Building Hard Working Mindset: Psychology, Neuroscience, and Effective Habits 
Positive Self Help

Building Hard Working Mindset: Psychology, Neuroscience, and Effective Habits 


People consider hard work the foundation of success. Throughout our lives, people tell us that working hard is essential. In school, we work hard to get good grades and to prove our potential for higher education. In college, we often work hard to gain experience and prepare for future opportunities. At work, we put in long hours, sometimes called workaholics, to maintain our position or earn promotions. Thus, being a hard-working individual is a trait that leads to personal and professional success and is a never-ending process. But what drives us to work hard? Why do some people work very hard and others don’t? What is the science behind hard work? This article explores the insights from cognitive neuroscience and psychology to uncover the principles of developing a hard-working mindset. 

Read More: A New Initiative Taken By Software Company For Balancing Employees Work Life

Motivation: The Drive Behind Hard Work 

People consider motivation a determinant of behaviour and a component of hard work. Understanding motivation can provide deeper insights about developing a hard-working mindset. 

  • Psychological Theory of Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation: Motivation is further divided into extrinsic and intrinsic. Often operating at different levels, these are key drivers of hard work. Extrinsic motivation works on external rewards and appraisal; rewards like position, social appraisal, leadership, money and power, stimulate a person to work hard towards the goal (reward). This type of motivation increases the productivity of the person but often it’s temporary, as the absence of the external reward can lead to a decrease in motivation and productivity.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is about the inner drive to achieve something. Unlike extrinsic motivation, this type strives for personal satisfaction and growth as a reward rather than external rewards. Intrinsic motivation is sustainable as individuals engage in tasks or goals because they are open to new experiences and want to explore their potential.

  • Neuroscience Perspective of Motivation: In order to understand motivation that leads one to work hard, understanding the brain’s reward system is important. The neurotransmitter called dopamine plays a central role in this system. When we do something fulfilling, such as finishing a research or assignment, our brains release dopamine, making us feel pleasure. This release serves as a kind of reward set whenever we accomplish something. This reward encourages us to continue to work hard towards our goals. 
  • Cognitive Control and Effort Regulation: The cognitive perspective gives insights about cognitive control and effort regulation that may help to stay motivated in order to work hard towards the goal. Cognitive Control involves setting achievable goals, eliminating distractions, prioritizing tasks, and breaking tasks into smaller steps to stay productive and hence reduce the chances of burnout. Whereas Effort Regulation involves maintaining energy levels and adjusting their efforts to stay motivated over time. 

Read More: Theories of Motivation

According to Counselling Psychologist Anjali Seth, Important traits of hardworking people include punctuality, persistence, high commitment, initiative skills, self-reliance, and passion for work. Intrinsic motivation is the key factor when it comes to hard work, as it makes people persistent in their tasks. Hard work can have a positive effect on mental health if balanced with adequate rest and family life.

Psychological Traits of Hard-Working Individuals 

Psychological theories describe hard work as a personality trait that influences individuals who prioritize their goals, maintain focus, and adhere to a disciplined approach to work. Here are some example: 

  • Big Five Theory: A theory by Robert MacCare and Paul Costa highlights conscientiousness and openness to experience as personality traits that are in people who work hard and are driven to achieve new aspects of their potential. This personality theory also emphasizes the role of emotional stability, which is essential for maintaining overall stability to work hard even in face of failure. 
  • Type A Personality: Friedman and Rosenman classified individuals into Type-A and Type-B. Individuals characterized by Type-A personality are often those who have high motivation, lack patience and time, always working, and are burdened by work. Such people have difficulty slowing down and relaxing and suffer from hypertension. Further, it also sheds light on people who are opposite to these traits and are characterized by Type-B personalities. 
  • The Personality Trait of Hardiness: Suzanne Kobasa’s Hardiness consists of three C’s: Commitment, Control and Challenge. Commitment refers to dedication towards work and goals, Control refers to the ability to overcome obstacles with one’s effort and Challenge is described as openness to new possibilities, perceiving challenges as opportunities to grow rather than threats. 

Read More: The Essential Guide to Achieving Work-Life Balance 

Effective Habits and Practices: The foundation of Hard work 

Not all of us have these traits described in personality theories. Does that mean we don’t work hard? No. These traits are just one way to explain specific personalities and often apply to a small section of people. A person with hard-working mindset follow effective habits and practices: 

  • Time Management: Time management centers around spending time doing things that you value or that will help you achieve your goals. Time management is an effective skill that ensures productivity and performance. 
  • Goal Setting: Setting achievable and clear goals provides a straight direction and motivation, while allowing individuals to track their accomplishment effectively. 
  • Optimism: Being optimistic, or having a positive outlook on life, has been shown to have a positive impact on both our mental and physical well-being. How we deal with challenges and tough situations can vary from person to person. For instance, optimists tend to believe that they can handle difficult situations successfully. 
  • Discipline: Discipline empowers individuals to overcome unhelpful habits like procrastination, perfection and inconsistency, enabling them to work hard and stay focused towards their goals.

Read More: The Psychology of Procrastination: strategies to boost Productivity

Social and Environmental Factors 

There are several social and environmental factors that may influence individuals to develop hard-working mindsets: 

  • Supportive Relationships: A person with family, friends, or mentors who supports the goals can create emotional drive to work hard. 
  • Positive Role Models: If we are surrounded by individuals who are strong and positive role models, their influence can work as motivation to work hard towards our goals. 
  • Workplace Culture: A healthy workplace, which provides social support and appraisal, appreciates the effort and hard work that is put in, can create an atmosphere in which individuals are motivated to work more hard. 

According to Psychotherapist Shreya Nanduri, Hard work is key, but for a desired outcome, focus matters more. Hustle culture burns you out, eventually. Prioritizing your mental health, fuels smarter choices and propels you forward in actualising your vision.

Read More: Psychological Insights for Enhanced Employee Wellbeing in the Workplace

Cultivating a hard-working mindset is not about putting in long working hours. But understanding the motivation and reward system of the brain and also defining traits of a hard-working individual. Developing essential life skills like time management and surrounding oneself with positive role models can help us to develop a hard-working mindset.

References +
  • Al Halbusi, H., AbdelFattah, F., Ferasso, M., Alshallaqi, M., & Hassani, A. (2024). Fear of failure for entrepreneurs in emerging economies: stress, risk, finances, hard work, and social support. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 31(1), 95-125. 
  • Botvinick, M., & Braver, T. (2015). Motivation and cognitive control: from behavior to neural mechanism. Annual review of psychology, 66, 83-113.
  • Donald, J. N., Bradshaw, E. L., Ryan, R. M., Basarkod, G., Ciarrochi, J., Duineveld, J. J., … & Sahdra, B. K. (2020). Mindfulness and its association with varied types of motivation: A systematic review and meta-analysis using self-determination theory. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 46(7), 1121-1138. 
  • Baron, R. A., & Misra, G. (2018). Psychology Indian Subcontinent Edition. 
  • Ewen, R. B. (2014). An introduction to theories of personality. Psychology
  • Van Eerde, W. (2015). Motivation and reward systems. Wiley encyclopedia of management, 1-4.

Leave feedback about this

  • Rating