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Monday, 6 January, 2003, 09:40 GMT
Do you make your own luck?
We all rely on an element of luck to get by. But have you ever considered where it comes from?
Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire has spent eight years looking into what makes some people consistently lucky and others repeatedly unlucky.
He has concluded that it is a person's approach to life that matters more than intelligence or psychic ability.
Dr Wiseman devised four principles of luck, which he has taught to a group of unlucky people at his 'Luck School'.
He estimates he has reversed the fortunes of around 80% of his previously jinxed pupils.
Are you convinced? Do you think we make our own luck? Or is it simply something that comes our way? Would you consider yourself lucky or unlucky?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Unfortunately, sometimes it's easier to make bad luck than good. If you play golf in a thunderstorm and get hit by lightening you've helped make bad luck but there is very little legal that you can do to improve your chances of winning the lottery.
Gary Player, the golfer said something about luck, along the lines of, "...the harder I practice the luckier I get!"
John W, NZ/UK
Yes and no. Luck is a point where the road of preparation intersects the road of opportunity.
Confident people are less likely to be dented by failure and so will only seem luckier when really they're no more successful than anyone else. There's no such thing as luck.
If you are in the right place at the right time, it means somebody else isn't. There are many things out of our control, maybe it is just destiny or something. A good way to decrease your odds of winning anything, in life or otherwise, is to do nothing. Find good luck before bad luck finds you.
Luck is just statistics. If you toss six billion coins repeatedly, some of them will come up heads for a very long time. Are they 'lucky' coins? I'm surprised no one has mentioned chaos theory yet - there may be an underlying system that we do not understand, but we see certain patterns or aberrations and perceive them as luck, whereas they are just part of the whole structure - a small eddie in a large ocean. I'm going to have a lie down now.
Sometimes fortune favours the foolish. Not long ago, a woman in Russia, said to be a heavy drinker, hit a $1 million jackpot, the first time she bought a lottery ticket. There are thousands of people who have been studiously spending lots of money on lottery tickets but have not got anything so far.
It's easy to think positive if good things happen to you but very difficult to keep thinking positive if all you get is knockbacks. There are definitely people out there who don't seem to have to try very hard at life.
"You make your own luck" is what lucky people say to unlucky people.
Keep your head down, play safe, and man the barricades, if you will but the fresh ideas and opportunities won't bother to com your way.
We don't need psychologists to tell us this - do we?
'Luck' can be a misused word. It is given to very few people to be on the receiving end of genuine 'luck'. Mostly, our lives are what we make them and how we deal with things. I was redundant from March last year to November and now have a good new job - but this was only after a great deal of exhaustive job hunting and a lot of rejections. I don't consider luck to have been a factor; what I gained was through perseverance, effort and having the right attitude.
Lucky is spending eight years 'looking into what makes some people consistently lucky' and being paid for it!! I think I am going to go research the pubs of Norwich. Now, where do I sign up for my grant?
Kindness, that's what enhances life and makes you feel lucky.
Luck is as man-made a state as time - non-existent but vital to define for the sake of our sanity.
My husband and I have been to hell and back in the 20 years we have been together. Redundancies, family deaths, car accidents, loss of home, illness, and the icing on the cake is that my own mother ignores me in the street because of her racial prejudice towards my husband. Would we consider ourselves lucky or unlucky? Lucky, because through all of this we have stayed together, we have good health and most importantly we have each other.
This seems to be one of those courses in the "bleeding obvious" that gives universities a bad name. Luck is simply the interpretation one puts on events that occur by chance. One can easily reduce the probability of such events by a little thought. Staying in bed, for example, would be a good way to avoid most things considered lucky or unlucky!
I'd like to know more about the methodology of this study. It appears lucky people were defined by how they described themselves and unlucky people likewise. I'm lucky if I say I am.
Life is a series of random events. No amount of positive thinking, or initiative, or hard work, willpower or decisiveness will change that. Lazy people are often successful; hard workers often fail; good people are often punished whilst evil ones laugh last. To think otherwise is to mistakenly believe that the universe is moral and meaningful.
The old adage is 'chance favours the prepared mind'. If you are always looking for the good, and prepared to take that chance when it appears - however briefly - then you will have good 'luck'. Simple!
There is no such thing as luck. The reason why some people do well while others do badly is all down to opportunity and motivation, which in turn is created by society.
