Word Of the Week #567: Luck

June 11, 2015 by  

Luck: an unknown and unpredictable phenomenon that causes an event to result one way rather than another.

How many times have you had good things happen that were totally unexpected? When was the last time you recognized an opportunity and acted on it? How willing are you to take risks and be out of your “comfort zone?

This is the follow up to last week’s WOW from Parades Tom Brokaw’s lucky star article. Kathleen McCleary’s article featured an insert titled, 5 WAYS TO GET LUCKIER. A growing body of research says you can wield a powerful influence in your life. Here’s how.

“Open yourself up to serendipity and watch your luck improve.

  • PAY ATTENTION Curiosity, alertness, flexibility, courage, and diligence – they’re traits that prepare you to recognize opportunities and act on them. So are keen powers of observation. Several artists in Dr. Makri’s studies practice standing still every day to observe the world around them. Put down your cell phone. Step away from your computer screen. Look around.
  • OPEN YOUR CALENDAR A hyper-scheduled lifestyle can close you off to serendipity. Down time – walking, meditating, staring out the window – allows connections and patterns and ideas to reveal themselves. ‘Before I started working on serendipity I was very task-driven. I was not as willing to talk to anyone. Now I make sure I have unstructured time every week, and more opportunities seem to come to me,” Dr. Makri says.

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  • INCREASE YOUR ODDS If you try more things, more good things will happen, says Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University and author of Irrationally Yours: On Missing Socks, Pickup Lines, and Other Existential Puzzles. If you try 30 new things, at the end of the year you might count 15 good things that happened to you. But if you wait to try things only when you’re sure of success, you might count just three good things that happened that year.
  • TAKE CHANCES Just as Atkeson took a chance in changing careers at 48, serendipity is more likely to strike if you take risks or go outside your comfort zone – exposing yourself to new people, places, activities and information gives you the chance to make creative connections that lead to serendipity. Ariely went to an art gallery opening and met an artist interested in the social sciences. That connection led to Ariely lecturing on behavioral issues – dishonesty, self-control – while artists created art related to those concepts. The collaboration even led to a new class.
  • LET IT GO Research shows that a genetic variation in the brain makes some people naturally less anxious and better able to forget bad experiences, says Richard A. Friedman, clinical psychiatry professor at Weill Cornell Medical College. The ‘unlucky’ tend to ‘be data collectors for bad experiences’ – remembering every detail of negative events and weighing them all equally, so losing out on a great parking spot becomes just as awful as losing your mother’s heirloom diamond ring.”

This week’s focus is on luck. How task driven are you? How much unstructured time do you devote each day to just observe the world around you? How willing are you to take a chance and/or try new things? How many good things have happened to you this year?

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