People have commented over the years that I tend to be lucky. I’ve wondered why this might be, and then I read an article recently that I think explains a lot.

First off, I should explain that I’m not talking about gambling.  I am not going to tell you how to pick winning lottery tickets, nor will I endorse any other form of gambling.  For one, I’m very frugal so if I pay money I want to make reasonably sure I’m getting something in return. The closest I come to gambling is ordering stuff off the internet.  Besides, the fact that there are organizations to help people overcome gambling addictions tells me that it’s something I don’t want to get mixed up with.

Next, I’m not talking about some new-agey law of attraction whereby you think you can manipulate the universe into giving you what you want.  I’m also not talking about horseshoes, rabbit feet or any other “luck charms” that are treated as magic amulets.

What I mean when I say luck isn’t actually luck at all—instead it is the result of specific, deliberate actions. The cool part of this means that you can learn these things too and put them into practice in your life.

A researcher named Richard Wiseman set about to study luck. He wondered if “lucky” people differed in their behaviors and attitudes from others. He took two groups of people: those who considered themselves lucky, and those who did not. He gave them the task of counting pictures in a newspaper. In large type—in an ad that took up half a page—was this: “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” The lucky people saw it and stopped counting; the unlucky ones somehow missed it and continued the tedious task.

Wiseman summed up that he thought the unlucky people were so focused on one particular goal that they overlooked other opportunities. He also felt the lucky group was able to create situations for fortunate events, and that they reinforced their expectations of luck through positive attitudes. Unlucky people tended to be stuck in the same habits and routines, leaving little opening for new experiences that are crucial for lucky breaks to occur.

For my part, I’m known for winning tickets to performances from the local classical music station. (I’m so used to listening to this station, and the announcer’s voice is so familiar to me, that I was once in line at a play and heard the conversation of the people behind me.  I turned around and exclaimed “I know that voice!”  He smiled, as I’m sure he gets that a lot.)

The first thing to keep in mind to creating your own luck is to pay attention to the world around you. I am now so conditioned to listen for the words, “I have a pair of tickets…” that I’ve been dialing the phone before he finishes the sentence, “…that I’ll be giving away later this hour.” Oops. There have also been occasions when I’m so enthusiastic about trying to win that I’ve called in for tickets and didn’t know what the performance was until after I actually won them.

So you must notice the opportunity, then you have to act on it. Often some boldness helps too. One of the great things about Bloomington is all the free stuff given away to students to entice them to a local business. I have no problem walking up to a table that is advertising free cookies to ask if I can have one. In these cases I do disclose that I’m not a student but as often as not, the answer will be that they have plenty and are happy to give me one. And if they don’t, then the worst thing that happens is that I’m cookieless. I was cookieless before I asked so it’s not really a dramatic change of circumstances.

I think it’s a matter of getting away from thinking that this won’t work, or saying I can’t do that—rather than asking why, ask why not? You might go to a few free shows and have some good stories to tell. Best of all, you’ll know that you can cultivate the behaviors to make these occurrences more frequent so that you too can join the ranks of the lucky.

(PS: This week I won lunch, complete with limousine ride, for my office from a different radio station. When a coworker asked with curiosity how I managed this, I replied simply that I entered the contest—I went to the website and completed the form to try to win. Who knows, maybe I was the only person who even submitted an entry this past week. I don’t really care; I’m just happy to get a free meal!)