Ever wondered why some people seem to have all the luck?
We've been trying to improve our luck for centuries: lucky charms, amulets, and talismans have figured in virtually every recorded civilization.
Early Europeans believed iron had magical qualities, so hanging horseshoes in your house was meant to ward off spirits.
Touching or knocking on wood is said to date back to Celtic rituals that were designed to rouse the tree gods and call on their protection.
Throughout history, people have recognized that good and bad luck can transform lives.
A few seconds of bad luck can overturn years of hard work, and moments of good luck can save years of striving.
Superstition represents people's attempts to improve and control their luck.
British psychologist and author Richard Wiseman undertook a ten year study on the science of luck.
In one experiment he asked people to look through a newspaper and count the number of photographs inside.
On average it took the people who thought of themselves as unlucky around two minutes.
People who thought of themselves as lucky on the other hand took a few seconds.
Because on the second page, there was a message that said, in a massive font, "Stop counting, there are 43 photographs in this newspaper."
The lucky people it seems were more open to possibilities other than the ones they were searching for.
There are four main psychological principles that separate lucky people from unlucky ones.
So first of all, lucky people are more open to opportunities, spotting them and making the most of them.
Second, they tend to be optimists, and that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
They're pushing forward, they're expecting the best.
Also differences in terms of intuition: lucky people tend to have lucky hunches and trust their intuition.
And finally, they're more resilient: When bad things happen, they're good at turning that bad luck into good fortune.
So big differences in the way they think and the way they behave.
But whilst it's true that if you train hard you are more likely to win a sporting event, or the harder you swot for an exam the more you increase your chances of the best grade you're capable of.
Here's the kicker.
No amount of positivity, work or preparation will reduce the chance of say, being kept awake by noisy neighbors the night before an exam or slipping on a wet patch as you run during a race.
It would be wrong to think that all of someone's good or bad luck is entirely due to the way they're thinking and behaving.
When it comes to people who aren't quite so successful or happy in life we shouldn't think it's all their fault.
It could be down to where they're born, or the society they're born into, or chance accidents, or illnesses, and you need to take all of those factors into account.
In 2012 at a campaign rally, Barack Obama caused controversy when he said, "If you're successful, you didn't get that on your own."
"If you're successful, somebody along the line gave you some help."
And he raises a key factor when considering the role of luck.
There's a whole bunch of hard-working, positive-thinking people out there who aren't successful and certainly aren't lucky.
Obama's statement sparked debate, with several online publications railing against him, and public figures like republican rival Mitt Romney openly rebuffing him.
For many, Obama's comments were seen as an insult to the American work ethic and the idea that success was achieved through merit.
But as the economist Robert H. Frank argues, talent and drive will get you so far, but luck, and life chances, will also play a huge role.
What if you asked the question, "Where do your talents come from?"
"Where does your propensity to work hard come from?"
If you're a hard working person who has a lot of talent, you got those traits from the environment you grew up in and from the genes you inherited.
You're not in any strict sense in a position to claim moral credit for them, and so we're comfortable enough saying that you're lucky to have those traits.
But what about the person who works hard?
Is that person not entitled to congratulate herself for the effort she put forward?
What we know is that putting forth effort in trying circumstances is difficult.
It requires often a Herculean will to go forward in the face of one setback after another.
If you're the kind of person who's been taught that your temperament alone determines whether you'll be persistent and your temperament is just a matter of luck, I think you're more likely to sit back and wait and see what happens.
If instead you view yourself as the captain of your own fate and think, "It's up to me to make it happen," you're much more likely to persist against a series of setbacks.
So it's like Richard Wiseman said earlier, "lucky and unlucky people are often determined by the way they think," which suggests that there is hope for change.
I think that anyone has the capability and the potential to make themselves luckier.
It's realizing that lots of that good fortune is due to the way you're thinking, the way you're behaving.
Understand the mindset of the lucky person, and you can bring more good fortune into your life.
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