Turns Out You Really Can Make Your Own Luck
We're often encouraged to "make our own luck," but how do you actually do that? Now science has the answer. Says Dr. Stephann Makri at University College London, one of a team who researched this very issue, lucky people have two things in common: "First, they realized that an opportunity was presented to them. Then they seized the opportunity and took action."
Sounds simple, and yet we all have a long list of missed opportunities that suggest this isn't so easy or obvious after all. Here are five ways to make sure you maximize the (potentially) lucky breaks that might come your way.
1. Be an opportunity magnet
Why is it that some people just seem to attract more opportunities than others? It's because they are open to new opportunities and they make sure everyone around them knows it. If, for example, you want to get an offer for a better job, what do you think is the best way to achieve that? Right: Tell everyone you know that you're looking for a new job. As word moves throughout your network of colleagues, friends, and relatives, chances are you will be presented with a number of opportunities.
2. Loosen up
When people are rigid and uptight, in their business or their life, then only a relatively few things fit into their definition of what constitutes and opportunity. As a result they let countless opportunities pass them by. If you find your outlook is too narrow then loosen up and allow some serendipity to enter into your life. The best opportunities, and the greatest sources of luck, often arrive from unexpected places at unexpected times. Be open to possibilities rather than shutting them down.
3. Be outgoing
If you want to be lucky you can’t be a wallflower. You've got to put yourself out there and talk to people, quite possibly in places and in ways that you might not normally be comfortable doing. If you're an introvert you'll need to make an extra effort to be outgoing. Recognize your tendency to avoid socializing or hold back in conversations, and then practice doing just the opposite. The more outgoing you are, the more opportunities--and luck--you will attract.
4. Be flexible
We all make plans in our lives: We want to achieve this particular goal by this particular date, we want to be living in this place by this date, etc. Plans are great, but luck doesn't necessarily care what your plans are. In fact, luck follows its own plan. So, when a new opportunity presents itself, you've got to be agile and ready to modify, change, or throw out altogether whatever plans you've made. The more flexible you are with your future possibilities, the more luck you will bring into your life.
5. Don't be afraid to fail
When opportunities arrive we can't be afraid to act on them. Sure, there's always the possibility that we might fail, but we can't let the fear of failure rule our lives. If you focus on the opportunity and put everything you've got into it, chances are you will succeed. Even if you don't, simply pick yourself up and quickly move on to the next opportunity. The faster you fail and move on, the faster you will ultimately succeed. Of course, you might just succeed with your first opportunity. You'd say you were lucky, but science might say otherwise.
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While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 75 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter's latest Inc.com columns, and visit him anytime at petereconomy.com.