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Being successful is different for everyone. People base their success on wealth, jobs, health, family, friends or relationships. No matter what your measuring stick is, having a goal and aiming to achieve it provides great day-to-day motivation for individuals. But what are the keys to achieving success?

It’s an age-old question that experts have long sought to find one declarative solution for, but there likely isn’t one true answer. How to be successful can hinge on a vast array of factors for each individual. StudyFinds has posted much research on the topic, and found that the keys to success range from playing video games to “reconnecting to work,” to physical activity, and even failure.

If you want to know how to be successful, here are 12 studies that provide ways to thrive at life.

Agreeableness may be the key to success

To get ahead in life, the most successful person is a team player. Research shows agreeableness can improve one’s job performance and help people win the game of life.

The authors studied how personality affects job performance, focusing especially on agreeableness. They took several variables into account, including psychological health, physical health, personal relationships, leadership effectiveness, and performances across both educational and organizational environments.

Their findings showed agreeableness offers “a desirable effect on hundreds of physical, psychological and occupational metrics” impacting both career and overall life success. One important finding was that people who had high levels of agreeableness had a 93% success rate in the above categories.

Eight themes emerged to show how agreeableness helps both individuals and organizations achieve greater success. “Taken altogether, the interaction among the themes became clear,” says co-author Michael Wilmot, an assistant professor of management at the University of Arkansas. “Agreeableness was marked by work investment, but this energy was best directed at helping or cooperating with others. In other words, teamwork.”

READ MORE: Positivity & promotions: Agreeableness may be the key to success in life

Who you know

Go to college, work hard, and eventually you’ll land your dream job, right? Maybe not, according to a poll of 2,000 people. In fact, four in five respondents say no matter how hard they work, other people with better business connections have the advantage.

Besides the 68 percent of adults in the United Kingdom who think people use their connections to land a job, many believe others also use that network to land promotions (58%), get their names on exclusive guest lists (54%), and gain further work experience (50%). However, if they had the same opportunity, 84 percent would still prefer to know they earned something due to what they know as opposed to who they know.

Interestingly, 20 percent admit the only reason they landed their current job is due to a social connection. Among that group, 26 percent feel bad for others who applied for that role, but 29 percent actually think they had to work harder due to their pre-existing connection to the job.

“We know how difficult it can be for people – especially youngsters starting out – to get a foot on the career ladder. That’s why it’s a real shame the research shows that many people believe ‘it’s who you know’ that counts when applying for a job,” says Karen Handley, head of future careers at Virgin Media O2.

READ MORE: Networking or knowledge? 4 in 5 people say who you know is more important than what you know

‘Reconnecting to work’

Disconnecting from work after a long day is a common (and often recommended) way of relieving stress. Well it may be just as important, at least from a success standpoint, to properly reconnect come morning. Researchers from Portland State University find heading into work each day with the right mindset is key to having a productive day, especially for managers and workers in leadership roles.

Before beginning each new work day, take a moment and ask yourself: “What do I want to get done today?”

Similarly, remind yourself of the day’s agenda and consider any possible situations or problems you may encounter between then and the end of the day. Researchers say adopting this morning routine can help employees set the tone for the rest of their day and achieve greater work engagement. In support of all this, the team discovered that on days managers were able to reconnect before starting work, they reported a better mood, improved focus, and more success throughout the day.

Even better, it doesn’t matter where or when you reconnect, as long as it’s before you get down to business. For example, during breakfast, while commuting to work, or even for a moment in the parking lot just before entering the office. Conversely, if you’re currently working from home, just take a few minutes to reflect on the day’s goals before logging on and checking your email.

READ MORE: ‘Reconnecting to work’ is the key to success as a manager, leader

Playing video games makes people successful?

Life may not be as simple as a game, but one study finds playing them sure helps people reach the “next level” in their careers. Nearly half of Americans credit many of their successes in life to playing video games.

A survey polled 2,000 Americans about the biggest lessons they’ve learned from video games and discovered 47 percent say gaming prepared them for success. Another six in 10 believe they gained a keener creative eye or better problem-solving skills. A similar amount (59%) add video games improved their hand-eye coordination, while others learned time management skills (50%).

The survey even reveals 42 percent feel like they’ve learned more life skills through video games than in school!

“It’s clear from the results that gaming has so many benefits to our society,” says Artur Plociennik, Regional Publishing Director, World of Warships by Wargaming. “Whether it’s critical thinking, problem solving or communication – we all have something to gain from gaming. The results show that one of the biggest benefits of gaming is that collaboration with other players.”

