Why do I have bad luck? Is this a question you often ask yourself? Have you ever embarrassed yourself in front of a crowd, or maybe you’ve been buying lottery tickets but you’ve never won, or maybe you jump from one relationship to another because you’re inherently unlucky?
Well, what if I told you that there’s no such thing as being lucky or unlucky? What if I told you that some things in life are actually your doing?
Some events, such as accidents, the loss of a loved one, a natural disaster, or being laid off from work, are out of our control. These things will inevitably happen one way or another, but what if you knew that you actually have some control over the lucky things and the unlucky things that come into your life?
The truth is, according to researchers, you do have a hand in how lucky or unlucky you are.
In this article, we’ll discover how you may be creating your own bad luck, what science says about luck, if lucky charms work, and what changes you can make to turn your series of unfortunate events into lucky opportunities.
What is Luck?
The first topic on our agenda is defining what luck is.
The word “Luck” is known to have Middle Dutch origins. It is said to be a shortened version of the word “gheluc,” which means happiness or good fortune. It has been presumed that the word introduced itself into the English language as a gambling term in the 15th century.
VIDEO | The Role of Luck in Our Lives
There’s a famous saying that goes, “The luck of the Irish.” When this saying is mentioned, it usually means “great luck” or “great fortune.” Are the Irish inherently lucky?
Well, the saying doesn’t really have any Irish origins. In fact, it only came about during the 2nd half of the 19th century during the silver and gold rush years. Most of the miners who were famous and successful were of Irish and Irish American birth, and therefore, over time, this association with the success of Irish miners led to the famous expression.
In more general interpretations, luck is defined as a phenomenon characterized by positive or negative events. Luck can either be good or bad, and therefore, good luck means positive experiences, and bad luck means negative experiences.
In terms of the supernatural definition, luck is associated with deities or gods. The belief is that a person who is naturally lucky is favored by the gods. This concept often results in people doing rituals, such as prayer, doing sacrifices, or worshiping, in the hopes that the gods or deities will favor them, and therefore, give them good luck.
When it comes to scientific research, it was Darke and Freedman who were the first to address the concept and the measurement of belief in luck with personal attributes. In their 1997 studies, they concluded that the perception of good luck is a “somewhat stable characteristic that consistently favors some people but not others.”
Using the latter definition of good luck, it is suggested that good luck is a perception or belief system inherent in people’s characteristics, rather than a perception of random events.
This potential proves my point that yes, you can be the very reason why you are lucky or unlucky.
Why Do I Have Bad Luck?
How You May Be Creating Your Own Bad Luck
Why do I have bad luck? Why is it always you? Why are other people lucky but you always get the short end of the stick?
Superstitions aside, if we base our definition of luck on personal attributes, it’s safe to say that we are creating our own bad luck.
It might not be what you want to hear, but yes, there are times in our lives that we are the ones at fault for the bad things that are happening. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but if you want to turn your life around, if you want more good luck to occur in your life, you need to acknowledge that maybe, after years of going through one bad incident after another, the common denominator might not be the outside world, but it could actually be you.
While you may believe that you are inherently a magnet of bad luck, the good news is that if you can create your own bad luck, you can also create your own good luck.
But before we talk about how you can turn your luck around, let’s first discuss the very things and the very beliefs that you have that may be causing bad luck to happen in your life.
Here are some things you may be doing, which you may be unaware of, that are causing bad things to happen in your life.
1. You May Have a Victim Identity
The victim identity is a belief system that you are helpless. This may have resulted from childhood when you were bullied, or adults exploited your innocence, or you underwent trauma at the hands of someone or something else.
When you have a victim identity, you blame the outside world for the negative things that happen in your life. You believe that bad luck is always waiting for you and that you can’t do anything about it.
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You also believe that you always have it worse than others, that other people can’t understand how difficult life is for you. You always feel like life is hard and that’s the way that it always will be.
When you have this belief system, you will automatically accept that every bad thing that occurs in your life is inevitable and that you can’t do better. When you perceive life this way, you almost never see the good things that happen to you. You are always expecting something bad will happen and you can’t do anything about it.
This perception of life takes away your accountability and responsibility in creating the life that you really deserve.
