The Psychology Behind Success

The Psychology Behind Success

A person holding a winning trophy

What is true “success” or “happiness” is a subjective term and can vary greatly from person to person. What constitutes success can be based on one’s values, aspirations, and circumstances. The definitions are influenced by various societal, personal, and cultural factors. Success in general terms can be defined as the accomplishment of an aim, purpose, or goal. It could be something that you desire or manifest for your future.

Success Goals: Strategic planning is the way to start

Achieving success requires planning, without which pathways cannot be built. Human brains require a plan of action to effectively initiate and navigate thoughtful actions towards achieving the desired goal. Success goals reflect a person’s aspirations, which can be directed towards various aspects of life, like career, marriage/ relationships, family, health, personal growth, lifestyle, etc. These goals provide a direction and purpose, which guide individuals toward the outcomes that they desire. Possessing a SMART goal- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound helps one focus on their efforts, and track their progress as well.

For example, in terms of career, one wants to achieve a job position within a specific time frame, complete a certificate or degree in a field that they want to excel in or launch a successful venture by a certain specified date.

In terms of personal development, one wants to practice mindfulness and meditation daily to enhance emotional well-being and focus.
In terms of finance, one wants to save a certain amount of money in an emergency fund within a specific time period or invest a portion of income in different investment options to build wealth over time.

Building growth mindset: Taking challenges as opportunities to learn

Psychologist Carol Dweck in her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” described the concept of growth and fixed mindsets. According to Dweck, challenging situations can be catastrophic for people with fixed mindsets as they imply that they don’t have the skills or intelligence to complete the task, hence there are no chances of any improvement. In the contrary, one with a growth mindset believes that you can gain skills and knowledge even if they currently don’t posses them. They perceive that ability and intelligence can be attained through one’s own effort. Learning is a lifelong process, and taking each and every challenge as an opportunity to learn, is the motto they live by. A person with a growth mindset believes that your past doesn’t define the path of your success.

Dealing with Failure and Building Resilience: Roads to Success

Dealing with failure is a part of the journey towards success. The capacity to move through difficult situations, especially through failures, also known as “resilience” is another important determinant of success. The path toward success may resemble a series of obstacles to overcome. When setbacks arise, it may seem like the road to success is fragmenting, although your survival depends on the ability to get up and keep going. The ability to persevere and learn from difficult situations is a skill required while dealing with failure, and a necessary component of success.

Research studies show that regular effort, consistency, determination, and discipline are some principles that add up to success in their own potential career fields. A strong work ethic places you at a better chance of getting promoted, and reaching your goals.

Psychologist Angela Duckworth studied the concept of “grit” which is a combination of passion and perseverance in an effort to achieve long-term goals. The concept of grit says that without passion, one who perseveres in something has more chance of dealing with burnout. Possessing both passion and perseverance provides people a mental toughness that enables them to persist and succeed in the face of adversity. In a TED talk, she explained how Grit is like having stamina, sticking with your future day in and day out, and living life like it’s a marathon rather than a sprint.

Psychological flexibility is another ingredient towards the path of success. Possessing psychological flexibility means the ability to adapt our own behavior to a world that is constantly changing, as well as the needs that we find ourselves facing. Psychologist Crystal Lee in her book “How Rich Asians Think” said that having this flexibility lets people think outside of the box and become creative when confronted with an obstacle.

When we study the traits of successful people, we see that they possess
  • A strong vision and are goal-oriented,
  • Are resilient in the face of setbacks,
  • A strong ability to control their own impulses through self-discipline (and maintain a strong work ethic),
  • Are committed to lifelong learning as they have a thirst for knowledge, and can adapt to changing circumstances and environments.
  • Risk takers who are willing to step out of their own comfort zone and take risks with careful analysis and planning
  • Problem-solving skills where they approach issues with a logical and creative mindset.
  • Leadership skills where they are able to inspire, motivate and guide those around them, and take a stand before others.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Successful people understand and manage their own emotions but also are aware of people’s emotions around them, and can empathize with them. This skill is essential for effective communication.

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