[email protected] With Leilani Basson
Luck, good fortune, unusually blessed – call it what you will, but there are some people who seem to experience this in abundance, while others are regularly plagued by disaster, trouble and tragedy. Why is this? According to a ten-year scientific study into the nature of luck, to a large extent, people make their own good and bad fortune. The study also shows it is possible to enhance the amount of luck that people encounter in their lives.
We all do it: using seemingly lucky numbers for lotto tickets, wearing good luck charms, avoiding planning something important on Friday the 13th, avoiding walking under ladders, not putting handbags on the floor and throwing salt over our shoulders.
This has nothing to do with luck – this is superstition.
“Superstition comes from a time when people thought that luck was a strange force that could only be controlled by magical rituals and bizarre behaviours,” says Prof Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire who spent ten years researching luck and wrote a book, The Luck Factor. He even went so far as to create a Luck School.
“What the…? A lucky school? That is just the dumbest, most nonsensical thing I’ve ever heard,” many of you might say.
“That sounds quite cool. I wonder what they do there? Let’s Google it,” may be another reaction.
Well, this is just it. Attitude and the way we respond to things make all the difference in the good fortune we may or may not experience in our lifetime.
If you think about it, lucky events have a dramatic influence over our lives. Luck has the power to transform the improbable into the possible, to make the difference between life and death, reward and ruin, happiness and despair.
Prof Wiseman’s book suggests that lucky people generate their own good fortune via four basic principles. “These people are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.
“And so it is with luck – unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else.”
During his research, Prof Wiseman’s personality tests revealed that unlucky people are generally much more tense and anxious than lucky people, and research has shown that anxiety disrupts people’s ability to notice the unexpected.
Psychologists refer to our ability to imagine what might have happened, rather than what actually did happen, as “counterfactual.”
A scenario to explain this could entail a trip to the Okavango where the vehicle breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Lucky people would — on their return — tell about the adventure of a lifetime; how they met strangers, were invited into an African hut, learnt so much about their vehicle and themselves and came back enriched. They would feel so blessed that nothing ‘bad’ happened to them.
The unlucky bunch would believe that something “bad” did in fact happen. They are more likely to relay the story of the unreliable vehicle, the scorching heat, the possibility of dying of thirst and hunger, the thousands of rands it cost them to have the vehicle towed or fixed and the money they lost on the camp sites and lodges they never reached because they were stuck in dark, dangerous Africa.
I am one of the lucky ones, I dare say. Most things in my life have happened in a rather fantastical manner with no logical or rational explanation of why and how these wonderful things came my way, and why or how I ended up where I ended up, have what I have, experience what I experience, work where I work or do what I do.
And the few not-so-nice things that happened in-between were always the perfect catalysts to facilitate the fantastic things that did happen. I did not see those obstacles as being “bad” or become bitter or resentful or desperate as a result.
I’ve heard it countless times over the years: “Leilani het met haar gat in die botter geval”, or something on those lines. It doesn’t bother me anymore. At least my bum is moisturised and soft, where it could have been chapped and dry .
Counterfactual, indeed. Admittedly, I am one very, very lucky, very blessed, very fortunate babe! And I am profoundly thankful for it!