Luck may seem like an elusive attribute to study but scientists have given it a go and uncovered some surprising results. Scientifically speaking, here’s how to be lucky.
“We are more like pinballs bouncing around a machine than captains at the wheel. Certain types of people are well suited to this fact of life.” Rebecca Weber
People who spot and seize opportunity are different. They see possibilities others miss and are more open to life’s forking paths. If one path doesn’t work out they try another way. As Yogi Berra once put it, “when you come to the fork in the road, take it.”
The studies have identified a host of factors that “lucky” people appear to have in common:
- They see serendipity everywhere. Lucky people were almost always the ones who scored highest as extroverts. They were more likely to meet new people and stay in touch with a large group of friends and acquaintances. They were more open and had less negative emotional states like anxiety, anger, guilt, and depression.
- They’re primed for chance. Anxiety gives us tunnel vision. Serendipity smiles upon people who have a more relaxed approach to life. Once they’ve pinpointed their ultimate goal, they believe there are many ways to get there.
An open-minded person heads to the dog park thinking he might encounter a potential new friend, business partner, or romantic interest. A close-minded person sees only dog owners.
- Lucky people are always exploring new territory. Flexible people often respond to the same stimuli differently than do rigid types. They might take varied routes to work, or stop at out-of-the-way places for a cup of coffee, rather than heading to their favorite cafe for “the usual.”
- They slack off sometimes. We need to be loose to become aware of hidden opportunities. So even when you’re crunching to finish a project at work, participate in the cross-cubicle chatter, or follow the links from one interesting blog to the next. Allowing yourself some flexibility in the process can lead to better long-term outcomes.
- They say yes. Serendipitous people are more fearless about trying something new. Instead of giving in to worry about what could go wrong, they think, “Isn’t that interesting? I’d like to give that a try.”
- They embrace failure. Things don’t always turn out the way we plan. “Most successful businesspeople are also failed businesspeople,” says psychologist, Ben Fletcher.. “The key factor is that they go after fortuitous moments, and they’re not put off by failure once or twice.”
Cognitive flexibility can be cultivated. To limber up your own brain, try thinking about different points of view on a single topic.
Those who think lucky have the best chance of being lucky.Excerpted from: Make Your Own Luck, by Rebecca Weber, Psychology Today, May/June 2010.