4 Science-Based Secrets to Getting Lucky

Photo by Megan Wycklendt
Photo by Megan Wycklendt
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The Challenge: Luck can play a huge role in our everyday lives.
The Science: There are four simple ways to attract good fortune.
The Solution: Learn how to boost your luck – it’s in your own hands!

Do you consider yourself a superstitious person? Do you carry around a rabbit’s foot or have a lucky pair of socks that you are afraid to wash?

If so, you are not alone. A 2003 survey found that 77% of all people consider themselves to be at least a little superstitious and/or practice some form of superstitious behavior.

Even if you are part of the 23% that does not believe in superstition, sometimes your actions may say otherwise.

Harris Interactive (2014) found that only 20% of those surveyed claim to think it is unlucky to walk underneath an open ladder. However, when faced with that exact scenario, a British psychologist found that over 70% of people risked stepping into traffic to avoid walking underneath a ladder propped up on the sidewalk (1963).

So, when push comes to shove, we would rather risk getting injured than getting bad luck.

Luck plays a huge role in many aspects of our lives. The difference between good and bad luck can result in either hope or despair. Whether it is in life, love or our career, we could all use a little more good fortune.

Well, we are in luck (pun intended) because psychologist Richard Wiseman discovered four simple ways that we can increase our luck. And none of them involve rabbits, ladders or unwashed socks.

The Lowdown on Luck?

Wiseman spent ten years studying what makes some people lucky and others unlucky. He built up a database of more than 400 people who he categorized as lucky, unlucky or neutral. He conducted hundreds of interviews, thousands of questionnaires, a large number of experiments and discovered that luck has little to do with superstition and more to do with our behavior.

“You hold the key to creating your luck,” Wiseman states in his book, The Luck Factor: Changing Your Luck, Changing Your Life: The Four Essential Principles (Miramax, 2003). “You can create far more lucky breaks and massively increase how often you are in the right place at the right time.”

Through his studies, Wiseman uncovered four principles will change your luck and your life.

#1 – Relax

Principle One: Maximize Chance Opportunities.

In the game Monopoly, there are two types of card-drawing spaces, Chance and Community Chess. Both cards can have positive or negative results, but the Chance cards are far more likely to move a player around the board (i.e. Advance to Go).

In his luck principle #1, Wiseman found that we all hold chance cards that are likely to move us in life and help us maximize our opportunities.

In one experiment, participants were asked to look through a newspaper to count how many photographs it contained. On average, the unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photos, but it only took the lucky people a few seconds.

This is because the second page of the newspaper featured a message which said, “STOP COUNTING-THERE ARE 43 PHOTOGRAPHS IN THIS NEWSPAPER.” The message took up half the page and was written in very large print. It was almost impossible to miss, but the unlucky people skipped right past it while the lucky ones spotted it right away.

A second large message was included midway through the newspaper. This one said, “STOP COUNTING, TELL THE EXPERIMENTER YOU HAVE SEEN THIS AND WIN $100.” Again, the unlucky people were too busy looking for photos.

The reason lucky people noticed the messages while unlucky ones did not has to do with how calm/anxious they were. Wiseman found lucky participants to be more relaxed, which allowed them to spot many opportunities that unlucky people did not.

“Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities,” said Wiseman. “They do this in various ways, including networking, adopting a relaxed attitude to life and by being open to new experiences.”

#2 – Trust Your Gut

Principle Two: Listening to Lucky Hunches

We have all had a gut feeling where our stomach appears to be telling our brain what to do. How we respond to that feeling may have a lot to do with our luck.

Wiseman asked his participants to fill out a questionnaire concerning the role of intuition in their lives. The survey asked them to indicate whether they trusted their gut when making decisions regarding their careers and relationships.

Almost 90% of lucky people said they trusted their intuition in regards to personal relationships and nearly 80% said that it played a large role in their career choices. On the other hand, unlucky people trusted their gut far less. Scoring roughly 20% less in those areas.

#3 – Expect The Best

Principle Three: Expect Good Fortune

In lesson #1 above I mentioned that Chance cards in Monopoly can be either negative or positive. If you were to draw a card right now, do you think the result would be in your favor? Turns out, your answer is very telling about how lucky you may be.

Wiseman asked his participants to indicate on a scale of 0% to 100% the certainty of a specific future situation. The situations ranged from how likely they will be to have a great time on their next vacation, to the chance they will achieve at least one of their lifetime ambitions.

The results were staggering. Lucky people expected a 90% chance of having a great vacation and an 84% chance of achieving a lifelong dream. Unlucky people resulted in far lower expectations, indicating roughly a 60% chance in both instances.

Lucky people expect to be lucky. They have very positive expectations about what will happen to them in the future. Unlucky people expect just the opposite. Both instances can create a self-fulfilling prophesy which result in lucky people’s persistence in the face of failure. A negative outlook creates a vicious cycle by preventing unlucky people from taking chances, which we learned in # 1 above is critical.

#4 – Turn That Frown Upside-Down

Principle Four: Turn Bad Luck to Good

No matter how lucky you may be, you will not always experience great fortune. Negative events happen to everyone. How you respond to those events may just dictate your luck.

Research has shown that mood affects memory (1982). In much the same way, our ability to cope with bad luck affects our memory of that ill fortune. Pretend you were involved in a car accident. One person may see that as a horrible experience because it caused him to be late for work. Another person’s view may be positive because he is just happy to have survived.

You’ve likely guessed by now how a lucky person would view that situation. Wiseman’s research discovered that four psychological techniques that help lucky people turn bad luck into good:

  • Lucky people see the positive side of their bad luck
  • Lucky people are convinced that any poor fortune will, in the long run, work out in their favor
  • Lucky people do not dwell on their bad luck
  • Lucky people take constructive steps to prevent more bad luck.

Luck Is In Your Hands

There is no magic formula for instantly creating an endless supply of good luck.

However, there are simple techniques that can help us all attract good fortune. Our ability to maximize our chances, listen to our intuition, expect the best and turn bad into good will help us increase our luck.

It has nothing to do with our supply of rabbit’s feet or lucky socks. In fact, luck has nothing to do with feet.

Richard Wiseman says it best, “When it comes to luck, the future is in your hands.”

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Adam Baker
Adam Baker is an Arizona native who graduated from Arizona State University and first wrote a published book at age 3. The story was titled Batman & Ghostbusters and by published we mean that his mom stapled a few pages together and called it a book. This helped create a love for writing which inspired him to create the Maury C. Moose Children's Book Series.
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