Are you a believer in luck? Do you find yourself holding onto lucky pennies or throwing salt over your shoulder? Will you be looking for that lucky four leaf clover this St. Patrick’s Day? Maybe you’ve even had a run of bad luck, where it feels like the world is actively conspiring against you. If so, ever wonder if you can change your luck? I don’t mean with voodoo or magic crystals, but change some other force within the universe to bring luck your way? Turns out somebody has actually done scientific research on this exact subject… luck.

Richard Wiseman is a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and the bestselling author of many books including: Luck Factor. Wiseman studied over 1,000 people and concluded that, yes, it turns out some people are actually very unlucky.

So what does this mean? Are you doomed to an eternity of bad luck? According to Wiseman, no. His research indicates that you may actually have more control over your luck then you might think.  Wiseman is quoted saying “what the work shows as a whole, is that people can change their luck. Luck is not something paranormal in nature. It’s something that we are creating by our thoughts and behavior.”

Wiseman ran a series of experiments he called “Luck School” and taught unlucky people how to act more like lucky people do. The result? In total, 80 percent of people who attended Luck School said that their luck had increased. On average, these people estimated that their luck had increased by more than 40 percent. Additionally, not only did these individuals report feeling luckier afterwards, test results showed they were happier too!

So what is Wiseman’s secret for increasing one’s luck? In his book Luck Factor, he identified four simple principles that can change your luck:

  1. Maximize opportunities

In his book, Wiseman writes “lucky people create, notice, and act upon the chance opportunities in their lives.” Wiseman goes on to say that “lucky people just try stuff. Unlucky people suffered from paralysis by analysis. They wouldn’t do anything until they walked through every single angle and by then the world had moved on. They don’t gain the benefits of learning through doing. I’m a big fan of starting small, trying lots of projects, seeing what works and what doesn’t, and iterating based on feedback.”

Wiseman also speaks about how certain personality types are luckier than others, because they tend to create scenarios that maximize opportunities and thereby increase luck. So which type of personality is luckier?

  • People who are extroverted: More time with others, more interesting possibilities.
  • People who aren’t neurotic: Tense, anxious people are less likely to notice and take advantage of opportunities.
  • People who are open to new experiences: If you resist the new, you’re probably not going to have many interesting things happen.

Additionally, research shows that the old saying is true: “You regret most the things you did not do.” Over time, we tend to rationalize our failures. But we cannot rationalize away those things we never tried at all.

So keep trying new things! If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always gotten!

  1. Listen to hunches

Lucky people act on their intuitions across many areas of their lives. According to Wiseman, “almost 90 percent of lucky people said that they trusted their intuition when it came to personal relationships, and almost 80 percent said it played a vital role in their career choices.  About 20 percent more lucky than unlucky people used their intuition when it came to making important financial decisions, and over 20 percent more used their intuition when thinking about their career choices.”

Wiseman’s work shows that intuition isn’t magic and research has proven its validity. Wiseman describes intuition as occurring “when you’ve got expertise in the area, that somehow the body and the brain have detected a pattern that you haven’t consciously seen… When we were talking to our lucky people they would often say, “If I get a gut feeling about something I stop and consider it.” Even when unlucky people got those feelings, they didn’t follow them because they didn’t know where they came from. They were anxious about the world.”

So want to increase luck in your life? Go with your gut more often!

  1. Expect good fortune

Plain and simple — it’s optimism. You’re more likely to try new things, follow through on opportunities and have more success if you believe they’ll work out.  Oftentimes, that optimism gives lucky people more “grit.” When you think things will work out, you persevere. And when you’re resilient, you give possibilities more time to work out in your favor.

Skeptics might be shaking their heads right now…. but we all know people who aren’t just optimistic, they’re utterly deluded. Are you saying we should lie to ourselves? Well… kinda. Turns out that while pessimists do see the world more accurately, optimists are more likely to be lucky because those delusions push them toward opportunities.

Wiseman states that “lucky people are buying into positive superstitions. In studies we’ve seen that good luck charms do improve performance, whether it’s physical skills like playing golf or mental skills like memory tasks. The researchers found that by activating good luck beliefs, these objects were consistently able to boost people’s self-confidence and that this up-tick in self-assurance in turn affected a wide range of performance. Lucky thinking, it turned out in this study, positively affected people’s ability to solve puzzles and to remember the pictures depicted on 36 different cards, and it improved their putting performance in golf! In fact, people with a lucky charm performed significantly better than did the people who had none.”

A number of studies have shown that being a little deluded does bring benefits:

  • Superstitions can be performance enhancing.
  • Wishing someone luck makes them do better.
  • Irrational overconfidence increases productivity and improves teamwork.
  • “Self-deception has been associated with stress reduction, a positive self-bias, and
  • increased pain tolerance, all of which could enhance motivation and performance
  • during competitive tasks.”

The world can be hard. Sometimes life feels random, but research shows feeling you have some control, even if you don’t, is powerful!

  1. Turn bad luck into good

Lucky people aren’t always lucky, but they handle adversity differently than unlucky people.

  • Lucky people see the positive side of their bad luck.
  • Lucky people are convinced that any ill fortune in their lives will, in the long run, work out for the best.
  • Lucky people do not dwell on their ill fortune.
  • Lucky people take constructive steps to prevent more bad luck in the future.

How do you respond to disappointment? Giving up, getting gloomy and locking yourself in the house won’t help the world offer you better opportunities. According to Wiseman, “when things get tough you’ve got two choices: You can either fold or you can keep going. Lucky people are very resilient. I remember talking to one lucky person that had fallen down some stairs and broken his leg. I said, “I bet you don’t consider yourself quite so lucky now.” He said the last time he went to a hospital he met a nurse and they fell in love. Now the two of them are happily married 25 years later. He said, “It was the best thing that ever happened to me… So, yeah, things can look bad now, but the long term effect of this might be very, very positive.” That’s a very resilient attitude. Lucky people tend to have that sort of approach.”

Find the silver lining behind the cloud. And don’t assume there’s a cloud behind every silver lining.

So what did we learn? Wiseman’s research shows that by following these four principles, you increase your chances of having better luck. So maximize opportunities- keep trying new things, listen to hunches- especially if it’s an area where you have some experience, trust your intuition, expect good fortune- be an optimist… A little delusion can be good and turn bad luck into good luck- don’t dwell on the bad…. Look at the big picture.

So put a good luck charm in your pocket! It looks like science is telling us that believing in luck might not only be the best way to be deluded, it might also be the key to a better life!


*Taken from the article “How to become luckier, according to science” by Eric Barker

By: Amanda Keller, LCSW