In my earlier blog review of his book, The Luck Factor, Richard Wiseman said that you too can train yourself to be a luckier person. What he meant of course is you can train yourself to adapt the attitudes and behaviours of ‘lucky’ people, and see if you have more fortuitous outcomes in your life. And he’s right! I’ve tried it. I’m not sure I’m any luckier, but I am more aware of my good fortune.
I remember not so many years ago feeling sorry for myself and more than a bit frustrated at the incidence of negative events that seemed to occur in my life. I sometimes thought of myself as Joe Bfstplk, the L’il Abner character who perpetually walked around with a rain cloud over his head. I was dissatisfied with many aspects of my life, big and small. And I knew I was carrying around a certain amount of irrational resentment and anger. I began to notice that I was becoming inappropriately irritated every time I came to a red traffic light, seemingly always when I was in a hurry to get somewhere. I cursed Murphy’s Law and the gods for having it in for me via traffic lights. One day when I found myself in a reflective mood at yet another red light I began to think, my encounter with red lights can’t be any better or worse than anyone else’s. I certainly can’t be experiencing red lights at a rate any different than chance. I stopped turning the negativity on me and thought about it more rationally – it’s only random. This is classic cognitive therapy, though in a very minor way. I realized I was more aware of the incidence of red lights when I was in a hurry, and therefore more sensitive to adverse consequences of these ‘negative’ events. Obviously I had only myself to blame: I needed to allow more time to be sure to get to my destination on time, including allowance for the usual number of red lights likely to be encountered. I felt cognitively more settled and even began to settle emotionally. But then I had another thought. I said to myself, I notice all the red lights I encounter that slow me down, but do I notice all the green lights that keep me on track. Almost certainly there are as many favourable green lights as there are unfavourable red lights. I decided to pay more attention to green lights. I consciously started to take note of traffic lights whenever I was driving somewhere, hurried or not. Over time I found my thesis seemed to bear out:. overall I encounter about the same number of red lights as green. Sometimes I will encounter a series of red lights – but instead of negative thinking I just took note. And then I realized, sometimes I’d get to my destination with green lights all the way!*
Now I’ve adopted a ‘green light’ philosophy and I find myself a happier person.
And isn’t that what good luck is all about?
*Curiously, lately, I’ve actually started to hope that the next light will be red. Having to wait on a red light allows me a minute to turn my attention to my email on my i-phone. Now I find myself cursing green lights! I know, it’s a bit sick.