An absolutely delightful study I read serving my six-year sentence in graduate school was actually psychology research done decades ago. The study had to do with people seeing what they expected to see, regardless of what they were actually looking at.
The crafty psychologists had a special deck of cards made. The cards were oversized, and they reversed the colors of two of the suites. Hearts were black, and spades were red. So, when the tester would hold up a card with 5 red spades on it. The participant recorded it as 5 hearts. And when the tester would show an Ace of black hearts, the participant would record it as the Ace of Spades.
True to the norms of social science, the tests were repeated until they could confidently assert that the participants saw what they expected to see, not what they actually saw. Color me crazy, but what I took from this is that you and I are all delusional, but our success and happiness is a product of what we do with that fact of life.
Taking a cue from all the scientists studying the multiple ways our brains play tricks on us, it turns out you can use these tricks to generate your own good luck (or if you’re masochistic, you can make yourself a serving of bad luck.) As it were, there is scientific backing for this audacious idea of creating your own luck. Dr. Robert Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor, has performed numerous tests on the construct of luckiness.
In one of these studies, Wiseman separated the participants into self-identified lucky and unlucky people. In asking the participants to count the number of photographs in a newspaper, which was printed with clues like signs that read “this page has 43 photographs on it,” the self-described lucky people consistently and significantly outperformed the others. So if you delude yourself into believing that you’re lucky, you actually perform better.
Wiseman identified 4 principles of good luck. He actually is headmaster a Luck School over in the UK where 80% of participants claim their good luck increases after going through the program. The best news is, you can get lucky here and now but changing the way you think — your mental structures of luck…to use a $25 word on the topic.
1. Take advantage of “random” opportunities.
That means try new things AND….don’t get upset when you miss your train, plane or bus. It could be time for you to really get lucky. Personally, I have met the most interesting people, found out about amazing events and classes, even job postings (!) and discovered the best cheese in the world, while waiting for some form of transportation to arrive. The deal is, you gotta be open to find your opportunity at an unexpected moment.
2. Listen to your lucky hunches (AKA your gut or intuition.)
Meditate, pray or just sit there and be quiet for a few minutes on a regular basis. Learn to listen to what your body is saying. If you don’t feel right about a move, don’t make it.
3. Expect good fortune.
Act like you’re the luckiest person you know. Visualize success. Make a list of the fabulous things you would like to experience. (I do this all the time, and a lot of times these amazing things just happen. Just like that.)
4. Turn bad luck into good.
Look for the hidden blessing in “bad” luck. Recall how not getting what you wanted in the past (like a job or a boyfriend) turned out to be for the best.
I am SO lucky East Carolina University let me go in the spring of 2009…. right after defending my doctoral dissertation, no less. They informed me and my colleagues that our services were no longer needed (budget cuts!) through an impersonal email. Because of losing the “secure job” I moved to Charleston and have been building Mixonian Institute ever since, not to mention getting married, hip hop dancing, tango and making a boatload of insanely interesting friends.
So in honor of St. Patrick’s Day on Tuesday, try getting lucky this week. See what happens!