10/11/2013 10:50 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

How to Get Lucky

Stop walking into walls. Stop missing the opportunity. Stop squashing the blessing, slapping the wink, staining your karma, stepping blindly into traffic or dating endless numbers of loser jerks or ditzy wenches because they never appear exactly as they're supposed to, and therefore surely the gods of fate, time and love clearly have it in for you, right?


Some things you just sort of know. Some things you get at an automatic, instinctual level, right off the bat, and when someone finally says that thing aloud you sort of go "Well, of course," while deep inside you're screaming "Goddammit, why didn't I think of that, because it makes so much obvious sense?"

Did you know they have performed studies? Tests? Surveys and scientific trials into the idea of luck, into the phenomenon of good fortune both general and specific?

Of course they have. They are trying to answer why some people enjoy endless, seemingly effortless heaps of happy fortuitousness and serendipity, while others -- do you know anyone like this? -- are in a state of near constant, ass-clenched frustration because the world refuses to obey their narrow and twitchy expectations, and therefore they are always sick, broken, late, damaged, loveless and lost, and nothing good or happy or fortunate ever seems to happen to them. Don't believe it? Just ask them.

Some psychologists -- Richard Wiseman, in particular -- have written entire books (The Luck Factor) on these studies and their resultant, forehead-slappingly awesome outcomes, despite how it's a kind of wisdom that's been around pretty much since the dawn of knowledge and plants and gods alike. But, you know, we forget. A lot.

It's a dead-simple thing, really. Luck is a choice. Luck is a modality, a way of operating, a thing you can switch on in an instant and then enjoy its throb and heat and pulse forever and ever until you die, like a cosmic rabbit vibrator for your soul.

It's true. To be lucky, in short, is to be open, adaptive, flexible, receptive to the new, relaxed and awake, so you can see the opportunities when they arrive and then act on them without hesitation, doubt or fear, which is pretty much the exact opposite of the operational mode of all those unhappy, anxious humans we all know and love and never, ever vote for.

Wiseman puts his study's essential findings this way:

Unlucky people are generally more tense than lucky people and this anxiety disrupts their ability to notice the unexpected.

As a result, they miss opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. Lucky people, on the other hand, are more relaxed and open, which means they see what is there.

See? Obvious. But there's a catch. Despite it's simplicity, it's not at all easy to change modes and switch that luck energy on. After all, misery is addictive. Millions of people are deeply attached to their suffering, their haphazard convictions, their inability to see how their own nervous monofocus and attachment to particular goals or obsessive desires might be blocking out all manner of opportunity right here and now, in the white-hot immediate moment.

What's more, lots of people you and I both know possess some self-sabotaging, masochistic part of them that actually seems to get off on the idea that bad things things always happen to them and hey, that's just the way it is, aren't I unlucky, and woe is me, someone give me some attention and sympathy and some meds.

Right? Know anyone like that? There is perverse comfort in claiming endless victimhood. Being open-minded and spiritually awake takes nerve. And whisky. And work.

Can we extend this a little? Can we say...

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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate, and the creator of the new Mark Morford's Apothecary iOS app. He's also a well-known ERYT yoga instructor in San Francisco. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...