A neuroscientist says you might be luckier than you think — here’s how to find out

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Some days, it feels like nothing goes your way. Others, the sun is always shining.

Neuroscientist Moran Cerf has been studying decision-making for over a decade, and his research has shown him that far more people are in the second camp of people than the first.

Along the way, he’s developed a tested method that helps him appreciate all the times he is lucky.

Here’s how he does it.


Become aware of your “negativity bias.”

Cerf’s research has found that free choice is a terrible predictor for happiness. Humans fall victim to all sorts of cognitive biases that cloud their impression of their lives for the worse.

One of those is the negativity bias. It causes people to remember bad or scary events, such as news stories of plane crashes, more vividly than pleasant ones.

“Our brains are geared toward thinking about negativity and scary things, because that’s how the brain kind of learns,” Cerf told Business Insider.


Start to collect a picture of what luck looks like.

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Keep a running list of times luck was (and was not) on your side.

More often than not, Cerf has found, the times you got lucky will outnumber the unlucky moments.

Keeping a log of when luck goes your way, such as when you parked illegally and didn’t get a ticket, can help you overcome that negativity bias.


Gather more data to get a full picture of your luckiness.

At the end of the month or year, you can tally up the lucky versus unlucky moments to know whether life skewed in your favor.

“Most of us are lucky,” Cerf said. “That’s the point.”

Seeing the data can show people that their train may not experience as many delays as they think, rush-hour traffic might not be so bad, and they don’t often forget their umbrella on rainy days.


Brace for the worst.

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Some people could have their worst fears validated. They may not be as lucky as they thought.

They may notice, for example, that their train is late far more often than they thought. Or maybe they hadn’t noticed it was late at all, since they were busy reading.

Actively tracking cases in which the train runs late might ruin any bliss they experienced from being ignorant.


Knowing your luck can help you grow as a person.

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The upside to Cerf’s strategy is that it provides people with more information, he said, which they can use to shape their perspectives on life.

If you find out you get an overabundance of parking tickets, you can find a new place to park, perhaps increasing your luck.

“It’s simple advice,” Cerf said. “But my students come back to me and say this is really helpful.”