2. You May Fear Change
Here’s a scenario: you witness a friend going to another country and having a well-paying job and generally enjoy success in life. You think this friend is lucky and you’re not, because you’re stuck in a minimum-wage job in your home town.
But what if you quit that job and pursued a more fulfilling career? What if you do exactly what your friend did? Leave your hometown and go after your dreams?
You may think that other people are luckier than you in this scenario but you forget to look at yourself in the mirror. What do you do in your life that encourages good luck to happen?
If you want to improve your life such as becoming a millionaire and being happily married, but then you’re stuck in a low-paying job and you’re not pursuing the object of your affection, then nothing will happen.
Staying in your comfort zone and fearing change will not encourage good luck to come into your life. Being comfortable and the fear of change will keep you stuck.
3. You Don’t Believe You Deserve Good Fortune
Lastly, you may have a belief system where you think you don’t deserve good things. This can be a result of a low self-image, childhood trauma, survivor’s guilt, past sins, and could be a manifestation of a personality trait.
When good things happen to you, such as a raise, a promotion, attracting a romantic partner, or recognition for your achievements, you downplay these positive events in your life. You may tell yourself, oh, you were just lucky, or that something bad will take its place.
You naturally believe that you’re not deserving of happiness so you act in self-sabotaging behaviors. Some of these behaviors include not accepting your promotion, or doing badly in an exam which you diligently studied for, or saying no to a marriage proposal even though you love the person.
These may not be the very things you’d want to read in an article about having more good luck in your life but acknowledging you have a hand in your own misfortunes is essential so you can break free from the chains that are holding you back.
It’s not easy to accept that we’re causing some of our bad luck. However, it’s important to tackle and look at ourselves in the mirror and check our very behaviors and attitudes that have been causing us to feel bad about our lives.
Once we’ve overcome this first step of acceptance, we can move forward in making the very changes that can turn our life around.
When we accept our weaknesses, we can finally create the changes that minimize bad luck and emphasize good luck. For an unlucky person, you can make the necessary changes to have a lucky life full of success and happiness.
The Difference Between Lucky and Unlucky People
So what makes lucky people different from unlucky people? Are they born with a silver spoon in their mouths? Do they live in a certain country where most people are lucky?
Well, a psychologist had these very same questions and wanted to find out the answers.
Richard Wiseman is a British psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire. He is a bestselling author, and wrote the book, “The Luck Factor,” which talks about the power of luck in our lives.
This book is a result of a 10-year long study about how luck plays a role in our lives. Wiseman wanted to see how chance opportunities came about and how they affected people’s lives.
His study involved the difference between self-proclaimed lucky people from self-proclaimed unlucky people.
After 10 long years, Wiseman drew upon the data that self-proclaimed lucky people significantly scored higher on extroversion.
These people, as Wiseman observed, smile twice as much, and engage in more eye contact compared to the subjects who proclaimed themselves as unlucky.
According to Wiseman, the lucky people’s sociability helps them increase their likelihood of a lucky opportunity because they meet more people, maintain better relationships, and connect better.
This information led me to thinking about my own brother, whom I believe is luckier than me. I have never won any raffle draws in my life, when in fact, I join them quite frequently.
My brother, on the other hand, has won twice! He has won a motorcycle in one raffle draw, and a set of luggage in another raffle, and he didn’t even join them himself! His girlfriend entered him in the raffle draw for the motorcycle and our mother joined him in the raffle draw for the set of luggage. I am an introvert and guess what my brother is? He’s an extrovert!
It’s so easy for him to make friends, he’s always the life of the party, and people are always charmed by him. And between the two of us, he’s always the lucky one in terms of raffle draws.
I guess in my own experience, I believe this to be true!
So anyway, Wiseman also mentioned that while self-proclaimed lucky people were extroverts, those who believed they were unlucky scored twice as high in neuroticism.
Neuroticism is one of the Big 5 personality traits characterized as people who have a tendency to be anxious, depressed, and suffer from self-doubt and negative feelings.
One of the studies Wiseman conducted to observe neuroticism in the participants was the moving dot exercise.
