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personality traits for success how to get out your comfort zone dopamine and motivation psychology of success

4 personality traits for success to help you achieve more

Published Jan 26, 2024 | Updated May 20, 2024

Stepping out of your comfort zone can be intimidating. After all, your comfort zone is comfortable for a reason - it's where you feel safe, secure, and in control. Venturing beyond the familiar requires courage, vulnerability, and a willingness to feel a little bit uneasy. However, the most successful people understand that in order to grow, achieve goals, and live a fulfilling life, it's essential to push beyond one's comfort zone. As entrepreneur Michael Altshuler put it, "The shell must break before the bird can fly”. Here are 4 ways on how to do just that. 

What is the psychology of success?

It’s the science of change and the comfort zone. Human beings are wired to prefer certainty and stability. According to the Stanford University Report, this drive was crucial to ancestors’ survival[1]. By sticking to the familiar, they remained safe from perceived threats. As a result, humans evolved a negativity bias - the tendency to be more attuned to negative experiences than positive ones like feeling comfortable and safe. 

What are the qualities of a successful person?

As a successful person, you venture outside of your comfort zone although it feels intimidating. Even though you consciously know that change is necessary for growth, your primal brain sounds the alarm bells, sensing danger ahead. Understanding the science behind your resistance is the first step in managing it. Additionally, change requires extra mental and physical effort. According to the law of least effort, humans naturally gravitate toward the path of least resistance to conserve energy[2]. Your existing habits and routines are easy because they're habitual. New behaviours require focused effort and repetition to become automatic. Knowing that discomfort is temporary helps motivate you to push through it. Finally, change also activates the brain region linked to complex planning, decision-making, and impulse control known as the prefrontal cortex[3]. This overwhelms our working memory, leaving less capacity for other cognitive tasks. This phenomenon, known as ego depletion, makes change feel draining. However, each small step forward expands your "change muscle" so future efforts become easier.

1. What success does to the brain?

Dopamine release is an important part of success. Let’s take a look at the benefits of dopamine and motivation. The key to continually seeking new challenges is the reward and pleasure chemical dopamine, the brain messenger most associated with motivation and reward-driven learning[4]. Dopamine surges when you anticipate rewards, experience something novel or exciting, or achieve goals. This chemical rush of pleasure keeps you feeling energized and eager to repeat the behaviour. Studies show that dopamine levels spike in the early stages of pursuing a new goal or activity[5]. A literature review on the neuroscience of curiosity also suggests that the dopamine system is included in how animals and humans respond to uncertain situations[6]. More research is needed to conclude the exact function. For now, one study on humans suggests that dopamine buffers the part of the brain that monitors the demand for control which then regulates behaviour[7]. For dopamine to be released, there needs to be enough of it produced by your body. brain feed developed the world’s first natural 800mg tyrosine capsule from fermented corn, providing you with a high-strength dopamine boost in a single capsule. For 15% off, new customers can use the code ‘NEW15’ at checkout.

2. What type of person gets success in their life?

People who visualize goals manifest success. Visualization involves creating mental images and sensory representations to imagine desired outcomes. In a study by neuroscientists at Harvard, volunteers who visualized practising a 5-finger piano exercise showed brain changes similar to those who physically practised the exercise[8]. The results show that visualisation can be a powerful tool to prime your mind and body for the actual change. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Choose a quiet space free of distractions
  2. Relax your body and clear your mind
  3. Vividly imagine achieving your goal - engage all your senses, even taste and smell
  4. Picture the details and emotions of succeeding
  5. Visualize the steps to get there
  6. Imagine setbacks and how you efficiently cope with them

Even 5 to 10 minutes of visualization daily, over at least 6 weeks, can rewire your brain for achievement[9]. Envisioning success creates neural patterns that support its manifestation.

