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Wake Up To The Power Of One

Let Success Go to Your Head — Here’s Why

As we enter 2024, a lot of us will be coming in hot with new goals and maybe even a New Year’s resolution or two. The truth is, not many of us will stick to them. However, successfully reaching our goals isn’t just good for a pat on the back, it fundamentally changes us where failure doesn’t. We recently read a Harvard Business Review article that got us really excited about the physiology and science behind success. So, in honor of chasing our latest goals and resolutions, we wanted to share it with you and why sticking with it can actually shift your brain for the better. 

"Nothing is too big an achievement, if you've got a dream and a goal you'll get there." - Laura Kenny

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Here’s why you should let success go to your head.

The Study

When we say let success go to your head, we’re not talking about your ego. The study was published in the journal Neuron . While it’s a little on the outdated side, the science and sentiment behind the research still holds.

Basically, researchers watched monkey’s brains as they learned a task with the goal of understanding neuroplasticity (how our brains rewire themselves as a response to the environment) and how environmental feedback — in this case, success — contributes to learning.

The monkeys were shown either Picture A or Picture B. If it was Picture A, they were supposed to look to the left. If it was Picture B, they needed to look to the right. Looking in the right direction was rewarded with a sip of juice.

The Findings

What the study found was that when the monkey was successful at responding to the picture, their brains sharpened that neurological firing sequence. The results lingered, meaning the monkey’s brain was more efficient at successfully completing the task next time. When the monkey failed, the brain pattern didn’t change — in short, failure had no impact. So, when you’re learning something new or pursuing a goal, success will actually be more informative on a brain-level than failure.

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What That Means for Athletes

For any of us chasing new heights, the impact of success on our brain and learning can be significant. When you manage to successfully complete a goal, your brain holds on to what you did so that next time, that learning is more efficient. The more goals you achieve, the easier it becomes to achieve goals. The study is also great for learning new movements and maybe even learning from pinnacle moments in games. If you do it right — cha-ching! That becomes hardwired in your brain (especially the more you do it). Fumble in the endzone during the final quarter of a tie game with 4 seconds on the clock? Not so much.

Of course, the negative emotional attachment to failure still exists. Your ego and confidence are probably having a hard time. What doesn’t exist is the neurological response to that failure.

Fail Forward

We’re not saying you should only pay attention to when you’re successful. We’re saying that if you can get past the emotional hurdle and effects of a failure, your brain is still good as new — You didn’t learn to fail on repeat. Failure can be a productive method for identifying where you need to put in more work. So if you do fail, fail forward. Use it to learn from and pick yourself back up. The only true failure in athletics is giving up completely. Find your start and get back to it.

Assist Yourself With a Growth Mindset

Another really helpful concept that pairs nicely with success is a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that effort leads to success. You can learn anything, train for anything, become anything, and achieve anything. A fixed mindset follows the tenet that you are how and who you are; no room for growth or change. According to studies, those with a growth mindset are more receptive to corrective feedback, more aware of mistakes, and have a larger neurological response responsible for adaptation, error-monitoring, and learning. Mistakes are simply part of the process that leads to greatness — they don’t mean your sport isn’t for you and you should never play again.

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Get After Those Goals!

At DRYWORLD, we welcome the New Year with our sights set on even greater heights. Don’t be afraid to set those ambitious goals and strive to improve every day. We hope that 2024 shows you just how unstoppable you are. 

"It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wears you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe." – Muhammad Ali

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