The Art and Science of Good Luck

Spring feels like a good time for luck – the days are longer and we’re naturally more optimistic. We’re more likely to spot that four-leafed clover simply because we’re looking for it. The ability to stumble upon the perfect discovery or to randomly meet a stranger who might forever change our lives sounds like the storyline of a cute romantic comedy. Yet science shows that there’s more to luck and chance than good timing and happy accidents. In fact, it could be a hidden skill just waiting to be unlocked within each of us. 

The more open we are to the concept of serendipity, the more likely we are to casually bump into a friend or stay ahead of health concerns without being caught off guard. With a bit of luck, we could be on our way to our best year yet. So, in celebration of St. Paddy’s Day, and with the Luck of the Irish on our side, let’s take a look at the art and science behind good luck itself.

Building Our Luck Muscle

Sometimes, it feels like we’re in the right place at the right time. Did we land the perfect job because we nailed the interview? Or was it just good timing? How much does luck really play a role in our daily lives? And what if we could learn to develop luck like any other skill set? 

According to research, it’s not a crazy idea. Author of the book The Serendipity Mindset, Christian Busch, PhD., believes professionals can build upon this skill by using what he calls “smart luck.” And, just like every other skill we master – professional or not – it can be strengthened and sharpened over time. Just like learning to network, mingle and navigate our way through various social and professional channels, learning to look out for luck is the first step. When we learn to look out for smart luck – small opportunities that, when combined, add up overtime – we may just be able to tilt the odds in our favor.

Mindshift Matters

We may have heard the saying, “what we see has a lot to do with what we’re looking for.” Well, that also goes for finding opportunities where others tend to see roadblocks. This type of serendipity mindshift helps us spot hidden potential where we’d otherwise focus myopically on failures and setbacks. One way to begin is to simply change our outlook and allow for the unexpected. Having a more open mindset, according to Busch, enables us to spot more opportunities for collaboration with others. When we open the door in this way, we end up creating connections with new networks, bonding with people with other skills and connections, and who may inspire us to think or live differently. Additionally, by letting go of the idea that we have everything under control, we may be more open to the unconventional. Think back to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many of us were forced to reset expectations and change our immediate plans due to lockdown measures. These modifications made us more open to new ideas such as working remotely, telehealth visits with medical professionals and online ordering for essentials, and the smoother the transition into our current working model became. 

Creating Lucky Connections

Like any other skill, building our luck muscle is a long game, but we can plant seeds for future growth by setting hooks in each conversation in which we engage. Experts say that when we meet new people in social settings, across zoom chats or even by writing speculative emails to people we admire, we can create opportunities that will manifest into serendipity bombs later. How? By sharing tiny details about our passions and conversely, by asking others about their projects and interests, we set the stage for future, unexpected and mutual connections to flourish. For example, rather than asking someone about their job or professional life, we can ask open-ended questions such as, “What are you interested in these days?” By prompting people to open up about parts of their personal lives, we set the stage for future, fortuitous opportunities to relate on deeper levels. 

Lucky in Health or Using Smart Luck?

For those of us with a strong history of cancer in our family, or even a personal history of breast cancer, the idea that luck has played a role in our journey doesn’t always tell the full story. But that doesn’t stop people from using luck to describe the journey. We are often “lucky” to discover cancer in its earliest stages. Or sometimes a cancer diagnosis is seen as simply “bad luck” despite our good health and clear family history. Either way, when it comes to our health, luck isn’t something we can just wait around for. Luck, it would seem, is a series of smart, cumulative decisions that play a key role in our healthcare journey when we’re proactive about it. It’s not blind luck that helps us keep track of our health. It’s scheduling yearly mammograms that keep a running record of any changes in our breasts. It’s speaking up to our healthcare providers about any concerns we may be having or new symptoms we may be experiencing. It’s sharing concerns about family history with a new doctor and understanding the various risk factors associated with breast cancer to stay informed. Bottom line: we’re lucky when we stack the odds in our favor by speaking up, advocating for our health and taking an active role in our healthcare journey. 

“Luck is believing you're lucky.” – Tennessee Williams