3. Is success really a mindset?

Fake it ‘til you make it is one of the ultimate personality traits for success. Your self-perception profoundly shapes your behaviour. “Faking it ‘til you make it” or acting "as if" you already are your ideal self is a powerful mindset shift. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck's research revealed that those with a "growth mindset" - who believe their skills and talents can be developed through effort - are much more successful than those with a fixed mindset[10]. Pretending activates a phenomenon called embodied cognition[11]. Your thoughts, feelings, and physical actions are interconnected. When you adopt the posture, speech patterns, expressions, and behaviours of your confident future self, your brain gets the message. You begin to think, feel, and act like that person - faking it until you become it. 

4. What is success behavior?

In order to achieve success, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone. Stepping outside your comfort zone becomes more comfortable with practice. Start small to build confidence. Over time, continue to increase the intensity of the discomfort. Here are 3 techniques on how to get out of your comfort zone:

  1. Expose yourself gradually. This technique has been shown in therapeutic settings as an effective way to reduce anxiety[12]. Do it by taking baby steps to build tolerance. For example, if public speaking terrifies you, start by speaking up at team meetings, then volunteer to present to friendly colleagues in a low-stakes environment. Slowly increase the stakes rather than jumping straight into presenting at a huge conference.
  2. Start giving yourself pep talks. Notice critical inner voices and consciously transform them: “I can't" becomes an "I'll try." Being mindfully self-compassionate has been directly associated with psychological strengths such as happiness, optimism, and life satisfaction, as well as being linked to increased motivation, positive body image, and resilient coping[13]. 
  3. Reward yourself and celebrate your success. This helps condition your brain to stay motivated[14]. If you learn how to celebrate your strengths when facing a setback, this can also help you rewire your brain to stay energised and keep going instead of feeling down. 

With consistent practice, your comfort zone will expand, providing access to new levels of joy and fulfilment. Be patient with yourself through the process. Appreciate each small step forward. Your goals are worth the short-term discomfort of change. And remember, the path to success starts just outside your comfort zone.



[1] Living with uncertainty: How to accept and be more comfortable with unpredictability (2020). Stanford University Report.

[2] Hull, C. L. (1943). Principles of behavior: an introduction to behavior theory. Appleton-Century.

[3] Inzlicht, M., & Schmeichel, B. J. (2012). What is ego depletion? Toward a mechanistic revision of the resource model of self-control. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(5), 450–463.

[4] Wise, R. A. (2004). Dopamine, learning and motivation. Nature reviews neuroscience, 5(6), 483–494.

[5] Bromberg-Martin, E. S., Matsumoto, M., & Hikosaka, O. (2010). Dopamine in Motivational Control: Rewarding, Aversive, and Alerting. Neuron, 68(5), 815–834. 

[6] Cervera, R. L., Wang, M. Z., & Hayden, B. Y. (2020). Systems neuroscience of curiosity. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 35, 48–55.

[7] Brydevall, M., Bennett, D., Murawski, C., & Bode, S. (2018). The neural encoding of information prediction errors during non-instrumental information seeking. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 6134.

[8] Bangert, M., & Altenmüller, E. O. (2003). Mapping Perception to Action in Piano Practice: A Longitudinal DC-EEG Study. BMC Neuroscience, 4(1), 26.

[9] Chopra, D., & Gupta, S. (2019). Do this for 5 minutes every day to rewire your brain for success, according to neuroscience. CNBC.

[10] Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House Digital, Inc.

[11] Baber, C., Chemero, T., & Hall, J. (2019). What the Jeweller’s Hand Tells the Jeweller’s Brain: Tool Use, Creativity and Embodied Cognition. Philosophy & Technology, 32(2), 283–302.

[12] Abramowitz, J. S., Deacon, B. J., & Whiteside, S. P. H. (2011). How Well Does Exposure Therapy Work. In: Exposure Therapy for Anxiety: Principles and Practice (pp. 19–31). Guilford Press.

[13] Germer, C., & Neff, K. D. (2019). Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC). In I. Itvzan (Ed.), The handbook of mindfulness-based programs: Every established intervention, from medicine to education (pp. 357–367). London: Routledge.

[14] Schroeder, J., & Fishbach, A. (2015). How to motivate yourself and others? Intended and unintended consequences. Research in Organizational Behavior, 35, 123–141.

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