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Getting You High on Success


Lifestyle Improvement

Posted On: Dec 18, 2015

Getting You High on Success

There are many obvious reasons why you would want to achieve success. First of all, succeeding means that you have accomplished what you have set out to do. Whether it’s an afternoon project or a career goal, finding success is an important goal to have in life. Secondly, succeeding simply feels good. While it’s a given that succeeding will make you feel good, it hasn’t been until recently that we fully understood why it is such a wonderful feeling. It turns out that success actually changes the brain’s chemistry, making the successful person feel good.

Much like an athlete talks about feeling a “runner’s high” after a good workout, success releases dopamine and testosterone in the brain, leading to an immediate feeling of wellbeing. Over time, these releases change the brain’s chemical makeup, which is believed to make the person smarter and more attuned to competition. This “winner effect” is thought to shape the brain more than genetics or drugs can, leading the person to take more chances to potentially succeed at the next thing that comes their way.

When your brain learns that you have succeeded in the past, it expects you to succeed in the future. This sounds obvious, but it’s a powerful effect that can actually change the way you see your chances in the world. Many of us have experienced something like this when we try a new hobby or a new sport out for the first time. At first you don’t expect to be good at the new hobby, but once you see that it’s something you can do, that next golf game or tennis match seems a bit more winnable. This is what leads to a healthy appetite for competition: winning once and believing (or expecting) that you can (or will) win next time.

The studies done on success’ effect on the brain are certainly interesting and they provide a good motivation for taking new chances to embolden yourself in the future. Another study found something even more interesting about success’ close cousin, failure. This study found that while success certainly changes your brain chemistry to expect and want more success in the future, failure does nothing to your brain’s chemical makeup. While failure might affect you emotionally, it doesn’t have the same power to change your brain the way success does. Why is this important? For one thing, it speaks to the old adage that success only comes to those who don’t fear failure.

Failure may be discouraging, sure. But these studies show us that that material and mental effects of success are much greater than the detriments of failure. One way to harness the power of this knowledge is to create short-term, achievable goals for yourself to treat yourself to the rewards that success brings to your outlook on things. Once you have accomplished a few of these short-term goals, neuroscience tells us that you will be emboldened to go on and take more and more chances for even greater success on your chosen path in life.