And just like that, 2017 is finally behind us. Our social media feeds are, once again, filled with resolutions, wishes of a better year, and grainy mobile videos of year-end parties and fireworks.
It will be the “Yellow Mountain Dog” (Year 4715 on the Chinese calendar) on Feb. 16, 2018 and astronomy and Feng Shui experts are already sharing tips on which lucky numbers and colors would bring good fortune.
As the Gregorian calendar marks a new year for us to look forward to, many Asians (and others who have embraced Chinese new year rituals) are already wondering how their luck would fare in 2018. For those who are not inclined to look beyond the stars to help improve their luck, however, science suggests a different approach: look within ourselves.
According to Dr. Richard Wiseman, a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the U.K., being lucky has more to do with psychology than probability. His research findings posit that “lucky” people are good at finding and/or making their own opportunities, creating self-fulfilling prophecies via positive expectations and possess a resilient attitude that enables them to transform a negative experience into something good for them.
Wiseman discovered that almost 40% of what we assume is pure chance is actually reinforced by the way that we think. Since people essentially make their own luck, he explained that “being lucky” is a skill to be learned. To improve one’s luck, he recommends four principles one can adopt to help create good fortune:
Amazing things will only happen if you make yourself available to them. Sounds simple?
In one of the studies he conducted, Wiseman instructed participants to count the number of photos inside s newspaper. It took one group of people (unlucky) 2 minutes to complete the task, while the other (lucky) took only a few seconds. The latter group noticed the note on page two that said “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”
“Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else,” Wiseman explains. “They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain types of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs.”
Putting yourself out there, regardless if it makes you uncomfortable is bound to make a difference. People we often consider “lucky” are those who not only find and act upon chance opportunities, but also create them. Opportunities start opening up for people who aren’t focused in just one direction.
Listening to Lucky Hunches
Based on the interviews with his works’ participants, Wiseman found that the “lucky” group of people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. In his book Lucky Factor, Wiseman explained: “Almost 90 percent of lucky people said that they trusted their intuition when it came to personal relationships, and almost 80 percent said it played a vital role in their career choices.
“About 20 percent more lucky than unlucky people used their intuition when it came to making important financial decisions, and over 20 percent more used their intuition when thinking about their career choices,” he added.
He noted in an interview with Fortune that dismissing an intuitive feeling may cause someone to miss out on “a massive font of knowledge that you’ve built up over the years.”
“We are amazingly good at detecting patterns,” he was quoted as saying. “That’s what our brains are set up to do.
Expecting Good Fortune
While successful people expect themselves to be lucky, others expect to fail, causing them to quit early or even before they start.
“Lucky people are certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune,” Wiseman wrote. “These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure, and shape their interactions with others in a positive way.”
A study by Barbara Fredrickson on positive thinking further revealed that “positive emotions momentarily broaden people’s attention and thinking, enabling them to draw on higher-level connections and a wider-than-usual range of precepts or ideas.”
With a confident drive, positive people then tend to exert more effort, become more skilled and eventually become “luckier” than others.
Turn Bad Luck to Good
How an individual handles adversity also separates the lucky and the unlucky people. By not dwelling on the negative and imagining how things could have been worse, the lucky ones are able to cope with, and often even thrive upon, the misfortunes that they encounter. Lucky people take control of the situation instead of being controlled by it.
“Unlucky people say, ‘I can’t believe I’ve been in another car accident.’ Lucky people go, ‘Wonderful. Yes, I had a car accident, but I wasn’t killed. And I met the guy in the other car, and we got on really well, and there might be a relationship there.’ What’s interesting is that both ways of thinking are unconscious and automatic. It would never occur to the unlucky people to see it a different way,” Wiseman told Fortune.
Science tells us that luck favors only those who make room for it and while it is easier said than done, there is certainly no harm in trying in opening yourself up for opportunities. And if traditional beliefs will help reinforce a positive outlook for the new year, then go wear your polka dots shirts and red underwear and be more confident in advancing towards achieving your goal.