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3 Ways to Improve Your Luck

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We all know people who seem to have great opportunities fall into their laps. Maybe you’re one of them.

Is it luck? The result of hard work? Or a combination, as the Roman philosopher Seneca put it, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

That’s a pretty good definition. The secret to being lucky is recognizing opportunity. In a study with two groups of people who considered themselves either lucky or unlucky, a British researcher gave members of both groups a newspaper and asked them to count the photos inside. The lucky people took only a few seconds, while the unlucky took about two minutes. Why? The lucky group had seen a notice on the second page that told them 43 photos appear in the paper.

The opportunity was available to everyone, but only the lucky people saw it. Some of the discrepancy is due to temperament. Unluckly people tend to be more tense than lucky ones, and “research has shown that anxiety disrupts people’s ability to notice the unexpected,” wrote Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, Wiseman in the Daily Telegraph.

Regardless of where you currently fall on the personality scale,  you can increase your odds of getting lucky.

Three ways to get luckier

Follow Your Intuition. Lucky people pay attention to their hunches. They notice how something feels to them, which helps them make the right choices. Respecting your instincts is important, as a gut-check can often tell you if something is right for you. Relying solely on thinking things through can lead you down the wrong path, as people can rationalize just about anything.

Change it Up. The more stuck in a routine that you are, the less likely you are to come across opportunities. Wiseman found the unlucky people tended to take the same route to work, go to the same places, and talk to the same people. If you want to increase your luck, whether to find a new job or to land a great deal on an apartment or even meet more potential spouses, you have to introduce more variety into your life. As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.

Focus on the Good–Always. Bad things happen to everyone. That may be out of your control, but what is in your control is your perspective. “Lucky people tend to see the positive side of their ill fortune. They imagine how things could have been worse,” he says. One of his test subjects fell down and broke his leg, but commented that he might have broken his neck.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and iVillage.com, among others.