We all grow up dreaming of what we will become. Visions of grandeur are commonplace, because when you are a kid, you have nothing but time and pure hope.But as we age, the messages we get about success can get muddled. Our ideas of success are informed by where we live and who we live with, and these messages about success can sometimes be folklore or even a reflection of others’ fears.
However, the scientific world has been focusing more and more on the science behind success, and sometimes the reality can be quite different than what you may have been taught.
Here are 20 scientific truths about success:
1. Your IQ doesn’t matter. More and more research is showing that your IQ is not as big an indicator of success than we previously through. What’s more important than IQ? Grit: the passion and perseverance to keep going for your goals, according to Angela Lee Duckworth
2. The skills you were born with aren’t your toolbox. Your innate gifts are just your starting place. They can be hints about the direction your career takes, but by no means do they define your capabilities. In her TED Talk, Carol Dweck talks about the importance of a growth mindset for success; those who believe they can improve and that their skills are not static, are more likely to achieve the success they want.
3. You need a measurement system. We all set goals, but few of us know that the true key to goal setting is to consistently track and get feedback on your goals. Setting and measuring your progress on goals will ensure your progress.
4. There is no formula. You may be told at some point that if you do xyz you will be successful. That may have been true in the past but our ever-changing world means that the path to success is a far more creative process. First define what success is for you. That definition can help you determine a path that will lead to personal fulfillment.
5. Make happiness a priority. Being happy at work is not just a nice-to-have anymore–it’s a necessity. Recent research has shown that happier people are 12% more productive at work, and work more creatively and collaboratively.
6. Don’t just embrace failure–strive for it. As Carol Dweck notes in her research, the ability to learn from failure is a key aspect of success. Learning to embrace failure will make you more fearless and steadfast in pursuing the success you crave.
7. Know your purpose. Your purpose in life and work is a very personal thing and is linked to a core challenge in your life. Knowing your purpose will lend you a renewed sense of energy and motivation that can’t be replicated by other external factors.
8. Observe your impact on others, and ensure it’s in line with your desired impact. According to Adam Grant, when you know the impact of your work–the positive benefits it has on other people–you are more happy and productive at work. Take it one step further and think about the ideal impact you want to have on people. How can you make this impact in your work, or with a career change?
9. Stop caring what others think: Ohio State University psychologist Jennifer Crocker found that making decisions and defining your self-worth based on what others think has both physical and mental health consequences. Instead, focus on building a self-esteem based on internal factors: your virtues and morals.
10. Spend time knowing yourself: Knowing your core strengths is the key to pinpointing your genius and tapping into how to direct your efforts. According to Amy Cuddy, when you truly believe and trust in yourself, you develop a strong sense of presence that leads to success and achievement across the board.
11. Get enough sleep. Trying to power your way through work on little sleep can do more damage than good. Leading the sleep revolution, Arianna Huffington says that the key to success is more sleep. It will make you happier, more productive, and a better decision-maker.
12. Exercise. A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that just 10-40 minutes of exercise can help boost brain power. Don’t wait for the weekends to get your exercise in–there are so many ways to squeeze in some physical activity at work.
13. Meditation can do wonders on the brain. When you meditate, you help create better balance and flow across all areas of the brain. This allows for better creative thinking, problem-solving, memory and more. Just meditating for five minutes a day can get some results–so build it into your daily or weekly routine now.
14. Avoid boredom. If you’re bored, you lose momentum at work, and studies have shown that this can lead to depression. If you feel as if your work environment is predictable and is unengaging, it might be time to evaluate how you can fall in love with your work again.
15. Actively build your confidence. Confidence is what leads to true action–you may have the skills and expertise to do something, but if you don’t have confidence, you’ll never go for it. One of the biggest things you can do for your success and achievement is to build a solid foundation of confidence for yourself.
16. Stop asking for advice. Advice can steer you in the wrong direction, because it’s coming from someone else’s experience and perspective. People who give you advice are simply telling you what they would do in your shoes. They aren’t helping you come to a decision yourself. Instead of asking for advice, ask for support.
17. Trust your gut. Trusting your gut is far underrated. We often see trusting our intuition and gut feelings as the opposite of rationality and science, but that’s simply not true. As psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer notes, “Gut feelings are based on lots of experience, an unconscious form of intelligence.”
18. Know your personality type. Knowing your personality type, like your Myers-Briggs type, can help you understand some key aspects about yourself that can be invaluable in navigating the workplace. These personality assessments reveal your levels of introversion and extroversion, as well as the types of environments you work best in. Leverage this data to create work you love.
19. Focus on intrinsic rewards versus extrinsic. Intrinsic sources of motivation and metrics for success are exponentially more effective than extrinsic. Start by aligning your personal mission with that of your company. When you have an internal motivation to get up and go to work, you’ll find your engagement skyrocket.
20. Be a giver. Adam Grant’s research on givers shows the power in being generous to other people without expecting anything in return. What goes around comes around–being a giver is a long-term strategy that will reward you over time.