While researching What is Luck, yesterday’s blog post about the meaning of luck and how it plays a part in the book business, I found a fascinating study about the difference between lucky people and unlucky people.
Psychologist Richard Wiseman makes a distinction between chance and luck. He believes that chance events are those we have no control over, like winning the lottery, but that luck is a matter of outlook. He says that unlucky people are those who are so focused on their goal that they don’t notice the unexpected. His research reveals that ‘lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.” Lucky people are also serendipitous — they often find something more fortuitous than what they were looking for simply by being observant.
Wiseman believes that unlucky people can become lucky by following a three simple techniques:
1) Pay attention to your intuition and feelings when making decisions. Don’t rely solely on the rational side of the situation.
2) Don’t be a slave to routine. Doing things differently from the way you normally do boosts the likelihood of luck by introducing variety.
3) See the positive side of your ill fortune.
The luckiest man I know never sees ill fortune or failure. He manages to rearrange events in his mind so that he always comes out a winner. For example, when one venture didn’t pan out and he lost money, he finagled his finances in his head (nothing illegal, just a matter of perception) so that the loss was filed under a different category in his mind. I never understood that — if you lost money, you lost it regardless of how you filed the information away, but it helped him maintain the belief in his luck.
His luck wasn’t merely a matter of perception, but of the way things were. He was the captain of a boat in the Navy during WWII, and after he was transferred off, the boat was sunk, and most hands were lost. He found a hobby buying stamp collections, breaking them apart and selling the individual items right at the moment that stamps were becoming a popular investment. Concurrently, he also happened to be working for an airline, which allowed him to travel at little cost to wherever his hobby took him. Years later, to get a stamp collection he wanted, he had to buy a collection of autographs. By then, stamps were declining in value, but at that very moment, autographs were becoming the investment of choice. A lot of luck going on there!
He always believed that things would turn out for the best, and even when “the best” wasn’t very good, he believed that things had, in fact, turned out for the best, that things could have been worse.
Me? I don’t consider myself either lucky or unlucky, though I have had stretches of bad luck — failures that seemed completely beyond my control, successes that seemed just out of reach. Maybe I’d be luckier if I believed things always worked out for the best, or if I could see the good side of bad things, but sometimes such determinations are beyond me. Sometimes it’s important to see that bad happened just because it happened, such as the death of my life mate/soul mate. There is no way I will ever believe it was best that he got sick, suffered excruciating pain, and died. In a way, there is a good side to his death. He is no longer suffering and I have been freed from an untenable situation, but I cannot dismiss his death so lightly.
Grief tends to close us off from the world, and if ever I am able to find happiness in the future, I will have to open myself up again. I am trying to be more spontaneous, to be open to possibilities even if they seem foolish or uncomfortable, to say yes when my inclination or habit is to say no. Mostly I’m looking for serendipity (though I’m sure that’s an oxymoron because serendipity is what you find when you are looking for something else). Since I don’t really know what I want or what will make me happy (other than making a living as a writer), I have to be open to whatever comes my way. Standing tall. Breathing deep. Stretching.
Although I’m making these changes in an effort to change my life, who knows, maybe they will also change my luck.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+