Apparently you can. Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, has spent the past decade studying what makes people luckier than others. We know these people: The ones who win random spot prizes, have golden opportunities land in their laps, nail their dream job, and their soulmate.
I’ve never believed that luck is random. Lotto is, sure. But not happiness, and that’s ultimately what people equate lucky people with. Wiseman understands this too and set out to rationalize it. As you might guess, thoughts and behavior play a major role in the situations we find ourselves in, and the opportunities we see and embrace.
One of Wiseman’s tests was to give both lucky and unlucky people, as they had deemed themselves to be, a newspaper. The task? Search through the sheets counting the number of photographs inside. The unlucky took about two minutes, while the lucky wrapped it up in just seconds. On the second page of the paper, Wiseman had planted a half-page message: “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” For fun he placed a second large message at the mid-point saying: “Stop counting. Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250.” The unlucky missed that too.
Wiseman’s conclusion is that unlucky people are generally much more tense and anxious than lucky people. They’re creatures of habit and don’t often listen to their gut instincts or act impulsively. They’re overly analytical, and as a result, don’t notice the unexpected. But it’s behavior that can be changed. Through Wiseman’s ‘luck school’ he got his volunteers to carry out exercises to make them behave like a lucky person. And it worked. As they say, you make your own luck.