Secrets of a Happy Life: Learning How to "Get Lucky"

“I’m a great believer in luck, and the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

— Thomas Jefferson

In one of my previous blogs, Luck & Love, I discuss how some of our success in both love and life is simply out of our control.  That being said, we do know that luck is at least partially self-induced.  So-called lucky people often employ ways of thinking and behaving — whether consciously or subconsciously — that actively increase their good fortune.

UK Professor Richard Wiseman spent 10 years researching this concept.  In his paper, The Luck Factor, he explains that generating luck often comes down to four basic principles: increasing the potential for new and chance opportunities; making positive decisions based on intuition; creating self-fulfilling prophecies by way of a positive mindset; and developing a resilient attitude.  Similarly, Jonathan Fields of the Good Life Project has proposed a formula to help us get lucky.  Luck, he states, equals “(Quality + Volume)/ Serendipity + Openness”.  This may look complicated, but it breaks down to mean that 3 out of the 4 “factors” involved in luck can be impacted by our thoughts and actions.  We may not be able to manufacture coincidence or accidents of fortune (Serendipity), but we can increase our luck by creating work of value and substance (Quality); by putting ourselves and our work out into the world in greater amounts or with greater frequency (Volume); and being ready and willing to make the best of the opportunities that present themselves (Openness).

Now I don’t know about you, but I am certainly open to the idea of bringing more good fortune into my life!  And how exactly can this be done?  Well, after mulling it over and reviewing the literature, I’ve come up with what I believe to be some simple “luck-generating” strategies.  I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions, too!

1. Trust Your Intuition

When making decisions, go with your gut.  This is not the same as being reactive and impulsive.  Instead, we need to be mindful and present and trust our instincts.  Intuition has been described by poet Clarissa Pinkola Estes as the “direct messenger of the soul”.  The next time you need to make a decision, take a breath and tap into how you feel.  Instead of jumping to do what you think you “should” do, ask yourself what you really want and pause to listen.  Some people find it helpful to meditate, go for a walk, write a journal, or even dance or paint to get in touch with their emotions and creativity.  It is also important to be honest with ourselves and take ownership of our actions and inactions as well as our missteps and successes. Trust me — we all do it sometimes, but it doesn’t help to whine and wallow in self-pity or apathy.  Helplessness is a learned behaviour we can conquer by believing in our abilities and having the courage to be authentic and accountable.

2. “Fortune Favours the Bold”

Don’t let your fears dictate or limit your behaviour.  Believe in yourself, be your own best friend and advocate.  Ask for what you want.  Speak-up, participate and persevere.  You never know when opportunities will arise, so keep trying.  And pace yourself — life is not a race.  Work at resilience and strive to maintain perspective and adaptability in the face of adversity.  I have said it before, and will say it again: this is hard.  We all struggle with it.  It gets easier with practice and baby steps do add up!

3. Be Positive (or fake-it-til-you-make-it)

Positive expectations can become self-fulfilling prophecies.  We can improve our luck by adopting a positive attitude and practising optimism and gratitude (click here to read my blog, “The Gift of Gratitude”).  I say practise because we need to actively acknowledge what we are grateful for and take steps to see and speak the upside of things.  Sometimes this feels downright impossible: many of us face challenges and tragedies that seem devoid of any ‘silver lining’.  The message here is not to minimize anyone’s suffering.  However, we can make a point of being cognizant of what we have, what we appreciate, and what we have learned from both our wins and our losses.  When we stop, breathe, and take a look at the big picture, we often realize how lucky we already are!  One way to facilitate this happening more easily is to work on catching our negative self-talk and replacing it with positive statements and affirmations.  It is also important to minimize making judgements and derogatory comments about others.  In the end, our words are a mirror and they reflect back on us.

4. Discover the Art of Feng Shui

I am not suggesting that we need to study the complexities of this ancient Chinese philosophy, but we can all work to minimize clutter, get organized, and strive for a calm and peaceful environment.  This involves being thoughtful and intentional about both our physical surroundings and the people we spend our time with.  As Gretchen Rubin says, “outer order contributes to inner calm”.  When we sift through the debris, we are better able to focus, concentrate and see our options and opportunities with clarity and insight.  

5. Look, Learn and Take Risks

Lucky people tend to embrace curiosity and seek opportunities for challenge, change and growth.  As I mentioned above, you have to see your lucky breaks to take advantage of them.  Be proactive, ask questions, use all of your senses, and hone your powers of observation.  It is important to remain open-minded to possibility.  Sometimes you literally have to force yourself to go beyond your comfort zone — again, baby steps! — and take educated, calculated risks.  Actively introduce variety into your life, expose yourself to new people and experiences, and shake-up your routine.  This can involve anything from taking a class or course in something that interests you, to trying out a new coffee shop or striking up a conversation with a stranger while waiting in line at the neighbourhood grocery store.  Remember that your “failures” are growth and learning opportunities.  Use them to improve and guide you in new and better directions instead of allowing them to shut you down.

6. Get Social

Lucky people know people.  Build connections, take time to network, and seek out positive, growth-mindset-oriented individuals who motivate and inspire you.  What if you are an introvert like me?  Even then, you can engage in time-limited, controlled periods of purposeful extroversion.  It may feel completely exhausting, but remember there are often benefits to pushing outside your comfort zone.  

And, last but not least...

7.  Good Karma

This is perhaps my favourite tip of all: Help.  Be compassionate, friendly and encouraging.  Take time to consider the needs and perspectives of others.  We often get what we give.  Better still, engaging in acts of kindness not only makes us lucky, it also makes us happy.  There is something to be said for Good Karma.