You will remember that a couple of months ago I had my house broken into and my car and wallet stolen. Well it all got sorted out and for the last month I have had all my credit cards and a car to drive---until today.

Happily driving along I noticed the radio fading out---which was odd---then the satnav screen started flashing---very odd---and then warning lights started flashing like the Starship Enterprise under attack by Romulans. It quickly became apparent that all the electricity had escaped from the car (if you are mechanically minded it turns out the alternator has a fault). I was able to get off the road safely as the steering and brakes started to fade.

Cursing I phoned the breakdown recovery company, but needed my bank card as it comes with the account. I was a bit flustered and I must have left my wallet on the roof of the car. Realising this when I went to pay for a coffee, I rushed back. The wallet had gone. It is fair to say I had a momentary loss of calm. Once again no wallet, no cards and no car.

In the end I got home, phoned the bank, and the car repair bill is much less than expected.

Bad luck?

Now I know logically that there is no such thing as 'bad luck', but it certainly felt like it today. On the other hand I was due to do a post and was struggling to think of a topic; so at least it solved that problem.

There is some good science looking at luck and what generally comes out is that 'lucky people' generate their own apparent good fortune. Professor Richard Wiseman spent ten years studying 'lucky' and 'unlucky' people and found some consistent themes described in his work 'The Luck Factor'. Those who were lucky tended to have certain attributes:

  • They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities
  • They make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition
  • They create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations
  • They adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good

He then used these strategies to help the 'unlucky' people. In effect this is a form of cognitive behavioural therapy; a psychological therapy that aims to challenge and change thoughts and actions that can result in depression and anxiety.

Who's in control?

Another psychological concept that probably plays a part is 'locus of control'. People with an internal locus of control believe the things that happen to them are due to their own actions so are less likely to believe they are the victim of 'bad luck'. Those with an  external locus of control perceive their life being controlled by external factor over which they have no control and hence when 'unlucky' can feel powerless to change things.

My wife thought this would cheer me up,it didn't, but Red Nose Day does remind us that having a car break down is not a big deal.

My wife thought this would cheer me up,it didn't, but Red Nose Day does remind us that having a car break down is not a big deal.

So reviewing my day based on Prof. Wiseman's advice:

They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities: Who knows what might happen this afternoon now that I can't get to work.

They make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition: Well my intuition told me it would be a bad idea to continue driving without brakes and steering.

They create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations: By not continuing driving  I didn't have a crash; so that was 'lucky'.

They adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good: I had a topic for this blog

I can't quite bring myself to think of it as a good day, but on the grand scale of things it probably isn't so bad.

Comment