This article first appeared on Happify.com.
Sir Alexander Fleming was trying to create a “wonder drug”—with little success. It wasn’t until he threw away his failed experiments that he noticed a culture growing in one of his contaminated petri dishes, that was dissolving all the bacteria around it. And voila—the lucky discovery of penicillin saved millions of lives in the decades to come.
We’ve all read about lucky discoveries that were a chance event. We all talk about lucky movie stars who made it big with little (or at least questionable!) talent. We all know those lucky colleagues who get noticed and rewarded, even though their skills and effort leave much to be desired. And we are all jealous of those lucky friends who always seem to fit into the last pair of jeans on sale. As for ourselves, most of us believe that we fall on the opposite end of the luck spectrum and shake our heads at our inability to be in the right place at the right time.
However, in his interesting book, Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck, Anthony Tjan talks about lucky entrepreneurs who made it big, not because of endless passion, intelligence or daring. He talks instead about them possessing an attitude and an orientation to life that separated them from the “unlucky” rest.
The great news is that this attitude can be cultivated by all of us. If you want good fortune to shine on you more often, here are certain qualities of character you can work on developing.
Curb the Pride
In her book, Stand Out, Dorie Clark says that lucky people are willing to approach others without expecting anything in return. Too often, we use every event as an opportunity to network. While this strategy may be good in places, it is sometimes in those moments when you are not thinking of your own profit, that unexpected luck can shine on you. The willingness to meet anyone, anytime with an openness to enter other worlds with curiosity and compassion requires a certain humility that all lucky people seem to possess.
Tame the Control
Often, what stops us from becoming luckier is our thoughts. Professor of psychologyTodd Kashdan, talks about the emotional adaptability that comes from releasing control of our thoughts and observing them instead. Instead of trying to control a thought that says “I cannot do this”, notice it by telling yourself “Look, I’m saying to myself that I cannot do this”. This separation of self and thought allows you to live with uncertainty and to “feel it the fear and do it anyway”.
Be Passionate, but Open
Lucky people have a clear purpose in life that they are really passionate about. And they are not wedded to a plan of action. This openness to experience allows them to make space in their day to explore, to discover, to be surprised. It also allows them to live in the present moment and take the most appropriate action given the circumstances, rather than waiting for the perfect moment to arrive. The willingness to accept the imperfections along the way and see the journey as a zig-zagging path that eventually leads to their goals opens up far more opportunities and creates its own momentum.
Be Willing to Fail
One of the greatest impediments to luck is the fear of failure. It keeps us imprisoned in a comfort zone that shrinks with time. Lucky people recognize that the magic happens outside of the comfort zone and are able to take calculated risks knowing that the outcome may not go their way. Having what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset is a great way to release the fear of failure.
Find Time to Reflect
Lucky people have an uncanny ability to mix perspectives and come up with a creative new way of seeing the world. They listen deeply to others, are open to feedback and take time out to reflect. Paying attention to their own selves by building self-awareness while simultaneously reflecting on the world around them with wonder allows them to participate in the opportunities in life with gratitude, wisdom and full engagement.
Live Your Chutzpah
Educator Parker Palmer talks about the importance of audacity towards living a life of few regrets. Knowing that you have gifts that can benefit others, a voice that can bring about change and a responsibility to show up fully allows you to take ownership of your life and make luck happen. Speaking up, letting others know what you are passionate about and being driven by contribution takes away the self-doubt and self-consciousness that is a natural part of living boldly and on purpose.
Luck is not simply good fortune that shines upon a blessed few. It is a frame of mind, a desire to live fully and without appearances, that allows us to venture into the little nooks and crannies of life with humility, curiosity and a real hunger to make a difference. And it is often in those secret hideouts that bubbles of luck lie waiting to be burst.
Whether you consider yourself lucky or not, there are steps you can take to get luckier. What will you do today?