Some people seem to be born luckier than others. They always seem to be in the right place at the right time, regularly receiving good fortune. But does luck exist, or is it superstition?
The English dictionary defines luck as “the force that causes things to happen to you by chance, not as a result of your efforts or abilities.” Many believe luck is something you are naturally born with and driven by a higher power; thus, with this perspective, some people are regarded as lucky while others are seen as unlucky.
Finding a dollar on the street may seem like a lucky break. But it might be more precise to thank yourself for being attentive to your surroundings. Researchers across various disciplines, including psychologists, have attempted to decode whether there is a measurable aspect to what people understand as luck. Many studies have found that what a person might perceive as “luck” has more to do with psychology than probability. For them, “luck” is a positive attitude that keeps a person open to new opportunities or the ability to perceive patterns in random acts of chance. Check out some of the latest findings below.
A Chance Game
You just tossed four heads in a row; thus, the next one has to be tails, right? Wrong. The odds of tossing heads or tails are still 50-50, the same every time. Four heads in a row do not alter what happens on the fifth toss. It is called the “gambler’s fallacy.” However, according to one study, human brains seek patterns and can automatically pick up some very subtle yet essential statistical patterns in the environment.
When a person who has been winning takes safer bets, he will probably keep on winning because the bets are safer. However, when a person loses, he takes riskier bets to try to win, which results in more losses. The actual event the gambler bets on does not become any more or less probable, but past outcomes affect their future decisions. If they win, they fear they will likely lose the next time, so they compensate for it by making safer bets afterward.
Crossing your fingers, knocking on wood—most people do not know where superstitions like these come from, but many believe in them. And some superstitions may sometimes work, but not for the reasons people think they do. For example, not stepping on a sidewalk crack may avoid bad luck. But the bad luck is not some mysterious force but rather a misstep that could have occurred if the crack was uneven. In addition, people feel empowered when they act in ways they believe will benefit them in the long run.
Dr. Geraldine K. Piorkowski, in her book Beyond Pipe Dreams and Platitudes: Insights on Love, Luck and Narcissism from a Longtime Psychologist, deals with the role of luck in all our lives. While she does not discount the importance of talent and hard work, Piorkowski reminds her readers that a crucial part of success is simply being in the right place at the right time. “All you have to do is look at your own life and see how many experiences you’ve had that are a function of luck or chance,” she writes.
Using her experiences as a member of many university search committees as an example of the role of luck in obtaining a particular professional position, she notes that hiring decisions, success in sports competitions, and even appointments to the Supreme Court depend upon timing and the competition besides qualifications.
Even in the Olympics—a haven for superbly talented athletes, winning a gold, silver, bronze medal or finishing last depends to a degree upon your competitors and other conditions over which you have no control. “I don’t think we spend enough time talking about luck or chance, and as a result, people take too much credit for their successes and too much blame for their failures,” she added. Thus, people often wind up feeling grandiose or unworthy—neither of which is usually justified.
Seeing an old friend could be fortuitous, resulting in a rekindled romance or a profitable professional partnership. While these chance encounters cannot be controlled, people can increase their chances of success by putting themselves in situations where positive events are more likely to occur. An open, positive, go-getter attitude enables people to take advantage of available opportunities and even create new ones wherever possible.
To be “lucky,” one should move out of one’s comfort zone, be open to new experiences, and take growth-enhancing positive actions. That way, the chances of encountering success will be increased. All we can do is “our best” and hope that luck will follow.