One of the most interesting studies I read during my six-year stint in graduate school was a basic study in psychology done decades ago. It had to do with people seeing what they expected to see, regardless of the actual reality.
The 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. Similarly, Dr. Robert Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor, has performed numerous tests on the construct of luckiness.
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. What you see today has a lot to do with what you expect to see.
Wiseman identified 4 principles of good luck. He has a Luck School over in the UK where 80% of participants claim their good luck increases after the program. The best news is, you can get lucky here and now but changing the way you think — your mental structures of luck.
1. Maximize your chance opportunities.
That means build your network, relax and try new things!
You’re probably not as nutsy as I am to start dancing at such an advanced age but I can tell you tons of unexpected good things have come into my life since I started hip hop dancing in July. I have a whole group of new friends, I get encouragement from fabulous teachers, I’m stronger, a faster swimmer, have better abs, and entertain random strangers in downtown Charleston on any given day when I practice my dance moves while waiting for the light to change. All because I took my lovely stepdaughter Clara to dance class and decided to join her rather than wait on the sidelines.
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.
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.
Now let go and focus on something else.
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, informing 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.
How lucky are you? Have you done anything to improve your luck lately?