The Moving Dot Exercise
In this exercise, Wiseman asked the subjects to watch a moving dot in the center of a computer screen. As the moving dots moved, larger dots unexpectedly flashed at the edges of the screen. In the first exercise, almost all of the subjects noticed both dots – the moving dots in the center, and the large dots on the edge of the screen.
Wiseman wanted to add an anxiety-provoking element to the exercise to differentiate those who scored high in anxiety and those that did not. He repeated the exercise in another group, but this time, he offered a financial reward to focus on the moving dot in the center.
More than a third of the participants missed the large dots on the edge of the screen. This experiment showed Wiseman that while anxiety does help us become more focused on the task at hand, those who were more anxious missed the large dots.
Wisemen then concluded that unlucky people, who are almost always anxious, often miss out on opportunities outside of their prospects because they are too busy worrying about one thing.
Unhappy people, who scored twice as high in neuroticism, developed tunnel vision. This can help explain why unlucky people may feel really down when they don’t get accepted in the job they want or when they get rejected from their object of affection.
They are so busy wanting and desiring that one thing that they forget to look around and see other prospects that are literally in front of them, like the large dots that flashed on the edge of the screen.
This tunnel vision explains why unlucky people may not seek other job opportunities and other romantic prospects. And therefore, they believe that they suffer from bad luck because they don’t see the possibilities that are actually around them, when in fact, it’s everywhere.
Lucky people, on the other hand, are more open to experiences and opportunities that may be out of their comfort zone, beyond their initial goals, and are willing to take on more risks.
To give more evidence of this conclusion, Wiseman did another exercise.
The Newspaper Exercise
In another exercise, Wiseman asked participants to count the number of photographs inside a newspaper. Unlucky people took 2 minutes while the lucky people took only seconds.
This is because on the second page of the newspaper, there was a large message that read: “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”
Unlucky people missed the message because they were too busy counting the photographs but lucky people spotted the message right away.
This exercise shows that lucky people are more relaxed, and therefore, are more observant of their environment.
Wiseman’s exercises show that being more anxious, having a poor self-image, and being negative about life can make you perceive yourself as being unlucky. Whereas lucky people are more optimistic.
They have more positive expectations and see life differently. While both kinds of participants experienced the very same things, they behaved differently because of their belief systems about themselves and life in general.
Happy People and Luck
Thomas Jefferson once said: “I’m a great believer in luck. I’ve found that the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
The word “happy” contains the prefix “hap,” which means luck or fortune. Studies reveal that happy people have very specific beliefs about luck. They are less likely to perceive luck as an outer force that makes things happen.
A study was done to discover the connection between luck and happiness. A team of researchers from Hong Kong and the US surveyed 844 English-speaking students. The survey questions involved thoughts about luck, personality traits, and happiness levels.
The results of the survey revealed that students who were less happy believed in the concept of external luck. This data highlighted the concept that less happy people blamed luck for events and experiences in their lives, and not on their own doing.
This belief system deprives people of self-determination because they believe bad things happen because it’s out of their control. These people believe that they need luck to be successful and that bad luck is the source of their setbacks. This kind of thinking dampens a person’s motivation to pursue goals and even learn or grow from their mistakes.
This perception is similar to what I mentioned earlier, which is the victim identity. Less happy people believe that things in life happen because of luck, and that these events are out of their control, so they don’t do anything about it.
Happier people, on the other hand, tended to believe themselves as personally lucky. They also showed more optimism, gratitude, and more hopeful positive expectations.
This study goes to show that happy people tend to be luckier in life. A happy mindset simply brings about more perceived good luck.
Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology, stated: “Optimists endure the same storms as pessimists. But they weather them better and emerge from them better off.”
While unhappy people accept their bad luck, happy people believe that good luck is something that they can create by being more optimistic, and through sheer hard work, just like Thomas Jefferson.
Luck and the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Henry Ford is famous for saying: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
Steven Hales, a Bloomsburg University philosophy professor said that we’re only as lucky as we think we are and that optimists may be the luckiest people of all, based on this assumption.
Wiseman has said that luck may be a form of self-fulfilling prophecy, which is a belief that although not yet realized, is strongly held and affirmed, and will in fact, be true.
