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I’m lucky… or unlucky. How to understand that?

Luck and bad luck are topics that are deeply rooted in our culture and language. They are so widespread that even non-superstitious people believe in it. On the other hand we have people, who discard this kind of thinking and say it has no place in reality. And so a question emerges, whether is it really such a black-and-white matter. Do talismans and other tricks have no influence on our “luck”? And do we have influence over it? The answer might be less obvious than you think.

I’m so unlucky…

Are you unlucky? You missed your bus and the passing driver splashed you with water from the puddle, and all this on a day of a very important presentation that your raise depends on? Even if all that didn’t happen to you personally, you surely know someone who constantly has these kind of situations. A person that misfortune follows every day to the point that they can’t remember the last time something went right for them. These situations make it seem as if the Universe itself as it in for that person and they don’t even try to fight it anymore. After all, why bother if it’ll all come crashing down like a house of cards anyway? Exactly…

I’m so lucky!

Or maybe the opposite is true for you? Wherever you go, everything goes great. Every project you come up with goes smoothly and you reach the goal according to plan. Your hard work always pays, people like you, your bus always arrives on time and you have no problem naming a few lucky situations. A true lucky duck, or “born lucky”. Those, who do not understand your phenomenon, might be jealous, speculate or even call you an opportunist. But you just do things right even when you don’t really believe in your own supernatural luck or good fortune.

Good and bad fortune. What is it?

These descriptions might seem extreme, but they aren’t completely improbable. An unlucky person will really feel as if their effort goes to waste, while a lucky one might seem as if they could emerge from any situation “with the shield”. And it doesn’t have to be just because of a series of lucky or unlucky accidents!

It is common knowledge that people can react differently to similar situations. It is very evident when it comes to defeats and failing. In psychology this difference is called locus of control.

People with external locus of control:

  • Seek the reason of failure in external influences
  • See less correlation between their actions and outcomes
  • Feel a greater sense of randomness and chaos in their lives

People with internal locus of control:

  • Seek the reason of failure in their own actions
  • See the direct and indirect consequences of their actions
  • Feel a lesser sense of randomness and chaos

In short, the first type believes that external conditions and coincidences have more control over their lives, while the second type believes it is their choices and actions that shape their life.

Another thing that can greatly influence our life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is a situation where our expectations influence our behaviour, which makes us unconsciously lead to confirming them. For example, if we hear that a certain person is mean before we meet them, we might unconsciously look for falsehood in every gesture and sentence, but also to be curt or even hostile towards them, which may lead to having a negative relationship with this person.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is one of the many forms of self-sabotage, meaning deeply internalized fears and stances which can lead to behaviours that prevent us from reaching a goal that we seem to want. Self-sabotage can take on the guise of recklessness or even a pessimistic outlook. It is a way our brains are trying to metaphorically trip us up to prevent us from going out of our comfort zone or making a decision that we might not feel ready for.

This knowledge and a moment of self-reflection are a great help with combating the haunting bad fortune and understanding what can help us succeed. After all, noticing the problem is the first step to resolving it. Of course, it is just the first step on the journey towards happiness, but there are quite a few methods and psychological tricks that can make changing our attitude and fortune a bit easier. Now that’s luck!

Reducing bad fortune and preserving luck.

Once we realise what the trouble is, we should proceed to gradually solving it. Permanently changing your thinking and attitude is not a simple task. Fortunately, psychology supplies us with tools that can help us during the various stages of our change.

  1. Autosuggestion. It operates on the same principles as self-fulfilling prophecy, meaning it subconsciously “riggs” our brain towards positive result of a situation. It works by repeating to ourselves our tasks, aim or stances that we want to achieve. They can be small things, like “I can do one more exercise”, as well as bold statements, like “being the most professional and trustworthy person on the team”. The key to this method is believing at least a little bit in the thing we want to “suggest” ourselves. Even a simple “I can do it”  if it’s repeated regularly and with belief, can lift our mood and shift the attitude!
  1. Visualizing. Some people have a habit of creating very detailed visions of their failure, doing themselves a big disservice. Fortunately, the same power of imagination can be used to combat it. Visualization is a powerful tool with scientifically proven benefits. During an experiment if was confirmed, that during focusing on visualizing a certain exercise, the brain exhibits similar activity as during physically performing this exercise! This trick can be especially useful for people who easily succumb to stress. Imagine yourself in great detail overcoming and stressful situation. It will help you soothe the nerves and approach the obstacle with a calmer attitude.
  1. Talismans. It may sound ridiculous, but it’s true that various symbols can be a great support, or even a “shortcut” to summoning a certain vision or self-confidence. It can be a personal item, as well as some more universal symbols, meaning of which is important to us. Duh, it can even be an outfit of a piece of clothing that we find comfortable and uplifting. A good pair of underwear or our favourite keyring, that summons pleasant memories, can help us regain the balance in a tense situation and add some confidence.

In the last case, however, it is worth to remember that these are just helpful tools and not miraculous solutions to all our problems. They serve to support us on our journey, not do it for us. Nothing can substitute gradual and systematic self-improvement, but the methods mentioned above can definitely make it easier.

Does it work…

I would love to confidently say that since various traditions and symbols are so widespread then they must work for sure. Unfortunately, the human brain is a master of doctoring evidence to support a thesis and using selective memory, which is why we have to reach for authentic research.

After all, anecdotal evidence is not the only one in favour of the methods explained before. Many experiments confirmed that something as simple as wishing someone “good luck” can affect the outcome positively. In the case of throwing a basketball, on the other hand, it was noted that people who visualised the shot beforehand scored 23% more than people who didn’t. A similar experiment, except with the use of “lucky items”, was performed among professional sportspeople.

As it turns out, sportsmen and sportswomen are one of the most superstitious social groups! The people, who had their “talismans” taken away scored worse not only in comparison to other contestants, but also to their own previous scores. So it seems that although the existence of luck, fortune, or a different “higher power” is a matter of debate the positive effects of  visualisation, suggestions and talismans is not.

Our attitude can have a gigantic effect on the way our life goes. Various psychological tricks and and methods that may seem weird or absurd can help you, if you use them “smartly”. After all, their positive effects have been confirmed not only by subjective testimonies of their users, but also by the serious research done by psychologists and other specialists. That’s why it might be good to try and see if you can use them to change your life for the better.

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