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19 Psychological Facts About Success | Your Brain and Achieving

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Some people think success is a destiny set aside for those blessed with the “right stuff.” Whether that’s smarts, privilege, money, or a charming personality, success is more about how you think than what you have. 

You might believe success is out of your reach, that your capabilities and personality are set in stone — but they can adapt and grow if you’re open to it. 

Here are a few interesting psychological facts about success that’ll give you some tips and tricks for achieving in your own life.  

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19 Psychological Facts about Success

1. Have a “Growth Mindset”

Psychologist Carol Dweck came up with two concepts in the 1960s — a “growth mindset” and a “fixed mindset.” Growth mindsets allow people to consider change and growth as something they’re capable of. 


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A fixed mindset, on the other hand, is when someone believes they’re either not capable of growth. It can also mean they consider themselves as already having reached their full potential and there is no room for growth as they are “fully realized.”

Dweck’s research concluded that having a growth mindset led to a higher success rate than having a fixed mindset, which ultimately imposed self-limitations. 

2. They Practice, Well, “Deliberate Practice”

Practice makes perfect, it has long been said. It’s just a repeated set of behaviors, really. But Anders Ericsson, a leading expert in the field, discovered what they refer to as “deliberate practice.”

This is a somewhat more intense version of standard practice, where you don’t simply practice at a steady pace. Instead, you actively aim to escape your comfort zone in repeated attempts. Think of it like riding a bike. Instead of only riding 10 miles because that’s what your normal range is if you were taking part in deliberate practice, then you would ride further and further each time. 


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Ultimately, you’d be working on a vast improvement rather than a steady and acceptable level of competence.

3. Successful People Are Mindful

You might be wondering, is mindfulness some kind of yoga meditation practice? Not exactly. Rather, it’s the ability to direct your attention with pinpoint accuracy and, in turn, know exactly which things are important enough to warrant that attention.  

Mindfulness is superbly useful for jobs that require you to bounce between meetings, challenges, problem-solving issues, and performing tasks. Busy people need mindfulness to help them focus on what needs doing right now and what can wait a little, and also helps them to shift focus when necessary. 


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It involves the ability to remain calm even when under a lot of pressure in an intentional manner. No wonder people who are able to achieve this inner peace are so successful!

You might enjoy reading my article on psychological facts about money.

4. Self-Compassion is an Important Trait in Successful People

Emma Seppala, a science director for Stanford’s Compassion and Altruism Research and Education Center, wrote a book recently about this very psychological trait. Successful people don’t agonize over their shortcomings. 

Instead, they are kinder to themselves and treat themselves better when they experience even minor failures. It’s what Seppala calls “self-compassion.” It’s a frame of mind where you can recognize that you are only human and will make mistakes and that it’s okay. 

It’s the ability to accept these mistakes for what they are and then focus on what you can do next rather than wallowing in self-pity over something you probably couldn’t control. Your success in life will be determined by your ability to accept and rise above shortcomings. 


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5. Successful People Are Also Resilient

They have true grit, as it turns out. And if you think about it, it makes sense — failure is inevitable, but having a mind resilient enough to recover from that failure makes a difference. 

Psychologist Angela Duckworth calls this attribute “grit,” which is noticeable even in successful children. She claims that it’s the kids with the most grit that get into the best schools and win the spelling bees and who, later in life, get the best jobs. 

woman-leaping-silhouette psychological facts about success

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Some experts have agreed with her theories, and have even concluded that among all the psychological traits of successful people, having grit is one of the most important. This is because it’s the one thing that’s most likely to determine whether you will succeed. 

6. Success Happens if You Think in Terms of Systems

It’s all well and good to have a goal. But do you know how to reach it? 

Amy Cuddy, a Harvard psychologist, says that too many people focus on the end goal, or what she refers to as the “moonshot,” without actually thinking about the steps to get there. Successful people break goals down into smaller achievable goals and usually enjoy doing them, too. They don’t only focus on the desired outcome, but the process that gets them there.  


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Even if your goal is relatively small in comparison to others, a mind that focuses on steps belongs to a person more likely to succeed. If you decide you want to run a marathon, it’s how you choose to approach the training process that will determine your likelihood of failure or success. 

7. They Rely On Other Resources Than Willpower Alone

Willpower is great, but it will only get you so far. Adam Alter, a psychologist from NYU, says it’s a misconception that successful people simply tune out distractions by ignoring them. Instead, they find ways to eliminate them.

Think about it in terms of your phone. Putting it on silent is supposed to be one way to eliminate the phone as a distraction. But you can still hear it vibrate whenever a notification comes through, and it sits there in the back of your mind vying for your attention. 


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It’s better to put your phone in another room or use site blockers that stop you from using those tempting apps and allow you to be distracted for a set period. 