READ MORE: Video games key to winning in real life? Half of Americans credit gaming for their success

Exercising several times per week

Most people spend their entire lives chasing both happiness and success, but a survey of 2,000 Americans finds the path to both those goals may have always led through the gym. In comparison to those who only work out one to three times per week, survey respondents working out four to seven times each week report much higher levels of happiness (75% vs. 25%) and success (74% vs. 26%).

The survey separates respondents according to that criteria (number of weekly exercise sessions), and the differences among the two groups are striking. Similar to the above stats, Americans who work out often report being much more ambitious than their more sedentary counterparts (74% vs. 26%).

Most respondents say they like working out in the morning (33%). When asked why, most feel like a good workout gets them ready for the rest of the day (64%), 63% feel more energized, and 47% feel better mentally.

READ MORE: People who exercise at least 4 times per week happier, more successful

Being unsuccessful

If you’re looking to be successful, it turns out being resilient is a key factor. A new study of small business owners finds that being unsuccessful is an important part in learning how to become a winner!

That’s one of the takeaways from a global survey which reveals that 88 percent of respondents share that sentiment — saying that to be successful, people can’t be afraid to make mistakes. In fact, 85 percent don’t believe they’d be where they are today if they stopped trying after making a mistake at work.

The global survey of 8,000 small business owners and employees across 15 countries included data from 2,000 Americans — 1,000 small business owners and 1,000 employees with 10+ years of experience in their fields.

Results show that 84 percent of small business owners and employees globally see making mistakes as an opportunity for growth. The small business owners surveyed reported experiencing an average of two unsuccessful ideas before finding one that worked. In fact, those ideas created learning opportunities and were therefore still important in their growth. Of those who’ve had previous unsuccessful ideas, 89 percent learned lessons from each one — showing that, for most respondents, missteps are actually part of their success.

READ MORE: Failure breeds success: Study validates old adage, ‘what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’

More money = more success?

The old adage “money can’t buy happiness” has been debated for centuries. A study conducted at Binghamton University has a fresh take on the conversation surrounding money and happiness. According to researchers, when one views wealth and material possessions as measures of success, they report feeling greater levels of satisfaction in their lives. However, viewing money as a direct source of happiness doesn’t bring the same effect.

“People simply say ‘money can’t buy you happiness’ and just assume that materialism has a negative influence on overall well-being,” says Jenny Jiao, assistant professor of marketing at Binghamton University School of Management, in a release. “But it’s not that simple. There is a real difference between success materialism and happiness materialism.”

A “happiness materialistic” mindset often leads to people being dissatisfied and frustrated with their current standard of living, subsequently sparking a drop in overall life satisfaction. Additionally, this wealth-centric approach to happiness can cause a person to neglect other areas of their life such as family, friends, and physical or mental health. On the other hand, a success materialistic mindset can lead to improved life satisfaction by boosting one’s economic motivations. As a person works harder to achieve more success, their standard of living improves, ultimately positively influencing their overall life satisfaction.

A success materialistic mindset can lead to improved life satisfaction by boosting one’s economic motivations. As a person works harder to achieve more success, their standard of living improves, ultimately positively influencing their overall life satisfaction.

READ MORE: Study: Wealth can bring happiness — when viewed as a measure of success

Checking your email less often

Here’s one way to enjoy a more productive, less stressful day in the office: check your email less frequently.

Researchers from Michigan State University say that keeping up with email throughout the day places high — and sometimes downright impossible — demands on managers that prevents them from achieving their personal goals and from being good leaders for their teams.

According to the study, office workers of all seniority levels spend more than 90 minutes a day just recovering from email interruptions and returning to their normal workload. For managers, these distractions caused by email have wider-reaching consequences.

“Like most tools, email is useful but it can become disruptive and even damaging if used excessively or inappropriately,” explains MSU management professor Russell Johnson, lead researcher for the study. “When managers are the ones trying to recover from email interruptions, they fail to meet their goals, they neglect manager-responsibilities and their subordinates don’t have the leadership behavior they need to thrive.”

READ MORE: Study: Checking email less often leads to more productive workday, especially for managers

Owning a pet

If you think pets are the pits, you may not be living to your potential. A survey finds that people who own pets are happier, earn more money, and exercise more frequently than those who don’t.