With this prophecy, positive expectations become so knitted together they result in a positive outcome.
For example, you believe that you will earn $10,000.00 in one week. You believe that you will truly earn this amount that you take actions necessary to achieve this result. So when you do earn $10,000.00 after a week, you expected this positive outcome, which in hindsight, you predicted to be true. In this example, you can say that you are lucky.
On the other end of the spectrum, you believe that you can’t earn $10,000.00 in one week. So each incident of failure, you accept that it’s inevitable that you can’t reach that amount, so you give up without even trying.
This example shows two scenarios of self-fulfilling prophecies. A lucky mindset follows a lucky result, while an unlucky mindset results in an unlucky outcome.
While a self-fulfilling prophecy involves the self, another phenomenon involves the luck of another person.
The Pygmalion Effect
The Pygmalion Effect or Rosenthal Effect is an example of a self-fulling prophecy but it involves two people. This phenomenon occurs when high expectations of a person leads to improved performance of that person.
The concept was named after Pygmalion, who was a sculpture in Greek mythology who fell in love with a statue he had made.
The phenomenon was discovered by psychologist Robert Rostenthal and Lenore Jacobson, who studied the effect of teacher’s expectations on their students.
Their study revealed that a teacher’s high expectations lead to better performance in their studesn while low expectations lead to worse performance.
To explain the phenomena, the researchers described that the targets of the expectations internalized their positive labels and therefore, acted in ways that fulfilled the expectations.
The Pygmalion Effect shows that you can change the luck of another person simply by expecting good results from that person and success will follow.
Lucky Charms: Do They Work?
So far, we’ve been talking about luck as being borne out of a positive mindset, or a positive attitude. But what about lucky charms and superstitious beliefs?
What about the rituals and lucky charms of athletes, world leaders, and businessmen who swear these objects and actions bring them good luck?
Michael Jordan, for example, who is widely considered as the greatest basketball player of all time, would wear his lucky blue shorts from college under his NBA jersey for good luck.
Serena Williams, considered to be one of the greatest tennis players in the world, has a pair of lucky socks wherein she’s never lost a match when she wears them.
Babe Ruth, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, is said to have a locker full of charms and tokens. Some of these charms included a miniature totem pole and a wooden horseshoe with an engraving of a four-leaf clover.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was the 34th president of the United States, and a military officer during World War II, kept 3 lucky coins in his pocket. These were a French franc, a British five Guinea gold piece, and an American silver dollar. He would reach into his pocket and finger the coins when he had to make difficult decisions.
It is not unusual for CEOs, athletes, and world leaders to have superstitions and lucky charms. According to Dan McGinn, who wrote “Psyched Up: How The Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed,” these lucky charms and beliefs can provide a sense of comfort and reduce anxiety in these individuals.
He says that research has revealed that simply doing something over and over again the same way, such as praying or doing a ritual before a major game or making a major decision can help in taking the mind off the anxiety. And having a physical object in hand, such as a lucky charm, can create a placebo effect.
Lucky Charms and the Placebo Effect
Placebo effect is a phenomenon that demonstrates the power of the mind in shaping perception. This phenomenon is highly studied in the medical field, where patients experience perceived or actual improvement in their symptoms when they are given a placebo treatment that has no pharmacological effect.
Placebo treatments have been found to be just as effective as traditional treatments when used under the right circumstances.
The study involved a group of golfers who were told to play a game using a “lucky ball.” Those who were told that they were using this lucky ball significantly did better than those who were told that the balls they had were being used by everyone else.
This same group was also given an exercise to solve an anagram problem. One group was allowed to hold onto their lucky charms from home when they solved the problem, and this group was seen to perform better.
Damisch hypothesized that those who believed they were using lucky charms persisted better at problems because they felt more effective. Damisch explained that people in general do better when they believe they have the assistance of some other power.
Furthermore, Damisch believes that the activation of superstition thinking prior to performing a task may boost a person’s confidence in his or her ability to perform well. Boosting expectations and persistence therefore improves performance.
Lucky charms have existed since ancient times and the luck they bring have been well-documented that even thousands of years later, amulets, crystals, and talismans are still being used today.
