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Why some people are luckier than others

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We all talk about situations in life that leave us feeling either lucky or unlucky, but what exactly is luck? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, luck is defined as “a force that brings good fortune or adversity; the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual; and favoring chance.”

Good luck is when we catch a break in life, and bad luck is when something goes wrong when we least expect it. If we think about the chance aspect of luck, then it would seem there’s no rhyme or reason to catching a bit of luck. But have you ever noticed that some people seem to be luckier than others?

You know the ones I’m talking about. These folks seem to encounter something wonderful around every bend. And it’s not just sour grapes or our imaginations. The phenomenon of lucky people is such a real thing that researchers decided to study it. What were they looking for? The key components and differences between lucky and unlucky people.

One of these researchers is Richard Wiseman, a British psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire. Wiseman began studying how luck comes about in people’s lives by delving into the traits of self-proclaimed lucky and unlucky individuals.

What did he find? Distilled down, Wiseman discovered that lucky people are more confident extroverted, while unlucky people are more prone to worry and anxiety.

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Wiseman notes that the lucky/extroverted folks were more likely to smile, make eye contact, and be sociable, while the unlucky/anxious folks were less likely to engage in potential luck-generating endeavors because they were hyper-focused on one thing, like their careers, for example. The biggest contrast Wiseman found was that lucky people are more open to new people and experiences, while unlucky people have a sort of tunnel vision in life.

During tasks associated with the study, Wiseman observed that participants who identified as lucky were more observant and optimistic. In general, they carried through life positive expectations, which translated into self-fulfilling prophecies; good things happened to them because they expected good things to happen. And if life took a negative turn, lucky people were able to identify the good in even the worst situations. In contrast, unlucky people focused only on the downsides to bad luck, not the positive elements like a challenge, personal growth, or learning a valuable life lesson.

Understanding that lucky people are not only consistent winners of chance but have a more positive outlook on life, are more open and optimistic and see the good in the bad, I’m sure we’d all like to have more good luck. Here are three ways you can make a positive change towards luck in your life:

1. Keep on the sunny side: Don’t be a Debbie Downer. By focusing only on the negatives life throws our way, we dampen our spirits (and the mood of those around us). Being pessimistic can also influence our expectations for the future, leading us to miss out on potential positive experiences. When you go from complaining about a bruised elbow to being grateful that it wasn’t any worse, life feels better. As a bonus – it becomes easier for us to let go of fear and to try new things.

2. Break the routine: We all crave some level of structure, but if we become too rigid, we can get stuck in a rut. This point extends to all areas of our lives, whether doing the same type of work, talking to the same people, or even eating the same food. When we expand our horizons by stepping outside our comfort zones, we can increase the likelihood of catching a lucky break.

3. Leave your mind (and your eyes) open: If you find yourself worrying about obtaining a goal endlessly, try to get out of the obsession spiral. When we are too focused on only one goal, we can unknowingly close ourselves off to other opportunities. When we adopt a more open attitude, we open ourselves up to new opportunities and lucky chances. Maybe we don’t get that new job, but something else wonderful unfolds for us that we never expected. The Dalai Lama said it best: “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”

While it’s easy to say other people’s good fortune and our own misfortunes are the result of luck, we have more control over our destinies than we give credit. Sure, some people are born with advantages and disadvantage, and often events happen that are outside our control. But why not control what we can and maximize our potential for good things to come our way?

Douglas MacArthur said, “The best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself.” With awareness and using the tools above, you can change your outlook on life and luck. By practicing gratitude, stepping outside your comfort zone, and opening yourself to new places, you might just find a bit of luck comes your way.

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