Can you think yourself luckier?

Jack Nicklaus, golfer, 18 times major championship winner– the ‘Golden Bear’

It’s not hard to find lists of ways to be luckier. Most of these consist of exhortations to Think Positive! Grasp Opportunities! Work Hard!

This approach is like setting up a smokers’ helpline that simply consists of shouting ‘Stop smoking!’ at anyone who calls it. We all know that the answer is to Think Positive! Grasp Opportunities! Work Hard!, but that’s easier said than done.

Sometimes we’re just not ready to change our mindset; there needs to be preparation and the right level of motivation. Many people give up smoking a number of times before the final successful attempt – the one when circumstances were finally right.

The coach’s role

With your coach, you can begin to unravel the blockages and thought patterns that are interfering with your life. You might even find that you unconsciously put yourself in the way of unfortunate circumstances. An independent, challenging and non-judgemental coach can ask those difficult questions that you might yourself be avoiding.

Our lives are inter-connected in a complicated and difficult manner. Trying to change any one part of our thinking involves not only changes in conduct and mindset, but also questioning all the positives and negatives that go with our current behaviours and the possible impact that change will have.

Often a session with a coach will start by wanting to change one pattern, but other patterns will emerge behind that and need to be addressed at the same time. Helping you to be open to change is the coach’s primary role.

Bad habits, good habits

Things happen. Some good, some bad; none of us can change that. What we can do is to change ourselves, to adjust our attitudes and to assess how much of the current situation is under your control.

Here are some of the ways your coach can help you develop your own ‘luck’:

  • establishing connections between past behaviours and outcomes
  • reframing the current situation to look for opportunities to change
  • questioning what the desired outcome really is – do you really want what you think you want, or is that habit?
  • giving you a non-judgemental space in which to accept that you might be wrong in your current assessment

In addition it’s important to visualise what success might look like. Seeing the ‘new you’ can help you understand what you need to change to get there, as well as adapting the outcomes you want to achieve.

Ray Charles & Jimmy Lewis

10 habits of lucky people

So, without wishing to shout at you to Think Positive! Grasp Opportunities! Work Hard!, here are 10 traits that psychologists have identified as being common to ‘lucky’ people.

You won’t automatically find yourself in your lucky spot just by reading this, but by working with your coach you can take steps to work towards a luckier frame of mind.

  1. Build bridges, not barriers. When meeting someone for the first time, assume that they’re there to help you, not harm you. Smile, engage and swap ideas. They won’t always help you, but some will… and then you’re luckier than you were the day before.
  2. The best time to make friends is before you need them. Try to make sure that your friends are positive people who will support you. If your friends are the sort of people who like to knock others, they may not be there for you in times of trouble.

Martin Luther King

  1. Don’t make ‘what’s in it for me?’ your catchphrase. Give generously to others in your work, your relationships and your personal life. Some of it will come back to repay you, if you really need to know what’s in it for you.
  2. Don’t overthink. By the time you’ve looked through all the possible consequences, you could have acted. And then reacted to whatever emerged. Be flexible, but be proactive.
  3. Don’t wait for the waves to part. There’s never a perfect time to act, a moment when all the stars are in alignment. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now. Actually, the second best time is just after you made ‘now’ the right time.
  4. Win the war, not the battle. Don’t obsess over short term ambitions. Yes, you need them, but situations change, people move on, life happens. Your long term goals usually remain constant. Focus on those.
  5. Live in the present. Focussing on today, letting go of the past and not trying to control the future can lead to a more open and adaptable attitude. Mindfulness, as it’s often called, allows you to take advantage of the moment and see possibilities in your current situation.
  6. If you don’t buy a ticket, you can’t win the lottery. The story about Thomas Edison having 1,000 failures before he created the first commercially viable lightbulb might be apocryphal, but the principle isn’t; attempting to succeed generates momentum. Reframing ‘failure’ as a learning experience will often lead to results.

Samuel Beckett

  1. Be humble. It’s easier to move on from mistakes and bad luck if you’re willing to admit your part in making them happen. You become luckier by learning, not by insisting that you know everything.
  2. The cemetery’s full of people who thought they were indispensable. Give yourself permission to move on from any situation. Maybe those people aren’t relying on you as much as you imagine; maybe those people who are holding you back will learn to look after themselves if you stop feeling responsible for them. Talking through these things with your coach will help to clarify how much of your current situation is your responsibility.

What else has proved to be lucky in your life? Share your good fortune, your anecdotes and your thoughts in the comments box below!

Illustrations by Chris Brannick