In a poll of 1,000 British dog and cat owners over 55 and 1,000 people in the same age group who don’t have any pets, researchers calculated that pet owners were twice as likely to consider themselves a success. In fact, 9 in 10 owners agreed that their furry family members were good for their health and well-being. The belief makes sense: the survey showed that pet owners log nearly twice as much exercise, getting a good sweat about five times per week, versus just three time a week for the non-owners.

The survey might make you wonder more about the seemingly sadder lives of the non-owner group. That’s because the researchers claim pet owners surveyed were more likely to be married, have a child, hold a college degree, and work the “perfect job.”

But perhaps most shockingly, having a cat or dog is somehow linked to a higher salary. Pet-loving participants earned nearly $5,200 more per year than their counterparts!

READ MORE: Survey: Pet owners happier, wealthier, more fit than non-owners

Supportive relationships breed self-confidence, ambition

Having a little help from your friends and family can go a long way in your ability to succeed. A study finds that people who report having strong, supportive relationships feel more confident in themselves and are more prone to personal growth.

Researchers at the University of Michigan examined the results of a trio of studies, in hopes of determining whether those who strive for improvement are intrinsically motivated, or are more so inspired to change due to the influence of their friends and family. Overall, those who reported that they had supportive relationships displayed a greater tendency toward self-growth and self-confidence, the researchers found.

“The more supportive people judged their relationships to be, the higher their personal growth tendencies, even in a culture that puts more emphasis on the collective rather than the individual,” notes David Lee, the study’s lead author. “Building positive social connections with others should put people in a good position to receive social support that is instrumental to personal growth, as well as allowing people to strike a balance between two fundamental values: to strive and connect.”

READ MORE: Supportive relationships breed self-confidence, ambition, study finds

Feeling good about life

The secret to success may vary from person to person, but it’s also more formulaic than you think. A study that sought to find whether thriving individuals share specific traits resulted in what it claims is the “first definitive catch-all” on the subject.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth in the UK conducted an inquiry into the factors that allow anyone to thrive, and were able to find a number of previous studies that validated the most critical variables. Although “science hasn’t really managed to consistently classify and describe” the term “thriving,” argues researcher Dr. Daniel Brown, the researchers’ provided their own definition: “feeling good about life and yourself and being good at something.” “Building positive social connections with others should put people in a good position to receive social support that is instrumental to personal growth, as well as allowing people to strike a balance between two fundamental values: to strive and connect.”

The personal characteristics provided in the first list include internal characteristics that would be unique to an individual. A thriving individual is: optimistic; spiritual or religious; motivated; proactive; someone who enjoys learning; flexible; adaptable; socially competent; and believes in self/has self-esteem.

The second list focuses more so on environmental variables. Brown says a thriving individual has: opportunity; employer/family/other support; challenges and difficulties are at manageable level; an environment that is calm; is given a high degree of autonomy; and is trusted as competent.

READ MORE: Formula to happiness? Study discovers secret to thriving

Keeping your eyes on the prize will bring you success

Saving money seems so easy for some people. And the key is — you guessed it — patience. So how do these super savers become so patient? Is it all about delayed gratification, or is there a greater discipline involved? Researchers at Duke University discovered some surprising information about what motivates these “patient savers.”

People who seem naturally capable of making sound financial decisions and saving money are not caught up in an internal struggle nor do they possess an iron will that enables them to resist temptation. Instead, they see just two options before them. When faced with a smaller amount of money now or a larger amount of money later, these individuals have an inherent ability to block out all other information.

Results show that natural savers are not working out their choices like pieces in a puzzle. They just toss out all the other considerations, such as the time element, and simply put their entire focus on what matters most to them: the higher dollar amount. Interestingly, the most patient people consider the monetary aspect before thinking about the time element, thus ensuring that they will go for the gold — or in this case the larger amount of cash.

Patient people are not doing more analytic work,” says study coauthor Scott Huettel, a psychology professor with the university. “They actually make these decisions the fastest. It’s the opposite of an effortful process.”

What’s your key to success?

Have you achieved success and credit it to a practice that’s not mentioned here? By all means, leave your strategies in the comments below!

About Matt Higgins

Matt Higgins worked in national and local news for 15 years. He started out as an overnight production assistant at Fox News Radio in 2007 and ended in 2021 as the Digital Managing Editor at CBS Philadelphia. Following his news career, he spent one year in the automotive industry as a Digital Platforms Content Specialist contractor with Subaru of America and is currently a freelance writer and editor for StudyFinds. Matt believes in facts, science and Philadelphia sports teams crushing his soul.

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