What science reveals about lucky people

Luck can have a dramatic influence on any of us. A few seconds of misfortune can slam the brakes on years of effort, and an instant of good luck can lead to long-term success and happiness. Lucky people often achieve career success, meet their perfect partners and generally have happy lives. Their success is not always the result of working hard, being talented or having above-average intelligence.

There are other factors involved.

Luck is often thought of as success or failure by chance. This is not accurate since there are many ways to influence luck, for both good and bad.

Dr. Richard Wiseman, psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire in Britain, wrote a book called “The Luck Factor.” This book describes one of the first scientific studies on luck. It took several years to complete and involved interviews and experiments with hundreds of people.

Wiseman writes about several characteristics of lucky people. They seem to be able and willing to create, notice and act on chance opportunities. They are open to new experiences and learn to identify patterns or circumstances that may benefit themselves. Lucky people also have positive expectations about the future and expect their good luck to continue.

Lucky people are often willing to pay the price required for success.

They upgrade their skills and continually develop their talents. They understand that windows of opportunity are often short and they must act quickly. They are willing to look foolish and try new things. They “fail forward” and learn from their mistakes while turning around less-than-perfect situations.

The unlucky do the opposite. They rarely go out and meet new people.

They complain about their situation and believe that it is hopeless.

The unlucky are often more concerned with what the neighbors might think than how they could improve themselves. They rely too much on fate or chance.

Playing the lottery is a good example of how unlucky people operate.

Most who play know they have very little chance of winning anything, but they still dispose of their income on the lottery. CBS News reported that there were only three winners and more than 100 million losers in a Mega Millions lottery. The jackpot odds were 1 in 176 million.

Those in poverty are more likely to play the lottery, and they spend a larger percent of their income on these games of chance. There are big jumps in lottery purchases when the unemployment increases, according to a segment on CNN from December, 2013.

Plus, many lottery winners actually end up worse than when they started.

Approximately one third of lottery winners will eventually declare bankruptcy. These “winners” are so unfamiliar with financial literacy, budgeting or sensible investments that they quickly squander the vast fortune that they have won. Researchers found that more than 1,900 Florida lottery winners went bankrupt within five years. This suggests that lottery players were twice as likely to file for bankruptcy as the general population.

The good news is that luck is less about chance than a combination of preparation, persistence and a belief in yourself. We do seem to have some control over it.

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One of our regular community contributors, Rick Sheridan holds a doctorate in communications and teaches at Wilberforce University.