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  • Published March 13, 2018

luck /lək/: the force that seems to operate for good or ill in a person’s life, as in shaping circumstances, events or opportunities 

Luck is best described as the chance happening of positive, negative or improbable events. When something good happens, we say we have “lucked out,” and we think of good luck as leading to increased opportunities and serendipitous occurrences. But would it surprise you to learn that science has a different explanation?

Richard Wiseman studied over 400 individuals for his book The Luck Factor, ultimately concluding that it is actually people’s own behavior and thinking patterns that are the cause of their good and bad luck. While chance encounters can happen to anyone, so-called “lucky” people take steps to maximize these opportunities.

You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play

In the Forbes article What is Luck, and Does it Affect Your Chances for Success we see that what people define as “luck” is really a matter of being open to possibilities as they arise. As a personal example, a few years back I was struggling with a medical issue that was baffling my regular doctor.  One afternoon, my mother called me excited about a chance connection she had made shopping that day.  While waiting in line, she struck up a conversation with the woman in front of her who happened to be a doctor in the exact field in which I needed expertise. When my mother explained my situation, the doctor gave her the name of an acupuncturist that she believed would be able to help me.  At first I was reluctant about this unfamiliar approach, but eventually I decided to give it a try.  After six weeks of the treatment, my condition was resolved and I have not had any further issues since then. 

For the longest time, I considered myself lucky that my mother happened to have met this women at the exact time that I needed help.  Now I realize that in actuality, I helped create my “luck” through my own actions.  Maximizing a chance encounter and being open to a new experience led to my success.  In reality, I could have come across this solution in a myriad of other ways too.

Test Your Own Luck

If you are feeling skeptical about the science behind luck, try the following:

  1. Reflect on the “lucky” things that have happened in your life recently; how much of this “luck” did you create because of the choices you made (or didn’t make)? Chances are that if you take the time to trace the steps that led to that particular outcome, some or all of it was a result of actions that you took.     
  2. Look for an area in your life where you could use a little luck. Set an intention to deliberately change your luck in this particular domain. Resolve to be more aware of your surroundings, share your needs with others and proactively take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.   See where this takes you!

Teach Your Students About Luck

The idea that we can help to create our own luck can be a powerful one in our classrooms. If students believe that they have influence on the positive events and success in their lives, they will be more likely to put effort into maximizing the opportunities that are available to them. Encourage your students to explore after-school clubs and programs. Remind them to take advantage of school resources when they need extra help with academics. Challenge them to ask questions when there are guest presenters or class trips. Above all, point out to them that it’s not all lucky circumstances, but their ability to seize opportunities that can help lead to successful outcomes in their lives.

Good Luck,

Bob & Jennifer

Author

Jennifer Faustman is the CEO of the Belmont Charter Network, a network of community schools dedicated to serving the individual needs of its students beyond the classroom.

Bob Szybist is the Director of Positive Education at Belmont Charter Network. Bob holds a Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) from the University of Pennsylvania.