying the origins and nature of good and bad luck, which he writes about in “The Luck Factor.”
Chance? No, It’s Personality
Luck is not the same as chance. Chance has to do with purely external causes, such as the flipping of a coin or the drawing of a lottery ticket, over which you have no control. Luck, on the other hand, is influenced by your character, assumptions and behavior. Lucky people tend to have similar personality traits such as being extroverted, relaxed and open to new experiences. “I discovered,” Wiseman writes, “that being at the right place at the right time is actually all about being in the right state of mind.”
Wiseman’s body of research led him to a startling conclusion: “People are not born lucky. Instead, lucky people are, without realizing it, using four basic principles to create good fortune in their lives.” If you want to have more luck more often, you should apply the following principles in your own life:
The Four Principles of Luck
1. Lucky people create, notice and act upon the chance opportunities in their lives. They naturally—or purposefully—meet, connect and maintain relationships with other people. They’re open to taking risks, trying new things and visiting unfamiliar places. They also have what Wiseman calls “a relaxed attitude toward life,” which allows them to notice options and opportunities that others who are worried or preoccupied might overlook. Most importantly, lucky people thrive on maintaining variety and creativity in their lives.
2. Lucky people make successful decisions by using their intuition and gut feelings. They value their hunches and have confidence in their ability to know what’s right for them. They also keep their intuition sharp by meditating, clearing their minds and seeking regular refuge in quiet places.
3. Lucky people’s expectations about the future help them fulfill their dreams and ambitions. They expect to be lucky now and in the future. Keeping such a positive outlook actually affects how they behave in all kinds of situations: confident, cooperative, outgoing and adventurous. This behavior increases their chances of success. Furthermore, they see setbacks as temporary, and they persevere in achieving their goals.
4. Lucky people are able to transform their bad luck into good fortune. They don’t dwell on moments of bad luck but instead let go of them and concentrate on future possibilities. They see bad luck as an opportunity to learn from mistakes, and they actively seek out better ways of handling similar situations.
Four Ways to Create Your Own Luck
If one or more of these characteristics of lucky people don’t seem to apply to you, take heart. You can actually learn to become luckier in life. Here are a few of Wiseman’s methods to try:
1. Keep a “luck journal.” Get to know your inner voice of wisdom. Write about times when you’ve followed your hunches and how each worked out for you. Also, explore ways in which you might be pulling back from opportunities when they present themselves. How could you improve your luck-inducing skills?
2. Be a collector of people, ideas and experiences. Be willing to take small steps out of your comfort zone. Use each chance encounter that “feels right” as a starting point for greater understanding and connection in your life. And try not to take rejection personally—others’ reactions to you may depend on their own behavioral traits and willingness to be lucky, too.
3. Visualize yourself having good luck. For any upcoming challenge, such as a meeting, date or interview, imagine yourself dealing with it confidently and successfully. Include in your visualization as much detail as possible, such as what you wear, what you say and how others react to you.
4. Reframe “bad luck” as “good luck.” Don’t dwell on the misfortune you experience. Instead, find the silver lining and consider the possibility that what seems unlucky right now might actually pay off for you in a positive way down the road in the form of redirected opportunities and unexpected options.
Remember, being lucky is not predetermined—it’s attainable. According to Wiseman, “All you need is a genuine desire for transformation and a willingness to view your luck in a radically new way.”