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Finding Your Personal Pot of Gold

Guest post by: Karen Rush, Children’s Center Executive Director 

When I was a child, I loved St. Patrick’s Day! I truly believed that finding a four-leaf clover would make me lucky and I sincerely searched for the “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow. I definitely wore green on St. Patrick’s Day to make sure good luck would come my way! As a parent, I passed this passion for pursuing good luck to my own children. They are both adults now, but when we head out on walks, they still look in clover patches and excitedly point out rainbows.

All of this reflection on luck got me wondering if there are things that people can do to actually improve their luck. I was surprised and delighted to learn that there is a whole body of research on the science of luck, comparing the thoughts, behaviors, and habits of people who consider themselves lucky versus unlucky. The good news is that researchers have found that “feeling lucky” comes down to a few simple things that relate to how people perceive and interact with the environment around them.

First, lucky people are more likely to notice chance opportunities in their environment. They have a wider “attentional spotlight” and don’t get overly focused on specific information during a task or activity. A “lucky” person is more likely to speak about serendipity or coincidence leading to positive outcomes they experience. In contrast, people who consider themselves “unlucky” tend to be more anxious and hypervigilant. This narrows the spotlight, so they miss important opportunities around them.

Lucky people are also more likely to be intuitive and optimistic. They listen to their “gut instincts” and believe in their good judgement. Trusting yourself and others is one of the fundamental stages in healthy child development- without trust in their own decisions and in the concern and care of others, children can become fearful, anxious, and less willing to take the kind of risks that can lead to lucky outcomes.

People who consider themselves lucky are also more likely to expect a good outcome and are grateful, even when the outcome wasn’t what they expected. When reflecting on the paths taken to get to where they are today, lucky people more often reframe an unexpected outcome as critical for their current success. For example, they might feel that not getting a certain job that they wanted allowed them to take a different job that turned out to be even better than the first opportunity!

Luckily for us (pun intended!), there are actions we can take as parents to help our children develop the mindsets that promote lucky thinking and lucky outcomes!

Build “mindfulness” muscles

Mindfulness practices are excellent tools for reducing anxiety and building awareness and presence of mind, intuition, and optimism! Start simple and teach your children to take deep belly breaths, focusing on paying attention to their bodies as they slowly breathe in and out. For some fun and free mindfulness video tutorials in English and Spanish, check out the Mind Yeti playlist on YouTube: Mind Yeti – YouTube

Promote the power of positive thinking

Fans of Harry Potter will remember the scene in which Ron thinks he has taken Felix Felicis, a good luck potion, prior to his Quidditch match. Ron played extremely well and won the game for his team! He didn’t actually take the potion, but his thought that he would be lucky was enough to make him feel relaxed and focused during the match. Of course, this is an extreme and silly example, but it drives home an important point – When we feel optimistic about a situation, we are more likely to be calm, focused, and willing to take small risks that might push us forward toward our goals.

You can help children develop an optimistic mindset by talking through daily occurrences with them and highlighting their role in making good things happen. According to Dr. Martin Seligman, conversations that teach children to be optimistic emphasize three Ps when good things happen:  Permanence (good things will reoccur), pervasiveness (it can happen in other circumstances and at other times), and personal (you made it happen). Read the full article from Greater Good magazine at this link: Raising Optimistic Kids | Greater Good (berkeley.edu)

Be open to wonder

Curiosity is another important piece of the lucky mindset! When children are open-minded and interested in exploring their environment, they are learning more about the world around them and making connections between ideas and experiences. They are also building trust and confidence to take action when they start out with a mindset of curiosity rather than feeling pressure or anxiety to get something “right” the first time they try it.

Using their imaginations allows them try out new ideas and to have fun! When children are being playful and are completely engaged in an activity, they are building their skills in attention,  memory, creativity, and expression of positive emotions -all aspects of the “lucky” mindset! Children are naturally curious, but parents can nurture curiosity by simply playing along!

When the news of the world and events around us make it harder to feel lucky, that is a good reminder for us to take a step back, take a deep breath, tune in to our intuition, channel our curiosity, and notice the lucky chances that are coming our way. Feeling lucky? Connect with your favorite children, head outside, and spend some time searching for four-leaf clovers and your own personal pot of gold!

– Karen

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