Sometimes it feels like the people around you have all the luck, but you can’t seem to catch a break: Your best friend gets a raise that allows her to buy a new car, but your old minivan gets sideswiped in the parking lot.
“It’s not true that luck dictates your life,” explains Morten Hansen, professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Information and co-author of Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All. “You have the opportunity to react to the luck you get. It’s your job to make the most of the good events – and that’s very empowering.”
What’s more, people we may call “lucky” weren’t just born under an auspicious star; rather, their actions and attitudes open them to the good turns in life. “By adopting these traits, you will be luckier tomorrow than you are today. It’s impossible to not have better things happen to you,” says Marc Myers, author of How to Make Luck: 7 Secrets Lucky People Use to Succeed. Follow these expert tips to make your own luck – no four-leaf clovers or rabbit feet required.
Capitalize on Your Good Fortune
If you strike up a conversation with a parent at the playground whose company just happens to be hiring, you can chalk it up to luck. But it’s up to you to follow through. “To get a high return on good-luck events, you have to see them coming your way and seize that opportunity,” says Hansen. The next time you catch a break, make a list of follow-up steps that will make the most of that luck, and schedule time in your calendar to complete them.
Be Forever Curious
“Curiosity will help you be luckier, because people will be more likely to help you,” says Myers. For instance, when you’re around someone you want to impress – such as a boss, a new friend or a potential client – ask questions and listen rather than showing off your knowledge. Being humble could get you a new donor to your charity or a favor from your town’s top real estate agent.
Think of People as Opportunities
Everyone you meet is a potential mentor, friend or coworker. The woman you meet at a cocktail party may run a nonprofit in a field you’re passionate about. The mom sitting next to you at the PTA meeting may be looking for someone to help her start a new business. But again, it’s up to you to make the most of your chances.
“It’s easy to say you don’t have time, but you need to make a point of pursuing that friendship,” says Hansen. Before you step away from a promising encounter, invite that person to coffee or set up a meeting. You’ll be surprised at the good fortune that will roll your way.
Put a Smile on Your Face
Happy people tend to be more successful, shows research from Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside, and author of The How of Happiness. Those with a sunny disposition are more likely to get the things that are often associated with “lucky” people: job interviews, a satisfying career, supportive friends, a healthy love life and better problem-solving abilities.
Not naturally cheerful? Then try smile-inducing strategies, says Lyubomirsky. Keep a journal in which you imagine your best possible future. Do favors for friends and strangers alike. Pursue a goal that’s meaningful to you. You’ll be in a better mood and reap happiness’s good-luck benefits.
Now that you’re on a lucky streak, talk up recent good surprises — without bragging. If you happen to get bumped up to first class, say to your seatmate, “I’m so grateful to stretch my legs!” instead of “It’s about time I got a good seat.” You just might attract more prosperity: “By projecting that lucky image, you’ll intrigue those with opportunity, and they’ll want to become part of your narrative” by offering to help you network or find a job, for example, says Myers.
Also remember to send a thank-you note afterward to anyone who helped you. They’ll be more likely to lend a hand in the future. This advice won’t help you win Powerball, but with so much good fortune, who needs the lotto?