If you're lucky enough to get old, I think you should celebrate it.
- 90-year-old designer and fashion icon Iris Apfel
All the St. Patrick’s Day mentions of “the luck of the Irish” reminded me of some fascinating research that I came across. Psychologist Richard Wiseman, a professor at the University of Hertfordshire in the U.K., did a 10-year study of 400 men and women who considered themselves either extremely lucky or extremely unlucky. He found that lucky people might seem to get all the breaks, but it’s not because they lead magically charmed lives. It's because they “generate their own good fortune.” Their luck comes from their attitude and behavior—more specifically, their positive thinking and positive actions.
Wiseman also discovered that it’s possible to change your luck. When he trained the unlucky people to act and think positive, like the lucky ones, they noticed results within a month: They were happier and had more good things happen for them. Want to improve your luck? Here are some tips based on Wiseman’s research.
Make the most of chance opportunities. Strike up conversations with strangers. Talk to the friendly-looking person who’s standing on line behind you or sitting next to you on the bus or whose locker is in the same row as yours at the gym. You never know what might develop out of a simple chat—a job contact, a friendship, a romance.
Be open to new experiences. On personality tests, lucky people score higher on openness, meaning they prefer variety and novelty in their lives and tend to be unconventional. To develop more openness, Wiseman suggests making a list of six things you’ve never done but want to try. Number them 1 to 6. Roll a die. Whatever number comes up, that’s the experience you try.
Expect good things to happen. When you go into a situation expecting a positive outcome, that’s what you’ll get. Do you have an important event coming up? Visualize success first. Sit in a quiet place. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and relax. Imagine the situation in as much detail as possible—the setting, sights, sounds and smells. Picture the other people and what they might say. Think about what you would say and do. Visualize yourself achieving the outcome you desire. Then go out and do it.
Turn bad luck into good. When something negative happens, unlucky people tend to have a defeatist attitude and give up. Lucky people face adversity too. The difference is, they see the positive side of it. They look at obstacles as opportunities to learn and grow, to do something different, something better. The next time you run into a roadblock, look at it not as a dead end but a detour. How else can you reach your goal? Explore the possibilities and you’ll make your own good luck!
For more on Wiseman's research on luck, check out theluckfactor.com.
Amy Wong is the executive editor of Guideposts and was a founding editor of Positive Thinking. She lives in New York City with her adopted dog, Winky, a natural-born positive thinker who believes that everyone has a treat for her and every day is the best day of her life. Amy hopes to be that optimistic someday (she’s working on it!).