Making your own luck


In Be Lucky, its an Easy Skill to Learn, Richard Wiseman cites a study to prove that optimists are more likely to recognise and take advantage of opportunities:

Take the case of chance opportunities. Lucky people consistently encounter such opportunities, whereas unlucky people do not. I carried out a simple experiment to discover whether this was due to differences in their ability to spot such opportunities.

I gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. On average, the unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs, whereas the lucky people took just seconds. Why? Because the second page of the newspaper contained the message: “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than 2in high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.

For fun, I placed a second large message halfway through the newspaper: “Stop counting. Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250.” Again, the unlucky people missed the opportunity because they were still too busy looking for photographs.

For me, it all began with a chicken bone. In my family, a particular V-shaped bone, flattened at all 3 ends, was referred to as the lucky bone, and was believed to bring luck to the finder. My dad always ‘happened’ to find it, until I was about 8, after which, no matter how little chicken I ate, I always found the bone. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophesy…think yourself lucky and you get luckier. Because my dad always got things in a serendipitously improbable way, from jobs to junkets abroad. And, somehow, maybe because of the lucky chicken bones, or maybe because of my dad’s easy-going example, I became lucky too.

In a the-chicken-or-the-egg sort of way, I don’t know whether I became an optimist because of many lucky serendipities, or whether my innate optimism brought me more and more luck, thus reinforcing my belief in good spirits.

Just for the record, if I were to tell you the real story of how I grew up, you wouldn’t think I was lucky at all. (I used to be an intensely private person, and besides, this stuff would show other people in a poor light, so I won’t talk about it.) Maybe it’s all a state of mind, or maybe creating a Narnia world of your own, aka a private parallel universe in your head, really works. (more on this later)

I’ve heard people say that pessimism is the same as optimism, because both pessimists and optimists relinquish control of their lives and hand over the reigns to forces beyond their control. In my opinion, realism is the same as pessimism, because reality is often harsh, and we yearn to get away from it all, even if it’s only for a short vacation away from the city.

While I like to be in control of my life as much as the next person, how much is in our hands, anyway? Most people believe in a god, the  supernatural, in fate, in karma, or in the power of the Universe. How are any of these empirical or rational, and how many of these could we control? If I’m going to give my vote of confidence to any of these, why would I consider it a malevolent force, one that seeks to make me miserable? Yes, sometimes bad things happen to good people, but everyone believes in karma, even those who perpetrate the worst crimes against their fellow creatures, and nobody can honestly say s/he is one hundred percent good, so some misfortune is bound to befall you at some point.

Behavioural psychology has taught us that if you look cheerful, you’re likely to have a more pleasant day. By the same logic, if you come from a belief that the Universe, or fate, or God, is rooting for you, aren’t you likely to find more brightness, more smiles, better opportunities on your walk through life?

So, how does one put optimism into practice and MAKE oneself lucky?

* Accept that life was not meant to be perfect. If you were exposed to the same circumstances everyday, the law of diminishing returns would make them less and less enjoyable. Change is inevitable, but also exciting. Only sometimes do we realize the value of the unexpected. Rarely do we understand why we get the lessons we get.

* Remember the glass ceiling effect? It works in everyday life too. There is only so much you can do, only so much change you can effect.  Beyond this, your hands are tied. You have to give up and trust that things will work out.

* Know that you are bigger than all your problems put together. I can’t tell you how, or why, but if you get yourself to believe this, nothing will faze you. I’ve used this to get through everything: I display a choice digit and say to whoever or whatever’s trying to get me down “Give me the best you’ve got, and then I’ll show you what my best is, and what I can do!”

* You don’t need to find a solution to every problem. Sometimes walking away is the only way to preserve your own sanity. Othertimes, not thinking of a way out, or taking a ‘creative pause‘ is the most productive thing you can do, because, as Scott Belsky writes,

When you’re rushing to a solution, your mind will jump to the easiest and most familiar path. But when you allow yourself to just look out the window for 10 minutes – and ponder – your brain will start working in a more creative way. It will grasp ideas from unexpected places.  It’s this very sort of unconscious creativity that leads to great thinking.

* It really is true: the DEVIL is in the details! I like to think of this as ‘Don’t keep track of details when you don’t have to deliver.’ So, when other people have to pay you, to give something in to you, to complete a task…don’t save the date! If necessary, set the due date a day prior to when you really need it, then forget about it. Nine times out of ten, when you raise the bar, people will rise up to meet it; they will either deliver, or request an extension…no different from when you keep track of every minute thing, and so much easier! It might be difficult to get your mind around the concept, but then again, it comes down to that magical word–TRUST!

* Sign up for Notes from the Universe, to get beautiful daily inspirational emails, all free,  that remind you that the Universe is rooting for your success. Or download Bobby McFerrin’s popular song Don’t worry, be Happy (one of my dad’s old favourites, and a truly effervescent tune!) Or make it a habit to hang out with cheery, happy-go-lucky, the-devil-might-care-but-not-I people . Sometimes, all you need is an optimistic perspective on things. It slowly rubs off on you. Really.

* Get yourself a copy of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The tagline is ‘Ask, Believe, Receive’. That is, what you believe will happen to you, probably will. Believe you already have whatever it is that you want…and voila, wave magic wand…the same things will appear! Even if you’re not convinced, the book is so chock-full of inspiration that you WILL come away with a better attitude to life! If reading isn’t your thing, try the movie, I hear it’s pretty good too!

You should definitely also read How to be Lucky by Niall Doherty!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Why do we think that the best things in life are ‘too good to be true’? « Explore. Dream. Discover.

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