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The Psychology of Success

Success isn’t just about luck.

Certain traits and ways of thinking are relevant to how much financial success a person achieves. Here is a brief guide to seven of them:


A key factor in success is being open to new experiences. Are you open to new ideas or do you think you’ve already got it all figured out? Are you willing to entertain the possibility that what you believe to be true may not be true?

Successful people are.

Intellectual curiosity is a critical component of success. Curiosity involves observing others and learning new things. There is humility in openness, which affords the opportunity to learn and grow. Shutting yourself off to new ideas and being unwilling to question your assumptions will limit your success. Be strong enough to be open-minded and to abandon beliefs and strategies that aren’t working for you.

Internal Locus of Control

This means that you believe the results you are getting in your life are due to your efforts and the mistakes you experience are your fault.

An internal locus of control keeps you from falling prey to the belief that you are just a hapless victim and nothing is your fault. When it comes to success, it really pays to take responsibility for your results.

This can be a bitter pill to swallow but it is fabulous medicine. The great news is that this way of thinking puts you in control. People just like you, with similar backgrounds, obstacles, education level, and challenges are creating fabulous things in the world.

And you can, too.


Conscientiousness is the personality trait that involves being careful and dependable and having self-discipline. While being easy-going may make you fun to hang out with, it's not necessarily good for your financial outcomes. Take pride in your work and be committed to doing it well.

Money Vigilance

Studies have found an association between money beliefs and higher income and net worth. People who enjoy financial success tend to be vigilant about their money.

They are savers, not spenders.

The earlier you adopt a savings habit the better off you will be. You might need to start small but start now.

A Drive for Success and Status

Successful people are driven to succeed. They have a psychological need to achieve their goals and status is important to them.

Hard Work

If you work harder and put in more hours, you’ll make more money. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise. That said, you can find a lot of information telling you to just sit back, relax, visualize success, and when you wake up in the morning a fat check will be in your mailbox.

Positive visualization is great, but it is ineffective without effort. In many cases, it’s simple math. If you make $20/hour and work 40 hours a week you will make $800/week. If you work 60 hours, you’ll make $1,200/week.

More work equals more money.

However, hard workers may be vulnerable to workaholism, which can destroy your life. It's important to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Money and success without your health and loving relationships is pointless.

They Don’t Love or Hate Money

Successful people seem to have a more balanced view of money. Less successful people may have more extreme beliefs about money, such as "money is bad," or "money will solve all my problems."

Money is just a tool.

Being rich doesn’t make you evil and being poor doesn’t make you virtuous. Money is just money. It’s up to you to decide how to use it.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.


Klontz, B.T., Seay, M.C., Sullivan, P., & Canale, A. (2014). The psychology of wealth: Psychological factors associated with high income. Journal of Financial Planning, 27(12), 46-53.

Klontz, B.T., Sullivan, P., Seay, M.C., & Canale, A. (2015). The wealthy: A financial psychological profile. Consulting Psychology Journal: Research and Practice, 67(2), 127-143.

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