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In psychological terms, lucky people tend to be more extroverted, a word whose Latin roots mean "turned outward." Typically, they're gregarious. They have the power to draw others toward them. They're adept at maintaining friendships. And they cultivate what Wiseman describes as a "strong network of luck" that helps promote opportunity in their lives.

Ultimately, Wiseman believes, the bigger your circle of acquaintances, the more opportunities you have. A typical person knows about 300 people on a first-name basis. So if you go to a party and meet someone new, he explains, you're "only two handshakes away from 300 times 300 people; that's 90,000 new possibilities for a new opportunity, just by saying hello." By the same logic, if you meet 50 new people at a conference, you're just a couple of introductions away from 4.5 million opportunities to change your life.

But handshakes aren't the only way to increase the odds of a life-changing encounter. Wiseman claims that 80 percent of the people who try to increase their serendipity are successful. It takes only a month, he says, and most people report their luck increases by an average of 40 percent. A few keys to success:

Prepare your mind. Don't leave chance encounters entirely to chance, says Colleen Seifert. Instead, try doing a little predictive encoding and get your mind ready for good things to happen. "Chance favors the prepared mind," Seifert says, quoting Louis Pasteur. If you lay the groundwork, then when something happens by chance, your memory goes right to work and "you notice it for free."

Give chance a chance. If you always pick apples in the same part of an orchard, Wiseman notes, you'll eventually run out of fruit. The same applies to luck. Pursue an active life—get out there and do things—and you'll increase the likelihood of good things happening. Go apple picking—or grocery shopping, for that matter—somewhere new. Eat your lunch on a different park bench. You never know who will be sitting next to you.

Relax. If you're anxious, stressed, or preoccupied, Wiseman believes, you probably won't notice good things waiting to happen. You'll walk right past money on the ground or miss an opportunity to speak with someone in a coffee shop. A laid-back attitude can lead to all sorts of possibilities, but you have to be ready to go with the flow.

Build your network of luck. Stay connected to the people you know, and try to meet new people. You can become more of a social magnet by paying attention to your body language. It may sound obvious, but make smiling a habit. "Remember that you are surrounded by opportunities," Wiseman writes. "It is just a case of looking in the right places and seeing what is really there."

Colleen Seifert used to think it was "inefficient to invest in people you were never going to see again." Why chat with someone on an airplane—or at the dog park, or at an academic conference—if your paths were never going to recross? But she now believes that "people are opportunities. The gift is in the interaction and the connection with another person, whether it lasts forever or not." And you never know where that gift might lead.

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