Ten Biggest Breakthroughs in the Science of Success

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If one is committed to doing science, as we are here at CSL, then at the end of the day one must pay attention to the art and science of getting things done and keeping your personal momentum going.

The folks at Braintrack.com have kindly given us permission to post the following offering as the weekend comes to a close:

What’s really behind success and achievement? Is it fate, luck, hard work, or a combination of it all? Scientists around the world have been hard at work to uncover the secrets behind the science of success, and they’ve found some major breakthroughs: firstborns and secondborns really are different, positive thinking and praise aren’t as great as we think, and practice is the best predictor of success. Read on to explore these (and more) successful science phenomena and use this knowledge to pursue your own achievement.

  1. The difference between firstborns and secondborns:

    Although this is something we’ve suspected for a long time, it turns out that firstborns and secondborns really do achieve differently. According to Belgian research, it seems that firstborns are more likely have what’s called a “Get-Better” mindset, wherein they are concerned with how well they’re doing today compared with points in the past. Secondborns, on the other hand, are more likely to have “Be-Good” goals, in which they compare their performance to others. Although secondborn “Be-Good” goals can be motivating, “Get-Better” ones are superior, leading to constant learning and improvement.

  2. Success breeds more success:

    Success can create a momentum all its own, continually building upon itself, and there’s a brain-based reason for that. Harvard researchers have found that neurons become more finely tuned and are able to retain memory when we succeed, but don’t do the same thing when we’re not succeeding. Your brain actually becomes addicted to success, thanks to dopamine bumps associated with success, and helps you to retain the information that you need to succeed again.

  3. Practice really does make perfect:

    So often, culture, genes, even environment are given as the reason why some seem to do better in sports than others. But the truth is that it really all comes down to practice. Sports scientists believe that any successful athletic performer must first complete at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, and although culture can have an impact, it is primarily because it influences the training athletes can access. Further, although there has been extensive research into genetic testing programs of Olympic athletes, predictive sports genetics simply remain unsolved. Meaning: it’s not who you are or where you come from, but how hard you work.

  4. The biology of risk taking:

    Hormones can have a major impact on your threshold for risk. John Coates, author of The Hour Between Dog and Wolfexplains that there are two important hormones in success and failure. Testosterone is associated with success, while cortisone is associated with failure. Along with success, testosterone breeds risk-taking euphoria that can lead to more success, but the stress hormone cortisol can cause you to hold back and avoid taking risks, becoming less competitive.

  5. The role of praise in achievement:

    We’ve all been lead to believe that praise and positive feedback foster success, but some psychologists believe that it can actually drain self-esteem and motivation. Too much praise can lead to a “fixed mindset,” which focuses on looking smart and being judged well, can inhibit growth and success.

  6. Using the if-then plan:

    Real achievement can happen with the “if-then plan.” With this technique, a specific action will take place whenever something else occurs. Anyone can say “I want to exercise more,” and then quickly forget the commitment they’ve made the very next day because it’s not specific enough. Instead, an if-then plan spells out exactly how you’re going to do it, for example: if it’s Wednesday at 6 p.m., then I will go to yoga class. Research has found that you’re two to three times more likely to succeed if you use an if-then plan. Use it for exercise, and it’s even better” 91% of if-then planners were able to stick to their exercise commitment, vastly overshadowing the 39% of non-planners who stuck with it.

  7. Visualizing success is for suckers:

    There’s nothing wrong with positive thinking, but evidence shows that simply “visualizing success” and doing nothing else, can actually be harmful. You’re less likely to achieve your goals if all you’ve done is imagine you’ve already achieved them, but visualizing the steps to success is great for achievement. Thoughts like “this wont’ be easy, and I’m going to have to work hard” can be highly productive, as well as thinking about how you’re going to make success happen.

  8. Many heads can be better than one:

    In some workplaces, teamwork can feel like a recipe for disaster, but with the right group, teams can be smarter and more effective than the sum of their parts. Researchers from MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Union College have proven that the collective intelligence of a group can actually predict the success of their performance, especially in groups that are more socially sensitive.

  9. Potential matters more than success:

    Although we’ve all been told to highlight our successes as a predictor of future achievement, it turns out that people really prefer the potential for greatness more than a track record of success. Although leaders with years of relevant experience might have an impressive background, employers still tend to prefer candidates that display the most aptitude over those who have already proved their merit. It looks like we all want to be a part of the next big thing.

  10. Looking to the future is more important than celebrating the past:

    Along the same lines, your inward perception of achievement vs. potential is incredibly important. Considering whether or not you’re a success or a failure now is not nearly as constructive and success-building as focusing on how you can succeed in the future. Everyone can be both a success and a failure, it’s what you plan to do in the future that really matters.

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One Response to Ten Biggest Breakthroughs in the Science of Success

  1. Anna Sudaric Hillier says:

    It seems that when you are a last born and have a 10 year different than your brothers and sisters. You are more like a first born because a person has to learn on their own.
    If you have to support yourself, you must find others who will mentor you and give you support. So,it goes: What you do will become more valuable as time goes on and build on what you have done. Look for opportunities. wherever you can find them.

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