My aunt was a stewardess with a holiday airline in the 1970s. She had a day off, but sickness of a colleague meant she was asked to work. On the way to the airport, her car broke down, and she should have missed the flight, but technical delays meant she actually arrived in time. The flight took off from Manchester that day, but two hours later crashed into the Pyrenees mountains killing all on board. I'm afraid on that day, outrageous fortune triumphed over her positive attitude.
I believe that luck is definitely based upon positive outlook and making the most of the opportunities presented to you. Life is a random game which you need to be adaptable enough to deal with. Luck is a human creation. If we perceive ourselves to be lucky, we are just noticing the positive patterns in our lives, rather than the negative.
I choose positive.
To suggest that luck can be engineered is to redefine the meaning of the word luck.
I disagree with the anonymous person from London who claims that luck by definition cannot be engineered. I think we need to acknowledge the difference between chance and luck. Chance relates to unforeseen or unforeseeable events whose outcomes are in the lap of the gods. Luck is surely about large or small pieces of good fortune which occur, engineered or otherwise, and isn't this largely dependent upon the individual's attitude and how one perceives "good fortune"?
Who said - "It's attitude and not aptitude that achieves altitude?"
It's always worked for me.
I don't believe there are naturally lucky and unlucky people - just some people who are more or less resourceful than others. Someone who thinks of 20 ways they might get the lucky break they need in their life is a lot more likely to get one than someone who only thinks of one.
From what I have seen positive thinking people tend to do better and have more luck because they believe things will be happen for them. They are healthier, more successful and able to overcome hurdles easier. The two seem inextricably linked.
As my Dad used to say to me - "If you can do something to change it, do it. If you can't stop it happening then worrying won't help." If you see the glass as half full instead of half empty then you will have a more positive time of things as you walk through life!
I definitely agree with the findings. If you think positive and believe you can do things then it's a massive step towards achieving your goals. I think the Channel 4 series "Faking It" is an excellent example of people who had previously thought they couldn't achieve anything yet were able to live up to their full potential in the right environment. You have to create your own opportunities and make the most of them!
It took him eight years to discover those four principles? Those principles have been known for a long time and are already documented in many self-development books. What's more, they are common sense. However, people will hopefully now believe these principles more.
As the great golfer Gary Player once said, "The more I practice, the luckier I get."
People who complain of being unlucky very often simply lack initiative and, to some level, enjoy the sympathy which comes from playing the martyr.
Those people who equate 'luck' with winning the Lottery - ie getting something for nothing - are greedy and lazy. This prevents 'luck' happening. Your attitude creates your own 'luck'. Be proactive, humble, learn from failure, grateful for success and have positive expectations from what you do. It DOES work.
If you are in a good mood, you'll remember the things that went well. If you're in a bad mood, you'll remember the things that went wrong. It's as simple as that.
All a positive attitude does is massage your memory - the world doesn't bend over backwards to please you!
In essence, a 'lucky' person is one who refuses to be crippled, victimised or ghettoised by a random, unhappy events and moves on. Perhaps there is the making of a reality TV show here. Take some people who are positive and some who are negative, place them in identical situations with tasks to perform and then inflict some 'good' and 'bad' luck on them.
Chris B, England
Life is not about luck, it is about chances. You either take them or you let them pass. But be aware that you will only have very few big chances during your lifetime. They may seem daring or daunting, but with enough determination you can see them through. People around you may interpret this as "luck" but it is in fact hard work to turn a little bit of luck into lasting success.
People expect life to go their way. If it doesn't, they say its "bad luck". When unexpected favourable events occur, they say its "good luck". Minimise bad luck by planning and hard work but dismiss good luck as unplanned coincidences and don't dwell on them - if you accept good luck, you must accept bad.
A relative of mine won the lottery five years ago and is now broke.
Is he lucky or unlucky? Either - it's up to him. In the words of Kipling:
"If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same ..."
Be prepared for an opportunity - that's luck.
Without wishing to sound too much like David Brent, life is a series of peaks and troughs. If you treat each bad occurrence as a learning experience, and something that will help you to avoid future mistakes, then something positive has come out of it. We all die one day - there's no point in wasting your time dwelling on the bad points. You may as well enjoy the ride.
Of course life is what you make of it. If anyone doesn't know this yet then perhaps Dr Wiseman's school is what they need.
My approach to life can make help me with the lottery? Dr Wiseman will be a lucky luck man if he gets us to swallow that. He clearly has been attending his own school.
I think it is a myth we all get good and bad luck - it levels itself out in time
I believe that luck exists ... elsewhere.
The lucky are those who work hard. The lazy don't get lucky. Observation and experience, though; not science.
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