Scientists believe lucky charms merely provide a placebo effect in bringing good luck. By believing that an outside force is helping to protect us and bring us good fortune, we expect these things to happen, and therefore, makes us believe that good luck is coming our way.
Can You Increase Your Luck?
The great thing about all this research about luck is that they discovered the very characteristics or personal attributes of people who are deemed lucky. By defining what these people do, those who proclaim themselves as unlucky can make the necessary changes in their lives to finally enjoy good fortune.
Just as how you can be responsible for the bad luck in your life, you can be as responsible for bringing good luck as well.
Let’s go back to the world of Richard Wiseman. His ten-year study revealed the personality types of people who were lucky and unlucky, but he also wanted to find out if unlucky people could turn their luck around.
Wiseman then created a “Luck School” for these participants, where they underwent a series of exercises that improved their luck. By the end of the school, results revealed incredible improvements in these people’s lives.
About 80% of the people who reported themselves as unlucky were now happier and more satisfied with their lives. And most importantly, these people reported being luckier.
Wiseman points out 4 unique basic principles lucky people have, which he used as the basis for the exercises in his “Luck School.”
- Skilled at noticing chance opportunities.
- Make decisions based on their intuition.
- Creative self-fulfilling prophecies.
- Adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.
According to Wiseman, to turn your luck around, you must keep an open mind and look around for new opportunities, look on the positive side of things that happen to you, and do something out of the ordinary, or in other words, go out of your comfort zone.
5 Ways to Increase Your Luck
We don’t have to enroll in Richard Wisemans’s “Luck School” to turn our luck around. With a few tips and recommendations based on his study, as well as from other researchers, I’ve gathered 5 proven tips to help you increase your luck.
- Become a People Magnet
Margie Warrel is an international bestselling author and in an article she wrote on Forbes called, “6 Things Lucky People Do That Others Don’t,” one of the habits lucky people do is to surround themselves with other lucky people.
She says that emotions are contagious, so if you spend time with people who consider themselves lucky, you will eventually have that very same positivity and optimism.
Wiseman also noticed in his study that unlucky people tended to talk to the same people in a party, which doesn’t provide opportunities for a person to meet new people outside his circle. Remember that going out of your comfort zone is one of the ways to increase your luck.
So the next time you go to a perty, why not introduce yourself to people whom you normally wouldn’t approach? This can widen your network of friends and acquaintances, increasing your chances of a friend to come through with a lucky break.
One of the lucky people in his study had a unique technique when he would go to a party or large gathering. He would think of several colors before he’d go, and promise himself to talk to people who were wearing these certain colors.
For example, for a work conference, he would plan to talk to people who were wearing black, blue, and red. On the next day, he would plan to talk to people who were wearing green, blue, and yellow. His technique allowed him to network with different kinds of people, making his circle bigger, and therefore, widening his chances of opportunities.
Do not limit yourself to a certain group of people in your life. Network and expand your circle of friends and acquaintances to open your space to chances that you would not have otherwise encountered if you stayed in your comfort zone.
2. Change Your Routine
Albert Einstein is credited for saying: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
If you want to change your luck, you have to do something different, you have to change your routine. If something isn’t working, you need to try something else to get the results that you want.
In several studies by Stephann Makri, who is a lecturer of information interaction at City University London, he wanted to determine what serendipity is and how people perceive the concept.
According to his research, participants view luck as something that’s out of control, but in terms of serendipity, it’s something that they can have power over.
Makri then interviewed a number of creative professionals about what they do to increase their chances of a serendipitous encounter, which can lead to better business and professional opportunities, or even a rekindled romance.
Here are some of the things these people do:
- Varying their routine.
- They work in different environments and work with different people.
- Do things differently to avoid getting stuck in a routine.
These people simply vary their activities and do not stick to a pattern in their work and personal lives.
Wiseman agrees to this change of routine. He says that routines can lead to rust and that stepping outside your boundary increases the chances of a potential lucky break.
So if you’re always working then heading home after, it might be time to go to a bar or maybe join a cooking class on Friday night, just to change your routine. You can meet new people and increase the likelihood of meeting a romantic or a business prospect.
