Do you work hard, have the talent to achieve your goals, but feel like luck’s not on your side?
In Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow, he shares his favorite equation:
Success = talent + luck
Great success = a little more talent + a lot of luck
A lot of people bristle at the idea of luck being an important part of anyone’s success. After all, if it all comes down to luck, then what is the point of working hard?
But luck is a little bit different than that. Very few people will be wildly successful based on luck alone. Instead, it is about being someone who notices a lucky opportunity and thinks, “Yes, I’ll take it.” Those opportunities show up most for people who work hard, put themselves in situations where good luck can happen, and have the bravery to take it.
In this post, we want to dig into the idea of luck and help you find more opportunities to seize good luck and make yourself more successful. Because who doesn’t want a little boost to help make life more amazing?
What is luck? How you should think about it
We love an opportunity to learn, so first, we broke down the question of what is luck? Luck is commonly defined as something that favors chance, or as a force that brings good fortune (as in having good luck) or adversity (as in having bad luck).
There is an element of unpredictability to it; you don’t know when you’ll be lucky and you can’t control the frequency or place. And good luck feels so good; all of the pieces fit together, there’s surprise, joy, and even relief that things have a way of working out.
But luck, in practice, is more than this.
If you only think of luck as only a random phenomenon, like the end of a rainbow falling into your lap, chances are you’re not going to be lucky very often. Instead of thinking of luck as something that comes to you if and when it wants to, what if you can actually take concrete steps to seek out luck and set yourself up to be luckier?
You can actually create luck for yourself and increase your odds of being luckier. Studies have shown that if you want to turn your luck around, it’s as easy as believing you are a lucky person.
How can you cultivate more luck in your life, if you feel like you’re not a lucky person? Below we share our greatest ideas to do just that so you can be the luckiest you possible!
Increase your odds of being lucky by changing your thoughts and behavior
Can you see the silver lining in the clouds?
It’s there and you can increase your ability to see it. You’re not going to be lucky every day, in every way that you want or expect to be. That’s not realistic because with the good comes the bad in life. However, how you frame the bad makes all the difference in whether you consider yourself lucky.
Is there a silver lining to bad experiences, disappointing interactions, or difficult problems? Most likely, yes, and lucky people see it that way.
They aren’t deterred when something has gone wrong or if there’s a particularly tough challenge ahead, because they see the positive parts of these experiences too, which encourage them to continue. By seeing the silver lining, lucky people are more likely to stick with their goals until they are achieved, overcome challenges, and be open to new opportunities.
Practice finding the silver lining in your experiences, from the little things that frustrate you to the big picture items, by trying the following exercise from Greater Good in Action.
The site recommends doing the exercise once a day for three weeks to strengthen your ability to find the silver lining in things. I gave it a try one day:
List five things that make your life enjoyable, enriching, and/or worthwhile at this moment. This will help you shift your perspective into a positive state of mind about your life in general.
1. My loving husband
2. Feeling strong during my training workouts
3. Support from my family and friends in my career and personal goals
4. Chocolate gelato
5. The cool, refreshing breeze from the window
Next, think about the most recent time when something didn’t go your way, or when you felt frustrated, irritated, or upset.
I wasn’t offered a job I applied and interviewed for.
In a few sentences, briefly describe the situation in writing.
I applied for a job that was exactly the kind of work I saw myself doing. I prepared for the interview extensively and met with a career coach to practice; even though I was really nervous, the nerves went away once I was in the interview and started talking. I felt confident and conveyed my passion for the work. I’m disappointed and upset I didn’t get the job.
List three things that can help you see the bright side of this situation.
1. I honed my interviewing skills, practiced overcoming my nervousness, and updated my resume and cover letter.
2. Even though I wasn’t selected for this position, I was fortunate that they gave me an opportunity to interview, demonstrating that my skills are still relevant in this field. I tried my best so I have no regrets.
3. Years from now, I can share this experience with junior associates as an
example of how things have a way of working out in the end.
Give this exercise a try and see how it works for you!
Visualize how it could have been worse
Similar to finding a silver lining when you’re frustrated or upset, visualizing how an experience could have been worse makes you realize just how lucky you are and that things aren’t so bad.
