Tapping into anger can lead to success — but there’s a major catch

COLCHESTER, United Kingdom — Similar to how Emperor Palpatine from “Star Wars” achieved a whole lot of imperial success during his reign as an evil space lord, new findings reveal how tapping into anger and negative emotions can foster success — but at the cost of your health. Scientists at the University of Essex report using one’s “dark side, anxiety, and anger” can spark more success than either fun and relaxation. These findings come from an assessment of how the human mind processes achievement emotions. These 12 scientifically identified emotions, study authors explain, fuel and influence success.

Obviously, many people consider anxiety and anger negative emotions. Yet, study authors say negative feelings like those can act as energizers, much like happier emotions such as enjoyment and hope. Of course, tapping into one’s dark side isn’t that simple. Negative feelings also have a link to a dearth of strategic thinking and poor health, including stress-related psychosomatic symptoms like insomnia, headaches, back pain, and nausea.

All in all, the research team notes that hope appears to be the most powerful emotion. Study authors find that positive perceptions and feelings of control promote enjoyment of learning, desire for success, and pride in accomplishment. For example, if two students of equal ability took a test, the hopeful student would usually score one grade higher than their negative-minded peer.

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(Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels)

“This is the first study that has developed a 3D model for success emotions. Although the model might seem abstract at first sight, it shows how achievement emotions relate to critically important parts of our lives and can define how we perform in job interviews, tests and other stressful situations,” says study leader Professor Reinhard Pekrun, from Essex’s Department of Psychology, in a media release.

“Interestingly we found feelings like anxiety and anger can sometimes motivate us more than enjoyment or relaxation. However, despite its energizing powers, the knife edge of anxiety can lead to mental health issues, undermine the functioning of the immune system, and lead to a drop in performance in the long run.”

“Overall hope was the healthiest and best way to spark success and promote long-term happiness,” Pekrun adds. “Failure and struggle as such don’t define one’s future, it is the perception of failures that has a strong effect on emotional responses.”

This psychological research project featured students from several universities, as well as the general adult population. The study involved individuals from four countries — Britain, Germany, Canada, and the United States. Researchers assessed over 1,000 people across a variety of challenging situations at both universities and the workplace.

Moving forward, study authors hope this work will help inform how coaches, teachers, and managers inspire achievement. The study also notes that promoting the value, meaning, and interestingness of tasks — as opposed to focusing on success — usually fosters better results.

In conclusion, the research team believes it may be important for leaders to display enthusiasm aimed at growing excitement and hope among colleagues, students, and athletes.

The study is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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