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Recently I met up with a participant from one of my training events. She told me that she had just got her doctorate and went on to say how much the course had helped motivate her. I warmly congratulated her on her achievement, and she replied that she had been lucky. Lucky? I had to disagree.
She had worked really hard for every bit of that PhD, staying up late at night to study and managing to do a high powered day job really well to boot! She also had the support of friends, family and colleagues, which she described as 'luck', but which is freely given because she is a lovely person who helps others out whenever she can and receives help and good will in return. Her actions had caused her good 'luck'.
We often describe events as 'our good luck' when actually they are the result of hard work and preparation. Conversely, we sometimes deplore our bad luck when things don't go our way. Either way we are absolving ourselves from any responsibility in the matter. Random events do occur over which we have no apparent control, but, we do have control over how we respond to them and that, research has found, is what makes the difference between people who consider themselves lucky or unlucky.
Can You Make Yourself Lucky?
Well, the research would suggest that you can. My own experience of working with people over many years certainly bears this out. If you can change your habitual, unproductive (unlucky!) way of thinking you can change your behaviour. Changing your behaviour can produce a different result, one that you want and might just call lucky!
Dr Richard Wiseman spent several years researching with people who called themselves either lucky or unlucky. He and his team discovered some fascinating differences in how the two groups thought and behaved. People who described themselves as lucky were creating their own luck (like my PhD Friend) through their mental attitudes and behaviour. Having identified some basic principles about changing thoughts and behaviours the team then went on to teach these principles to the ones who considered themselves unlucky.
Almost all the participants reported significant life changes including increased levels of luck, confidence and success.
When training, I often play the Pollyanna game and would like to share it with you. In brief, the game involves looking for the positives in anything bad or unlucky that has happened. I usually do this in the context of managing change in the workplace but you can apply it to anything. For example, getting a redundancy notice is usually not great news but, if for a few moments, people can allow themselves to think creatively of all the possible good that might flow from it, like a new job with new friends, the opportunity to learn a new skill, create the perfect garden, use the time getting fit, and so on they can often turn their negative thought patterns around. Lucky people play this game all the time.
Here's another example. Parking in the nearest town to me is always difficult. Sometimes I have to park quite a distance from where I want to be and it can be stressful. So I have a little Pollyanna conversation with myself, about how lucky I am to have a car to park at all, how lucky I am that I can walk the distance into town, how lucky I am to be getting in a bit of exercise etc. I could spend the walk bemoaning my bad luck at having to park so far out of town, the fact that the drizzle of rain will make my fringe (bangs) curl, that too many tourists come to my town, etc.
If I adopt the second approach you would see a grumpy middle aged woman stomping through town with a scowl on her face and you’d probably avoid me. The first me though, is smiling and much more relaxed and do you know what, people smile back at me, reinforcing my feeling that all is well with the world and the virtuous circle begins. Don't stomp - smile!
Before I end this article, I'd like to tell you a story. I was with my daughter in Florida where we had been studying Myers Briggs. On the way back to the airport we ran out of petrol, on the freeway, four miles from the airport! Twenty minutes later we were still there, my daughter on the phone trying to get some help but being put on hold for a very long, unproductive amount of time.
Just as I was beginning to despair and wondering where we would spend the night, a white (yes it was white) pick up truck pulled up on the hard shoulder and a man stopped to ask what was wrong. We rather sheepishly told him we had run out of gas. He then drove off, left the motorway via a toll, bought us a spare tank, filled it and came back onto the motorway and poured it into our car. With great reluctance he accepted some dollars from us but he actually wanted nothing. He was simply being kind. I never got his name, although we thanked him profusely, but I feel sure he is a 'lucky' person. If you know anyone in Florida please forward them this link and you never know, he might just get to hear how grateful we are!
I hope this article has given you pause for thought and, that the next time you think you are unlucky you perhaps try the Pollyanna game. And maybe, just maybe, committing a random act of kindness will bring you 'luck', and at the very least stop the stomp! I wish you luck of your own making!
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