Lucky girl syndrome

At the time I write this, #luckygirl has over 410 million views on TikTok. It’s clearly a resonant topic. The idea of this hashtag, also known as lucky girl syndrome, is you can make good things happen to you if you behave as if you’re expecting and already experiencing the most positive outcome. 

You’re not talking yourself out of opportunities; you’re manifesting good luck, drawing it in, and affirming positive events. 

There’s a degree of truth here, and it’s entirely worth investigating further. 

University of Hertfordshire professor Richard Wiseman writes in The Luck Factor, “Lucky people expect to meet people who are interesting, happy, and fun to be with. They expect their interactions to go well and be successful.” This experiment comes to mind. It’s a scenario involving Martin, who believes he is lucky, and Brenda, who believes she is unlucky:

We created two potential ‘chance’ opportunities for both Martin and Brenda. We placed a crisp £5 note on the pavement directly outside the coffee shop. Martin and Brenda would have to walk past it to enter the shop – but would they notice the money? We also re-arranged the coffee shop so that it only contained four tables, and placed a stooge at each. One of them was a successful businessman; the others were not. All four people were instructed to behave in exactly the same way, regardless of whether it was Brenda or Martin in the coffee shop. Would Brenda and Martin make the most of the opportunity? 

We set the cameras rolling and waited for Martin and Brenda to arrive. Martin was first to arrive at the coffee shop. He immediately noticed the £5 note, picked it up and walked into the shop. Once inside, he ordered a coffee and sat down next to the successful businessman. Within minutes, Martin had introduced himself and offered to buy the man a coffee. The man accepted, and a few moments later the two of them were chatting away. After Martin left the shop we placed another £5 note on the ground and waited for Brenda. 

Then things went slightly wrong. Instead of Brenda, a woman pushing a pram walked up the street. She noticed the money, picked it up and walked off. I suspect that she is a consistently lucky person, but will never know for sure. We placed another £5 note on the ground and waited. A few minutes later, Brenda appeared. She walked straight over the note and into the coffee shop. She went up to the counter, ordered a coffee and sat down next to the businessman. Unlike Martin, she sat there quietly and didn’t say a word to anyone.

According to a different summary of the situation, “Later that day, Wiseman asked both of them whether anything lucky had happened to them. Martin told a funny story about how he’d found money on the street and had a chat with a successful businessman. Brenda just blinked.”

Indeed, it’s easy to consider this a validation of lucky girl syndrome; because Martin expected good things to happen to him, he behaved in a way that created new opportunities. Because Brenda didn’t expect good things to happen to her—in fact, she believed she was unlucky—she remained closed to the opportunities that were latent and right in front of her.

The truth is greater, and more complicated, than that. In his book, The Luck Factor, Wiseman describes a few principles for creating greater luck (emphasis added):

  • Maximise Your Chance Opportunities
    • Lucky people build and maintain a strong ‘network of luck’. 
    • Lucky people have a relaxed attitude towards life. 
    • Lucky people are open to new experiences in their life.
  • Listen to Your Lucky Hunches
    • Lucky people listen to their gut feelings and hunches. 
    • Lucky people take steps to boost their intuition.
  • Expect good fortune
    • Lucky people expect their good luck to continue in the future. 
    • Lucky people attempt to achieve their goals, even if their chances of success seem slim, and persevere in the face of failure. 
    • Lucky people expect their interactions with others to be lucky and successful.
  • Turn Your Bad Luck Into Good
    • Lucky people see the positive side of their bad luck. 
    • Lucky people are convinced that any ill fortune in their life will, in the long run, work out for the best.
    • Lucky people do not dwell on their ill fortune.
    • Lucky people take constructive steps to prevent more bad luck in the future.

In Wiseman’s investigation of luck, the expectation that good luck will take place is just a small portion of a much larger framework. There’s a much greater practice that takes place than simply affirming or expecting positive outcomes to happen.

On its own, lucky girl syndrome and expectation alone isn’t enough. It wasn’t enough for lucky girl syndrome predecessor and The Secret author Rhonda Byrne to sell her house at asking price.

Creating this energy is just a small part of how your beliefs and actions influence your future.

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