But I mean I’m really lucky. I win all of my cases. My favorite sports teams frequently play for a championship and I always get a front row parking spot. I enjoy my good fortune and I try to carry it with me wherever I go.
My good luck makes me happy. Or is it the other way around? Does my happiness bring good luck? Does my humorous, positive outlook predispose me to good fortune?
Probably so. There is a growing body of research which has found that people who are happy are more likely to spot opportunity, build beneficial relationships and enjoy success. If you are interested in the topic I would refer you to a book by Shawn Achor called The Happiness Advantage.
Achor writes that most people believe that if you are successful, you will be happy. But really the converse is true. If you are happy, you will be successful.
He cites a study by the University of Toronto which found that our mood can change the way our visual cortex processes what we see. Happy emotions can literally expand our peripheral line of vision.
This was of particular interest to me because I have always believed that “luck” is recognizing and taking advantage of opportunity.
There is also the theory called “predictive encoding.” Imagine that you are ready with an idea. You try to move forward with your idea but there is some momentary impenetrable obstacle. If you are open minded and positive you will be able to come back to that goal and re-recognize the opportunity once the obstacle is removed.
I have my own working theory about happiness and luck. Mine is called “perspective encoding.” I believe that whether you are happy and lucky depends in large part in how you perceive your circumstance.
It’s similar to the well worn story of the two shoe salesmen who were sent to Africa in the early 1900s. After surveying the situation one sent a telegram which read: “Situation hopeless. Noone wears shoes here.” The other cabled: “Glorious opportunity! They don’t wear shoes yet.” Perspective.
A review of my record actually reveals that I haven’t won all of my cases or followed my favorite teams to annual BCS championships. (I do find an abnormally high number of front row parking spaces.) But the cases I have lost have provided me with an education I would not have otherwise gained. And the losing seasons give me a greater appreciation for the wins.
I’ll give you a recent example of my good fortune. Last week I went to a Casino during a Spring Break trip. I took $100 and sat down at the Blackjack table. I immediately met a friendly man seated next to me from Dallas. Turns out we knew a number of the same people. I got my chips and went to work… and I promptly lost 3 hands in a row. Down $30, I decided to cut my losses and watch my new friend.
I lost thirty dollars in less than 10 minutes so how was I lucky? It’s all about perspective. First, I didn’t lose the entire $100. Second, I realized I am not a very good card player. Third I am going to do some business with the man I met at the table.
So there I was. Lucky once again. And happy, as usual.