“She’s not that much smarter or better than me, but how can she be so much more successful?”
Do you ever wonder if there’s a secret to success that you’re just not privy to?
If so, you are not alone.
And if you have been searching for the answer, chances are that you have come across Napoleon Hill’s famous book, Think and Grow Rich.
It is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after books in the world, even decades after the author’s death.
Why? Because it has a catchy and compelling title, and it provided a clear — and unexpected — blueprint for how to achieve success beyond your wildest dreams in any line of work.
When you read about Napoleon Hill’s principles for attaining great fortune, it might strike you that growing rich is far more than making money. And that growing rich has more to do with mindset and breaking down your own psychological barriers than anything else.
But, have you ever wondered, “what’s the scientific evidence?”
In the book, the first step to riches is to have a burning desire for a definite purpose that is meaningful to you. This means that your desire is an obsession, so your mind is already convinced that you will have it.
When you have that burning desire and obsession for a meaningful purpose, there are 2 things happening in your brain.
The first is the emotions associated with passion, which is a strong emotion, an intense desire or enthusiasm for something.
Passion acts like the motivation to push through suffering for the sake of achieving the desired result.
And that’s exactly what it is.
The word “passion” comes from the Latin word passionem which means “suffering”. The source of passion is in the emotional parts of your brain that include the brainstem, amygdala, and basal ganglia.
These areas of your brain activate more impulsive and irrational behaviors that are driven strictly by emotional intensity.
So, relying on passion alone is dangerous; because while you might feel an intense motivation or even euphoria, there is no intuitive direction or objective reason.
Hence passions are often fleeting, and they can change with the wind.
That’s why the principle in Think and Grow Rich tells us to have a burning desire for a definite purpose.
When you pursue a definite purpose that is meaningful to you, it gives you direction and it will inspire you because it provides you with the objective reason why you do what you do.
The source of meaningful purpose is in the higher order cognitive prefrontal cortex of your brain.
The prefrontal cortex controls learning, self-mastery and reasoning: all the executive behaviors that controls the emotional impulses.
It is the purpose-seeking and fulfilling part of you.
Your purpose is what allows you to repeatedly triumph over your fleeting passions.
The next few principles to Think and Grow Rich talk about visualizing and believing, influencing the subconscious mind, and imagination.
Everything you have created in your present life and everything you will create in your future life is a result of your subconscious programming.
You and I have been programmed since birth with thoughts, beliefs, values, goals and dreams that influence our actions — and hence our life outcomes.
This happens regardless of whether or not we are aware of it.
Because we will never behave consistently in a way that is inconsistent with our programming.
Most of the results you produce in your life have been produced automatically through your subconscious mind.
It is infinitely more powerful than the conscious mind.
That’s why the only chance you have to grow rich is to reprogram the subconscious mind. There is no such thing as “trying” to succeed.
Success is no more the result of trying on behalf of those who succeed than failing is the result of trying on behalf of those who fail.
In other words: People who succeed are not trying to succeed any more than those who fail are trying to fail.
Both of those happen automatically.
The neuroscientific evidence for this lies in an area of the brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS).
The RAS is simply a bundle of nerves in the brain stem that filters out all the unnecessary information so that only the important stuff goes through.
Let me illustrate.
Have you ever noticed how you can carry a conversation with one person at a large dinner table even though there are several cross conversations going on around you?
As you focus on something important like your own conversation, the other conversations nearby fade because they lose value to you.
The RAS is a very sophisticated filter that screens out the junk and allows you to focus on what you value, and supports you when you set your goals.
It is also a filter between your subconscious mind and your conscious mind.
Whatever you are thinking about or focusing on enter into your subconscious mind only to reappear at a future time.
For example, if you think you are bad at performing on stage, you probably will be. If you believe you have the traits of a likeable person, you most likely do.
The RAS seeks information to validate your beliefs and in doing so, it influences your actions.
You can reprogram your subconscious mind to reveal the people, information and opportunities that help you achieve your desired goal by setting your intent.
Setting your intent is like sending a message to your RAS saying that you are expecting success to happen with certainty.
In effect, you are marrying your subconscious mind with your conscious will to make something happen.
You are preparing your subconscious mind and RAS for the journey towards achieving your desired goal.
And your goal represents the end result you want to achieve.
Setting your intent helps your RAS and your subconscious mind stay focused on your burning desire.
Finally, on imagination as a step towards growing rich.
Your imagination can change your perception of your reality.
For example, let’s say you recently moved to a new city but you weren’t quite sure about your new neighborhood. If you imagine specific scenarios where you’re spending quality time with your loved ones in your new neighborhood, you will be able to see a positive attitude change about your new neighborhood.
Your ability to imagine this scenario creates mental imagery in your mind. This process involves a network in your brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. It’s located at the bottom of the prefrontal cortex that’s behind your forehead.
And your evaluations of mental imagery bear a direct relationship to your performance on the tasks you perform in the real world.
Why? Because with mental imagery, you can ‘see’ how things might have been or could be in the future. Strong mental imagery is associated with creativity.
Mental imagery is also critical when you are organizing your life on a day-to-day basis. Being able to imagine objects and scenarios is will allow you to successfully think about and plan future events.
It’s kind of like unlocking all the intelligence resources you need for success.
Once you achieve your first success that you’re striving for, your brain releases dopamine, which is best known as the “feel good” hormone because of the role it plays in addiction and drug use.
Dopamine gives you motivation, driving you to repeat the behaviors that created that awesome feeling when you succeeded.
Although the dopamine response is short-term, your brain will remember how awesome the experience was, so then you can’t help but to strive to seek it out over and over again.
That’s exactly when the dopamine loop kicks in.
What’s the dopamine loop?
It’s when you’ve experienced repeated success and the pleasure you initially had with the very first success gets smaller and smaller.
Let me give you an example: After you’ve already beaten a video game, it just doesn’t feel as awesome the second or third time.
Under the right circumstances, this can drive you to seek out awards with greater meaning. It’s what motivates you in accomplishing bigger and better things.
More importantly, it’s what inspires you to practice effective goal-setting.
For instance, if your initial goal was to land two new projects this quarter, then your next goal would be to land four new projects the quarter after.
Everything else is the same, except the more challenging, and rewarding, task of doubling your productivity and income return on time invested.
As an added perk, this also helps you weed out the work and goals that aren’t motivating you or your team.
It is said that Napoleon Hill interviewed hundreds of ultra successful people who have amassed great fortunes in their time.
He studied their habits and drew the principles that were published in Think and Grow Rich.
The field of neuroscience was founded around the same time, and the field of psychology predates it by almost 100 years.
But the principles of success and the laws of science have always existed even before any human brain became aware of it.
Nothing exists in your world and in your life unless you have a word for it.
So let’s open the discussion.
Comment below, what principles are you applying in your life?
What have you discovered works for you?
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