(The following excerpt from Planned Happenstance by Mary Nemko, Ph.D., recently appeared on psychologytoday.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
It’s often been said that we make our own luck. But how? One way is to use what Stanford professor John Krumboltz calls planned happenstance: putting yourself where good things are likely to happen and there, taking the right actions.
Where to go
Let’s say your goal is to land a better job. Where might people with the power to hire you congregate? Professional conferences, online forums, and courses taken by potential employers. So, for example, if you want a job in organizational development, attend a local chapter, regional, or national meeting of the Organizational Development Network or the Society for Human Resources Management. Get active in a LinkedIn Organizational Development group. Take a class on leadership, online, or, ideally in-person—You’re more likely to make the deep-enough connections in-person than online.
If your goal is to meet your special someone, first ask yourself, “What would you like in that person?” That could help you identify where you might meet such types. For example, if you’d like an intellectual, perhaps take a university extension liberal arts course. Want someone kindly? Volunteer a at a legal assistance center or a disaster relief organization. Like blue-collar types? Maybe join the local sports team booster club. Crave political activists? Get active in a campaign. Want someone who can financially support you? Attend or volunteer at fundraising events, get on a board of directors, or take a cruise–inside-cabin berths on good cruise lines can often be had for under $100 a day.
What to do there
While Woody Allen claims that 80 percent of success is showing up, you may need to do more than that, notably be a savvy networker. A recent PsychologyToday.com article of mine describes how even introverts can do that.
Success at planned happenstance also requires you to demonstrate competence, emotional health, and kindness.
Competence. You need to demonstrate competence not only if you’re seeking a job but a decent romantic partner. Quality people want quality partners: those who are knowledgeable, interested in more than pop culture, are clear and emotionally intelligent speakers and listeners. For planned happenstance to pay off, you better bring your A game.
Emotional health. It’s a red flag if you appear high-maintenance. In an ideal world, expressing neediness, insecurity, and emotional problems would engender extra kindness. Alas, the more common reaction is to pull away. It’s rarely this easy but occasionally, “faking it ‘til you make it” can both avoid premature rejection and even make you feel better. Of course, make your planned happenstance forays when you’re at your best, not when your malaise is flaring.
Kindness. Kindness alas, seems on the decline, ironically when society sorely needs it. Perhaps the scarcity that is slowly spreading over the nation is making people feel that to survive, they better focus on #1. But if you can summon your inner Mother Teresa, you’ll likely derive more benefit from your attempts at planned happenstance and, in any case, feel better about yourself. It really does feel better to give than to receive.
While some people seem to have all the luck, planned happenstance can make you some.