The Psychology of Success

It is my belief that at the centre of our misunderstanding of success and creativity lays our ego.  In the deep dark depths of our psyche we allow mutual myth perpetuation and self-importance to cloud the truth about “talent”.  That is, that all those artists, designers and thinkers would have to admit that they did not simply sit and spark perfection from nowhere but their brilliant brains.  But instead undertook arduous processes, leading them on twists and turns of trial and error and accidental discovery.  They in fact refined and scrapped many ideas or images in their search that were not quite there before they worked their way to that revelation of understanding.

So the truth is not as mystical or magical.  But for those young minds like mine developing and wondering what there is left to do or say in this world, this truth is far more interesting.  I mean once the word “genius” is suspended from use and replaced with the word “adept” or “proficient”; it is possible for us to see how we may all grow into that role we wish to fill.

We may now consider what it takes to make a success of ourselves in a realistic and achievable manner.

Firstly, we need to adjust our expectations in order understand that to become skilled at any task nothing is instant.  Concepts of “talent” simply give us the excuse to give up when we do not see instant results or answers.  Becoming masterful at anything takes practice and persistence, encouragement and above all, time.  Secondly our methods are flawed, and it only takes our misconceptions of talent to explain why.  It is wrong to believe that those gifts are inherent in us, that those ideas are plucked from nowhere, or that the apple just falls on our heads.

There may be years in between the first thoughts about a problem that needs to be solved, the zygote beginnings of a story or concept, and the final piece that penetrates the mainstream and is shouted as revolutionary theory, or exceptional work.  It is important to understand this when considering success, as it means that we have to give up on the idea that we will simply be great at something if it is what we are meant to be in this life.  We have to be prepared that the time and effort needed to conquer has daunted many before us into retreat and submission.  Accepting that failure is a central part of the learning process allows us to see where we went wrong and adjust our trajectory to avoid similar mistakes and misdirection.  Creative reasoning in this way also gives the opportunity to produce images and concepts that were never before considered, thus feeding into this incredible cycle of production.

Another myth is to do with the limitations of IQ and brain capacity.  For example, the influence of IQ on success is said to be minimal at best, and brain capacity is arguable simply about distribution of cognition.  It stands to reason that holding too much information at one time can distract and confuse from the task in hand.  Externalising ideas and thoughts, in sketches or diagrams, fragments of thoughts and lyrics, allows the memory to be relieved.  If we can get the ideas out and chronicled, it becomes possible to read over them, correct them, identify weakness.  It is now possible to see clearly how the images you have created deviate from the image you want/need.  Lastly, this externalising of thoughts and ideas allows us be constrained and focused by the visual limitations.  For example, it is possible to read a sentence written and see that it does not convey the message you have in your mind adequately.  It is possible to see the wrong sentence and be inspired as to what the right one is.

If the mind is relieved of holding the ideas in, it can be free to think of new possibilities and new images.  If we can free our minds from the concept of fixed talent and intelligence then anything is possible.  If our egos can allow us to admit that we rarely get anything right first time then maybe it will follow that we can embrace mistakes and allow reflexivity to guide us to the success and achievement we crave.

All we need now is to listen to our own advice and rational minds, and find that motivation…… right?

[1] Vallée-Tourangeau & Krüsi Penney (2005) The impact of external representation in a rule discovery task.

[2] Nersessian (1999) Model-based reasoning in conceptual change.

[3] Ericsson, Krampe & Tesch-Römer (1993) The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance.

About the Author: Leigh Brereton is a psychology/social sciences writer for

19 Responses to “The Psychology of Success”

  1. Farouk January 16, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    thanks for busting these common misconceptions, nice post:)

  2. Maria February 11, 2010 at 11:50 pm #

    A wonderful article, really! It’s telling with simple words the real truth about humans. Thanks you :)

  3. sydney bookkeeper February 25, 2010 at 11:54 am #

    Great article. I think there is definately a formula to success. I think it largely involves learning from success and failure, motivation, persistance and the right strategy. A big success is usually made up of a series of smaller wins.

  4. Coachteam March 3, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    Hey, I just started writing my psychology blog, would be glad if you would advice me on how to improve

  5. ipod accessories March 5, 2010 at 1:32 am #

    Isn’t ego the root cause of pretty much every human problem?

    The trouble is, if you separate ego from a man, there isn’t much of a man left anyway

    Unfortunate as it may be, a man’s ego still makes him who he is and governs his thoughts and actions and more importantly, his achievements

  6. Terapi March 18, 2010 at 1:32 am #

    This article reminds me a quote of dear Churchill; “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”
    Overall, nice article :)

  7. individual vision insurance June 27, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    malcolm gladwell, in his book ‘outliers’, does a pretty good job of explaining what makes someone successful. I suggest this book for anyone who wants to know what differentiates the successful from the not so successful

    (hint: its hard work, and a whole lotta luck, not brains)

  8. March Hare July 1, 2010 at 8:53 am #

    Hey, I was wondering if there was a blog similar to this but was for CIE psychology candidates? Any help would be appreciated.

  9. martin July 4, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    nice psychology blog.

  10. Taxi London July 20, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    interising article…;)

  11. m.stone July 29, 2010 at 11:26 pm #

    This is encouraging, thanks.

  12. Breastenlargement smith June 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    I am first time here I just started writing my psychology blog, would be glad if you would advice me on how to improve my Breast …………..

  13. CheapoairPromoCode June 20, 2011 at 4:10 am #

    The Psychology of Success is better think of the any body to succored to any field, because this think is better for the improvement………………

  14. Wall Street Journal Subscription June 22, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think there is definately a formula to success. I think it largely involves learning from success and failure….. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. London Counselling September 5, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    One’s success is not something that is complex to someone who is determined. Success is attained by how you dream for yourself and how high it is. On the other hand, you have to be patient, courageous and be faithful to Him to entrust anything that you aspire as you go through the obstacles before getting there.

  16. goldenroot October 10, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    This interesting article “The Psychology of Success” showing us we may consider what it takes to make a success of ourselves in a realistic and achievable manner. this matter could be infer able. Thanks a lot to share it with us.

  17. hoteles en los cabos May 12, 2012 at 6:59 am #

    Thanks for the FANTASTIC post! This information is really good and thanks a ton for sharing it :-) I m looking forward desperately for the next post of yours

  18. Mentallyfine August 24, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Nice post… Thanks


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