Get Lucky With Money: How Thinking Differently Boosts Your Good Fortune

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When unpredictable good or bad things happen, we chalk them up to good or bad luck. You’ve probably known people with an abundance of one or the other. Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, studied such lucky and unlucky people and found clear differences in how lucky and unlucky people think and behave.

Since people can change their behavior and thoughts, Wiseman thought they could learn to be lucky. He set up a “luck school” to prove his hypothesis and found that 80% of students who did his prescribed exercises for a month reported being happier and luckier. One particularly unlucky woman claimed she had entirely eliminated her bad luck.

Wiseman isn’t superstitious. He doesn’t believe in unproven “powers,” and is even a member of a well-known group of skeptics. He approaches the study of luck strictly on the basis of evidence. He identified four principles lucky people use to generate more good fortune in any area of life, which means you can use these important psychological principles to get lucky with money.

Ready to turn your luck around? Here’s Wiseman’s advice.

1. Find Opportunities

In one experiment, Wiseman gave people a newspaper and told them to count the ads. It took unlucky people two minutes, but lucky people tended to finish in seconds because they noticed the huge message printed on the second page, which said, “Stop counting — There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”

Unlucky people tend to focus too narrowly on the task at hand. Wiseman explains:

They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain type of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for. (emphasis added)

How do you develop the ability to notice opportunities? Wiseman recommends meditation and mind-clearing practices to achieve the more-relaxed state that lucky people tend to have.

You can also encourage the right state of mind by writing down possible opportunities in each situation you encounter. For example, if a friend mentions he’s quitting his job, you might make a note to see if it’s a job you would want or if your employer could hire your friend and pay you a bonus for recruiting him.

Wiseman also suggests introducing variety and change into your life to “maximize chance opportunities.” One participant in his study constantly alters his route to work before making important decisions. Another, who found that he tended to talk to the same types of people at parties, implemented a special policy. He chose a color before each party and focused on talking to people wearing that color. The point is to get your mind out of its rut by adding some random variation to your patterns of thought and behavior.

To maximize your opportunities in financial areas, you might:

  • Investigate ways to make money you haven’t previously considered
  • Meditate to relax, and then think about business or investment matters
  • Meet new people using a randomizing method, like clothing color
  • Search for financial opportunities where you don’t expect to find them

2. Use Your Intuition

Apple cofounder Steve Jobs said intuition is “more powerful than intellect.” As a skeptic about claims of the paranormal, Wiseman treats intuition as a matter of accessing and processing useful information at a less-than-conscious level. For example, a hunch about a good investment could be based on facts you previously heard but don’t consciously recall.

How do you enhance your intuition? Start by noting your intuitive hunches. When you focus on something, the reticular activating system in your brain classifies it is as important, and brings your attention to similar things in the future. In other words, you notice more of what you focus on (try looking for red cars today and you’ll be surprised by how many there are).

Distinguish between feelings and hunches that come from stress and fear, and those that arise naturally when you’re more relaxed. Pay more attention to the latter.

Meditate or do other stress-relieving exercises to allow a more relaxed and intuitive state. Wiseman writes, “…research has shown that anxiety disrupts people’s ability to notice the unexpected.”

3. Have the Right Attitude

Do you expect to make more money, find new opportunities and generally have good fortune in the future? Lucky people do. They may prepare for the worst, but they expect the best. “These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure, and shape their interactions with others in a positive way,” Wiseman notes.

How can you develop this attitude if you don’t already have it? Wiseman recommends keeping a “luck journal,” in which you record the lucky breaks you get in your everyday life. The process of reporting on your own luck trains your mind to watch for it, find more of it, expect it and therefore produce more luck.

Imagining better outcomes can help. When you see the possibility of a better future, you’re more motivated to do what you need to do. Consider the opposite: Could you motivate yourself to build a business if you expected it to fail? Even the most pessimistic person will feel some motivation after a few minutes describing how he might succeed.

In other words, attitude is a mechanical process of simply choosing to think in certain ways.

4. Create Good Luck From Bad

How lucky you are is partly a matter of how you deal with bad luck. “Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way,” writes Wiseman. They imagine how things could have been worse, which helps them avoid any paralyzing sense of hopelessness they might have in a bad situation. They don’t dwell on their bad fortune, preferring to take control of matters.

Lucky people actually turn bad luck into good luck. In his book Screw It, Let’s Do It, Richard Branson tells the story of the time he and his wife were in the Virgin Islands and their flight to Puerto Rico was cancelled. Some people would call that bad luck.

Branson saw the passengers around him complaining and, instead of joining them, paid $2,000 to charter a plane for a flight to Puerto Rico. Then he wrote “Virgin Airways” on a chalkboard and starting collecting $39 fares from the impatient travelers. That was Branson’s inspiration for starting his Virgin Atlantic airline a few years later. The airline and his other businesses give him a net worth almost $5 billion, according to Forbes.

Train yourself to watch for opportunities, use your intuition, develop the right attitude and look for the better possibilities in bad situations. Who knows? You might just get lucky and make some money.

Your Turn: Are you generally a lucky or unlucky person, and will you apply these principles to your life to have more luck with money?

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Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of Of the more than 100 ways he has personally made money, writing is his favorite (so far).