The Psychology of Success

by Nov 8, 2016

Most of us want to succeed, especially university students. Whether you’re in your first or final year, I’m betting there’s a big part of you that really wants to be successful. But what’s the psychology of success?

First off, to answer this question it completely depends on what your idea of success is, and as with everything in psychological research, it’s totally dependent on culture and most likely, the individual.

I’ve seen a lot of online videos of people where they’re asked the question, ‘What does success look like to you?’ And their response is, ‘To be happy’. That’s nice and fuzzy, but for this exercise, let’s picture this in terms of career success.

The fuel that fires success is motivation.

Motivation is the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviours. Basic feelings of motivation is what gets us up in the morning, makes us eat when we’re hungry and makes us move when we’ve been sitting in a three hour tutorial. But more complex motivation is related to what thoughts occupy our minds and drives us to achieve.

If you’re an achievement motivated individual, then you have a strong desire to accomplish something and you put in significant effort to reach your goals.  Whereas if you’re a failure avoiding individual, you may be more likely to look for different reasons for why you can’t succeed, such as, ‘this assignment is way too hard, I have no idea what they are asking me to do and I’d rather watch TV and eat  pizza than ever look at it again.’

Which one sounds like you? If you’re leaning toward the failure avoiding individual, try these quick and helpful steps to re-discover your motivation.

Intelligence is one of the most controversial subjects in psychology.

There’s a tonne of different theories about what it means to be intelligent and how to measure individual intelligence. Renowned psychologist Robert J. Sternberg suggests an idea of Successful Intelligence. Put simply, he thinks that to be intelligent you just have to know what you want to do in life and succeed in doing it. The problem with that is there are so many university students who still don’t really know what they want to do in their life.

While this is completely fine and very normal, if you would like some course or career direction to help fine-tune your goals and passions, Drop In and visit one of our experienced Recruitment Advisors who may be able to get you on track. Simon did, and he’s feeling pretty successful right now.


You could be reading this and thinking, ‘I just don’t have the type of personality that is necessary to be successful’ and you could be right. But hey – apparently 21% of all CEOs are psychopaths so that may not be a terrible thing for you.

On a serious note though, successful personality traits are not innate, meaning, you can learn them! Being goal orientated is probably the most important personality trait needed to be successful. Figure out your goals, write them down and make sure everything you do is working toward that goal. Layne Beachley put it best at the Festival of Future You and at TEDx Talks when she said that people who write down their goals are 39% more likely to achieve them.

Basically, you need positive, motivational thoughts to guide positive, successful behaviour. Here’s a motivational and interesting video to get you started:

Good luck!

Featured image courtesy of Pexels.

By Ruby Simmons

By Ruby Simmons

Communications and Events Officer

Ruby Simmons was the Marketing, Communications and Event Officer at UTS Careers, and is currently studying Psychology. Her background is in public relations and marketing, and she’s passionate about content creation and ensuring students are as employable as possible.