8. How You Feel About Who You Tell Your Goals To Affects Your Success

Yes, a TED Talk by Derek Sivers in 2010 advised you to keep your goals private. This was because he claimed that evidence from psychological research proved that not doing so made you less motivated to do the work necessary to meet the goal. 

However, newer research from Ohio State University is turning this claim on its head. Their findings suggest that telling people whose opinions you respect or consider to have a higher status than yourself makes you more likely to achieve your goal. 


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9. Believing You Had A Good Night’s Sleep Improves Your Performance

It’s often hard to get a decent night’s sleep as an adult. But some studies show that just believing you had a good sleep helps you perform better, making you more likely to succeed. 

Conversely, if you’re told you slept poorly, you also tend to believe it, and it can affect your performance negatively, even if you slept like a baby the night before. This reinforces that what we tell ourselves makes a difference, so forget the caffeine and get going with the sweet-sleep motivations. 

10. Your Clothes Can Make Or Break You

Dress for success — it’s a common saying, but it’s ringing truer than ever these days. It used to be that we thought our choice of wardrobe only affected how others saw us. Now it turns out it affects how we see ourselves, too. 


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In 2015, a paper was published on a study conducted on this topic. Participants were asked to wear either casual or business attire, and then were asked to write an intellectual test. The dressier volunteers performed much better than those in casual hoodies, mainly regarding creative and organizational tasks. 

Those that wore business clothes even demonstrated increased abstract thinking, a huge factor in success. 

11. Posture Impacts Your Success

Do you know something as simple as how you sit or stand can affect your mental attitude? The mind-body connection is powerful, and something as simple as sitting or standing up straighter can boost your confidence. It also helps you feel more engaged with the task, leading to a more successful outcome. 


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This is because, just as our clothes alter our way of thinking, our body posture also influences how we feel and think. Concentration, mood, and overall cognitive function get a big boost from good posture, which is more likely to lead you to success. 

12. Knowledge Isn’t As Important As Curiosity

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it can do wonders in making you more successful. A new study was conducted, and the result was that curious people were better at overcoming biases and achieving success. 

This is because curious people don’t mind reading or listening to information that may conflict with what they already think, meaning they’re more open to new ideas. Allowing yourself to encounter a variety of worldviews and concepts means you have a higher chance of finding ways of succeeding. 


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13. Age Isn’t An Issue With Success

It’s been said that age is a frame of mind, and it turns out it might be true as many successful people only achieve success later in life. Success has more to do with your frame of mind and dedication than your age. 

14. Talent Doesn’t Have Much To Do With Success

Some people believe natural inclinations and talent determine success, but it seems they’re wrong. You don’t have to be a genius or a wunderkind — what you need is passion and perseverance. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you can put your mind to what you want to achieve and go for it without feeling as though you don’t have what it takes. 


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15. Imposter Syndrome Can Harm Your Success

Imposter Syndrome is pretty common these days. It’s basically the belief that we don’t deserve what we’ve achieved because somehow we’re a fraud and are not as capable as we actually are. 

Mirjam Neureiter and Eva Traut-Mattausch found in a study that people who have high levels of Imposter Syndrome tend to make less money and earn fewer promotions at their jobs. So these intrusive beliefs can really have an impact on your performance and success, or lack thereof. 

16. Successful People Live In The Moment

Learn from your past, but don’t live there. Those that are more successful take lessons that they’ve learned from both failing and succeeding and apply them to their present lives to get closer to the future they envision.


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Being too focused on the past or future will delay you from acting in the present and getting you closer to what you want out of life. 

17. Have A Good Work-Life Balance

This is important for overall mental well-being and peak psychological performance. If you have enough downtime from your work’s stress and concentration demands, you will feel more energized and ready to tackle tasks the next day. 

If you burn yourself out trying to achieve success, you’re more likely to fail as your mind is overcome and you deny it the rest it needs. 

18. Charisma And Networking Are Important

Often you need a helping hand here and there on your road to success. This is where networking comes in. When chatting to connections you want to make a good impression with, mention their name a few times in the conversation. 

It’s a known psychological trick to improve your charisma and make them more likely to enjoy your conversation and remember you well. 


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19. Successful People Can Be Driven By Survival Mode

If the chips are down and you don’t have a cushy investment account to fall back on, sometimes we are forcibly jolted into being successful out of necessity. This is because, psychologically, we understand we need something to work out right and that there is no room for failure, so we are less likely to accept failure as an option. 

This improves your ability to make decisions, plan out steps, and be more confident that things will work. So, being in a survival state where your brain decides you have no choice but to be successful makes you more likely to succeed. 

How many of these psychology facts about success did you already know? Did we miss any interesting facts about success? If so let us know in the comments.

You might also enjoy reading:

Interesting Facts about Bipolar Disorder

Psychological Facts about Human Emotions

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