3. Look at the Glass Half Full
When you see a glass that’s filled with water only in half, what do you see? Do you see the glass half empty, or do you see it half full?
Wiseman suggests seeing it half full. This means you need to look at the positive side of things. Remember what Martin Seligman said about optimists? That both optimists and pessimists actually go through the very same experience but the former sees the lessons from the mistakes and adversities? This is the kind of mindset you need to turn your luck.
Focusing on the negative side of things can dampen your spirit. When you go from complaining to being grateful, it becomes easier for you to look at what you gain instead of what you lost.
For example, you just lost your job. Yes, it sucks, and you can even think you’re unlucky. But, if you see the silver lining, such as finally having the time to actually go after the job that you really want, or pursuing a lifelong passion, you can be grateful for the “unlucky” event that occurred.
Or maybe you just separated from your spouse. This can be one of the most stressful things to ever happen to a person. But, instead of thinking about the person that you lost, maybe it’s time you find yourself again? Maybe you lost yourself in the marriage and put that person’s needs before yours.
You can see the glass half full and finally put yourself first and travel, go to a spa, and reconnect with friends and family. And maybe, finally find the person that will truly love you and never leave your side.
The act of practicing gratitude has been proven to make people happy, and when you look at your life and see only the things that you don’t have, that can make you feel down. Instead, be thankful for what you do have right now, which will instantly make you feel better about your life.
3. Trust Your Intuition
Research has shown that over-analyzing can decrease your odds of making a good decision. Have you ever wanted to make a decision but you had a feeling you weren’t choosing the right one? Well, studies have actually shown that your intuition is actually on to something.
Researchers have discovered that the brain works even when you don’t consciously use it. It discerns subtle and complex patterns that go beyond your conscious understanding, and thus explains why your gut instincts may be telling you something that you can’t directly explain.
In fact, one study supports that our intuition is actually credible. A study that was done by British researchers discovered that instinct stems from real physical reactions in our body, such as an increased heart rate and perspiration.
The study asked participants to try to win a card game they’ve never played before. The card game was designed with no clear strategy to win but encouraged participants to follow their gut instincts. The subjects wore a heart monitor to record their heart rate and researchers noticed changes in their heart rate corresponded to making the best choices during the game.
The researchers concluded that changes in your body, such as heart rate and perspiration levels guide our decisions, and not just due to our cognitive processes.
And so, when you’re making a bet, choosing a job, or pursuing a romantic prospect, it might be a good idea to trust your hunches.
4. Don’t Push Your Luck
A study has revealed that when you play a game of roulette, which is a game driven by chance, your betting style shifts your odds. For example, if you have won 2 bets in a row, your chances of winning the 3rd is 57%, as compared to a person who loses 2 bets in a row, whose chances of winning is only 40%.
The study showed that those who win 2 bets in a row fear losing on the 3rd bet, so they compensate by making a safer bet the 3rd time, which increases their win.
Those who lost 2 bets in a row overcompensate by taking bigger risks, and bigger risks lead to losing more.
Yes, we need to be optimistic in life, in a casino game, and in other aspects, but when we do win, when we do get lucky, we should not be greedy and also think rationally or logically. When we have what we want, we must be satisfied and be grateful for the good luck that arrived.
5. Use Lucky Charms
Yes, using lucky charms can increase your chances of winning or succeeding by giving you encouragement and increasing your expectations. Whether you believe they have supernatural powers or not, it doesn’t matter. As long as you expect positive outcomes from having or using them, that’s the most important thing.
Remember the self-fulfilling prophecy, the Pygmalion Effect, and the Placebo Effect? Put these concepts to good use and use a lucky charm or ritual to improve your performance, increase your persistence, and expect high expectations.
Final Thoughts / Why Do You Have Bad Luck?
Science says that luck is more about psychology rather than probability. And if you believe in this explanation, you can take advantage of all the data and research to turn your luck around.
If you’ve always asked the question: “Why do I have bad luck?”, then I hope you find your answer and what you can do to change it.
After all, relying on our lucky stars, using lucky charms, and placing bets on our life is not really powered by an external force. Because the truth is, you have the power to turn your life around by changing your luck.