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Making Your Own Luck

19th Jan, 2012

Lucky I read this…

I was recently recommended a book on luck – ‘The Luck Factor’ by Robert Wiseman. I must admit I was sceptical as I’ve always believed that you made your own luck and that waiting for luck to happen was no strategy for success. It turns out that Robert Wiseman who is  Professor of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire agrees!  Enhancing our luck, or maybe we should say enhancing our chances of success, he suggests, can be achieved by following some simple strategies.  In his research with people who considered themselves lucky, he noticed that they tended to see themselves as playing a part and having a contribution to their luck. If everything has either a cause or an effect, they saw themselves as a creator on the cause side, rather than a victim of circumstance on the effect side.   Wiseman’s four principles for luck/success are:  1. Maximise your opportunities. 2. Listen to your intuition. 3. Expect good fortune and 4. Turn everything into a learning opportunity.

The first principle is maximising opportunities.  Wiseman discovered that ‘lucky’ people had a wide network of friends, colleagues and acquaintances that they used and which they could tap into. ‘Lucky’ people are therefore more likely to come across opportunities. They are also open to new experiences and so continue to expand their knowledge of the world. When opportunities do arise Wiseman found that successful people were calm and relaxed enough to spot the opportunities, they are ‘in the flow’. He cites an experiment where he invited participants to meet a researcher at a Costa Coffee shop. Wiseman planted a five pound note on the ground outside the shop and arranged for a local businessman to sit at a table in the shop. People who rated themselves lucky all picked up the note and struck up a mutually useful conversation with the businessman.  Those who rated themselves unlucky never saw the note and sat alone with their coffee awaiting his arrival!

  • Who can you connect with today?
  • How can you grab some calming time?
  • What new experience, ideally out of your comfort zone, can you try?

The second principle espoused by Wiseman is to ‘listen to your intuition’.  Research with brain damaged patients suggests that, when the area of the brain that deals in emotion is damaged, then patients find even the simplest decision difficult. It appears that emotion is a key component in our decision making and yet we often ignore our emotions, intuition, gut feelings and hunches. Wiseman argues that they are there for a reason and lucky people are more likely to act on them.

  • How are you feeling right now?
  • How often do you check your feelings when making decisions?

The third principle is ‘expect good fortune’.  In previous newsletters we have explored several examples of beliefs only being beliefs (which therefore can be changed) and how it is useful to hold positive beliefs. Wiseman found that there was a correlation between beliefs and the outcomes people experienced.  ‘Lucky’ people, he argues, have high expectations and believe in good fortune. Many people associate luck with states such as happiness, confidence etc and, as we have noted before, these useful positive states can quickly and easily be accessed through anchors right now. But, I hear some of you say,’ I like to think the worst will happen then I can’t be disappointed’ or ‘won’t expecting good fortune just end in disappointment?’ What Wiseman says is that ‘all things being equal’ would you prefer to be lucky and more successful or unlucky?  He is not saying that this is an alternative to hard work, taking action, having smart goals etc! His research does suggest, however, that people who have followed these principles have higher levels of satisfaction with all areas of their life.

  • What beliefs do you hold on luck?
  • What beliefs will serve you best?

The final principle is to turn everything to a learning opportunity. Some of you may be saying, ‘This is very interesting but look around you – bad stuff happens’. Wiseman agrees but, he argues, it is the way we react to the bad stuff that determines outcomes. His research highlighted that those who considered themselves lucky were very resilient, they don’t dwell on the bad stuff, they find distractions in order to change state and they learnt from their experiences. Typical comments were:

‘It could have been worse’

‘Will it matter in a year’s time?

‘Compared with people less fortunate that me I am lucky’

‘Things are for the best’

‘Lucky’ people Wiseman found analysed and learnt from their mistakes. They realised ‘if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got’. They are always learning.

  • How resilient are you?
  • How do you build learning into what you do?

It seems luck is connected with emotional intelligence, resilience and interpersonal skills that anyone can develop. Which principle will you work on first?

1. Maximise your opportunities.

2. Listen to your intuition.

3. Expect good fortune

4. Turn everything into a learning opportunity.

 

Food for thought?

 

PS  I just re-read the first sentence and realised it was a bit of luck that I was recommended the Luck Factor!