How to get lucky: a primer on changing habits

I’m not a believer in luck as a way of thinking about success, but that depends on how you define it. If luck means looking to external events, or depending on a talisman, like a four-leaf clover, for successful outcomes, then, I don’t believe in it. However, if you define luck as a mindset, then I’m a believer.

Richard Wiseman, an author and psychologist, did some interesting research on the concept of luck. Based on his study of over 400 persons ranging from 18 to 84 years old from all walks of life, he found that lucky people get that way following three basic behavioral principles:

  1. they seize chance opportunities;
  2. create self-fulfilling prophecies through positive expectations;
  3. and adopt a resilient attitude towards bad events.
Let me highlight Professor Wiseman’s research on the first principle, seizing opportunities.
He gave his subjects a newspaper and asked them to  tell him how many pictures were inside. Lucky people took about two seconds, while unlucky people spent about two minutes figuring it out. He concludes that lucky people see what is there rather than what they are looking for. Midway down the second page of the newspaper, he had placed the message, “Stop counting: There are 43 pictures in this newspaper.” In essence, the unlucky people were too busy counting pictures and failed to seize on the chance opportunity in the message.
Luck is about thought and behavior. In a separate piece of research, Professor Wiseman took participants who viewed themselves as “luckless”. He got them to commit to practising the behavioral techniques that would help them react like lucky people. After one month, eighty-percent of the participants were happier and more satisfied with their lives, and perceived themselves as luckier. Luck is indeed about how you respond to life.

In Breakview’s diversity/sensitivity course as well as the equality training course, we focus on helping people adjust their own attitude using the principles of luck. Dealing with co-workers in a respectful manner requires a shift in attitude.  It is not an elusive holy grail, but achievable.


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