What Determines Success In Life?

Is it talent, genes, intellect, environment, motivation, or hard work?

Image Courtesy of Unsplash

In different eras research has come to distinctive assumptions about what determines success in life.

What does the latest research on the topic of success show?

Angela Lee Duckworth, professor and psychologist, examined different groups of individuals in challenging situations. The conclusion reached after analyzing the results is that the most robust predictor of success is neither social intelligence, nor good appearance, nor good physical form, nor even an individual’s intelligence quotient (IQ).

The most certain indication of success is something she calls “grit.” Grit, she explains, trumps talent and IQ. The concept consists of resilience to change and challenges, persistency in pursuing goals, the ability to learn from criticism, the belief that efforts and consistency are the foundation of success, the perception that things depend on you, and the change for the better is possible as long as you work for it.

It is the attitude that success is attained with hard work and perseverance, and that fixed preconditions such as talents are not critical.

Carol Dweck, Stanford University psychologist and one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of achievement and success, calls this attitude “growth mindset.”

The opposite attitude she calls the “fixed mindset” — this is the “point of view” that hinders growth, which is based on the belief that some are better than others, and it will always be this way if something costs one efforts. This individual has already failed and there are areas of knowledge that are impossible, and outcomes that some will never reach.

This is for all of those who are labeled “stupid” or “lazy,” but also for those who are considered “capable” and “talented.” The reason for the first case is that people are at risk of falling into a state of “learned helplessness.” They have chronically low anticipations for themselves. On the contrary, they endure the understanding of what they give themselves, overlooking to study other opportunities and accept any failure or error as a final failure and do not re-attempt attempts.

Differences between individuals with a “growth mindset” and a “fixed mindset” are studied even at physiological level: in the brain of individuals with a “growth mindset” there are more active processes that lead to the formation of more neural connections, in other words, these individuals’ brain “grows” and develops as a regularly trained muscle.

Here are a few basic principles that trigger the development of the “growth mindset:”

1. Working hard is not shameful. One’s efforts are not compensation for low potential. Opposite in nature, the more one tries, the smarter one becomes, because the intellect is not something one either has or does not — it is a set of skills that are developed throughout life.

2. People make mistakes, it does not mean that an individual is stupid. When one works on new and difficult tasks, the difficulties he or she needs to overcome help the brain grow.

3. Connecting with others who have reached results and praising them for the efforts they have made, and asking them how they have reached that point.

4. Seeing learning as a pathway to success, at the end of which a skill is acquired.

Developing an attitude of a “growth mindset,” of course, is not exhausted by these four principles.

What would you add to the list?

If you enjoyed my article, please click the heart below to recommend it, so others may see it, too. I would also love to read your comments. Your feedback inspires me to keep researching, exploring, experimenting, testing, and refining ideas, growing, writing and speaking.

All of us grow faster when we collaborate and support each other. I encourage people to contribute value to the world, so we can make compounding ripples of improvement for everyone.

About The Author

Dr. Kachovska is an internationally known Change Catalyst. She teaches individuals and organizations about awareness, connection and the need for change — personally, socially, and professionally.

You can connect with her on Thrive Global, Medium, Twitter and LinkedIn