A Very Simple Contributor To Success

Individual Counseling Insights From Westlake Village-Based Patricia McTague-Loft

The subject of success has fascinated people from time immemorial, and people have approached the idea from an incredible range of perspectives. In roughly the fifth century B.C., Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War, based on the belief that nothing was more important to the success of the state than victory in battle. Many contemporary thinkers, on the other hand, turn their attention to success in business. Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, may be the most well-known modern book on achieving success in both your personal and business life. For good reason: Ambitious people want to succeed, and they’re always looking for tips to help.

Not every bit of good advice about success, though, requires a book-long treatise. Writing for SUCCESS Partners, noted business philosopher Jim Rohn puts forth the simple proposition that successful habits breed success. He begins by noting that “Success is one of the best forms of motivation. Psychologists call this positive reinforcement. We all know about positive reinforcement. That’s how we train our dogs. That how we teach our kids.”

Psychologists explain similar behaviors in more formal terms through a variety of hypotheses that include the reward theory of attraction, positive reward theory and mutual reward theory. At the root of all these theories is research that indicates that we experience the release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine as a reward for pleasurable activity. If success is pleasurable, then dopamine is a seriously effective form of positive reinforcement.

 Rohn then offers two insights about this virtuous cycle of behavior that in turn contributes to our personal success.

“Positive reinforcement builds good habits.” Rohn begins by making a simple followup to this statement: “If the habits you’re practicing are increasing your success, keep doing them. Your success is reaffirming that these habits are good.” This might sound very straightforward at first glance. But the advice demands some introspection and self-analysis. Everyone has habits — which of yours are contributing to your success and which are inhibiting it? Only you can answer that question, based on your personal goals and whether you believe you are achieving them.

“Positive reinforcement creates the energy to fuel additional achievement.” Sometimes, when things aren’t going right, it’s hard to even get out of bed in the morning. Difficulties drain your energy. Fortunately, the exact opposite is also true. When you’re on a roll, in your personal or professional life, you can hardly wait to get going. Success is contagious. Rohn sums it up this way: “Your successes fuel your ambition. Your successes give you extra energy. Your successes pave the way for more successes. It’s the snowball effect. When you achieve one success, you’re excited to meet another… and another… and another. Pretty soon, the disciplines that were so difficult in the beginning — the disciplines that got you going — are now part of your philosophy. And they keep you going.”

While good habits and positive reinforcement can hardly ensure success in any endeavor, they’re a pretty good start. And that’s something everyone can control in their own lives.