It’s easy to lose perspective and be consumed by frustration or anger when faced with (what appears to be) misfortune. But in those moments, who and what are you comparing yourself to? For example, if you missed your bus to work this morning, are you:
Feeling very unlucky because you’re comparing yourself to people who can afford to have a car and park it at their destination, have the convenience of living within walking distance of work, have flexible hours, etc.?
- Feeling lucky and grateful because it could be worse if you consider people who have multiple transfers during their regular commute, don’t have access to a reliable bus system, have a strict start time with no flexibility, etc.?
Feeling unlucky, frustrated, and sad for yourself closes you off to opportunities that come from your experiences, and limits the ways in which you find creative solutions. If you think your commute could be worse by considering the alternatives, you open yourself up to seeing that there’s a bike sharing station nearby or a casual carpool option available that could be your backup on mornings like this. At a minimum, you won’t let this one moment negatively affect your entire day.
Studies show engaging in this type of thought process — simply imagining how a difficult, awkward, or bad situation could have been worse — makes you appreciate and feel gratitude for what you actually have or experience. It puts things into perspective and helps you realize how lucky you are.
And remember, just thinking that you are a lucky person increases your chances of being a luckier person!
Pick yourself up after you stumble…quickly
Everyone makes mistakes and experiences setbacks, but lucky people tend to pick themselves up more quickly and get back on their feet faster. Mistakes don’t deter lucky people from trying again and they are resilient to hurdles.
Why? Well, lucky people don’t assume it’s their lot in life to fail constantly. They see hurdles for exactly what they are; temporary slow-downs on the long road to success.
Next time you’re confronted with a negative experience, try gaining perspective on it by distancing yourself from it as if you were a neutral, third party observer.
By better understanding your feelings around an issue, you get perspective and you get to the bottom of a negative experience more quickly. Doing so sooner makes it easier to see things more abstractly – those “aha” moments, sudden realizations, and deeper levels of understanding are hard to access when strong emotions are involved.
And in these revealing moments, closure comes more readily and you can better prepare yourself for moving on and tackling the next phase of your goal.
Being open to new opportunities and experiences, taking risks, and saying yes to things that put you out of your comfort zone exposes you to more forks in the road and different paths that you never considered open or available to you. You’re more likely to encounter lucky situations and new people when you put yourself out there in new situations.
Sticking to your routine, doing the same thing each day in the same way won’t give you new or different results. If you see something that interests you, go for it! If it can propel you towards your goals, do it! Apply to that interesting job you happened to see, attend that event your coworkers were talking about, volunteer for a work-related conference, or sign up to help at your kid’s school.
One caveat to saying yes is finding the line between pushing yourself to trying something new versus taking part in something that is a waste of time or doesn’t advance you forward towards your goals; aim for the former, since your time is still your most valuable resource.
Saying yes more often is an investment in time and energy, but it’s an investment that could pay off big down the road. You just don’t know how yet and you’ll never know unless you try!
Build your network
If you can make luck with your own two hands, imagine how much more luck is created by all of the people you know? The larger your network is, the more likely you are to be exposed to different ideas, new knowledge, and unique opportunities; all are factors for increasing your odds of being luckier by putting you in the right place at the right time with the right people.
Growing your network is important, so if it’s not your forte, take baby steps:
- Practice friendliness and warmth through your body language when interacting with people; uncross your arms, make eye contact, and smile, smile, smile.
- Make small talk with people you have one-off encounters with, whether it’s with the cashier, someone waiting in line, or the flight attendant, as well as those people you see frequently. For example, if you see the same attendant at the gym when you check in each day, make an effort to have good eye contact, smile, ask him/her about their day, compliment their jewelry/clothing/hair style, use their name to greet them, etc. You never know what you might have in common or when that connection may lead to something down the road.
When you make people feel great, they want to be around you, and the more people that are around you, the more your will network grow. Even brief interactions can create more connections simply and with minimal effort.
How have you experienced luck in your life?
If you consciously practice making your own luck and have seen a difference in your life, share those lucky experiences with us on Facebook!