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What is the number one predictor for personal success?

Discover 8 skills necessary for success and persistency.

In a delightful read called The Brain Warrior’s Way by Daniel and Tana Amen, the authors discuss the biggest strategy for health, longevity and success. Right now begin to guess what you think is the most important strategy for successful living. If you said optimism, exercise, happiness or stress-free living, you would be partially correct, but that is not the number one strategy for living a long and successful life. In fact, “happy-go-lucky” people die sooner than folks who practice this one skill. It is called persistence!

Yesterday, my husband, Ted and I went to see the movie, The Founder, a disturbing yet fascinating journey about Ray Kroc’s acquisition of the McDonald’s fast food industry. He was a struggling salesman for many years. In the narrative Ray finally discloses what made him so successful. He boldly states the very same skill that the Amens discuss in their book….persistence! The Amens also share the landmark research from Friedman and Martin’s The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight Decade Study finding that conscientious people live much longer and are among the most successful people.

Lori Russell-Chapin

There is a portion of the brain that must activate to help with persistence. According to research by Dr. Murray Grossman and colleagues, a healthy ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) aids in social and personal decision-making, along with the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and dorsal portions of the anterior cingulate (dACC). Functional MRIs have shown the dlPFC’s role in top-down intentional decision making and the dACC role for stepping in to discern conflicts and competing alternatives.

What skills do we need to practice to help our brains be more persistent?

Even if being persistent and conscientious are not your strong suite, here are 8 skills to practice. These skills will develop and protect your prefrontal cortex.

1. Start first with fore thought. Take the time to plan upfront what you desire, whether that be the groceries that you need for the week or steps needed for finishing a project. Plan out each step needed to achieve your goal.

2. Reflect on all the positive and negative consequences of a plan. Knowing what consequences are possible, assists the brain in making better decisions.

3. Keep your word. What we say to our self and others is often all we have. I often say to clients that what we say needs to be consistent with what we do.

4. Follow-up and follow-through. Ask questions about details. Again if you say you are going to do something, then do it. Be reliable. What ever you do, don’t blow it in the end.

5. Take calculated risks. Stretch out of your comfort zone. Anxiety and fear are not healthy motivators.

6. Be sure to establish a daily routine. We are creatures of habit, and we need structure and routine. Plan out your day, just like you plan out an agenda or project. That consistency offers order out of the chaos of life.

7. Evaluate every plan. If it needs adjusting, adjust and adapt.

8. Perhaps most importantly, if you fail, get back on the horse and try again and again. Being persistent help the neurons wire and fire together.

I’ll give you some examples of what our family did this year to stretch out of our comfort zones and be persistent. Each one of us has been willing to take several calculated risks to make new events happen. Our young adult children have chosen to live on their own in new abodes. Our daughter, Elissa,is a teacher and moved to a renovated castle. It takes 47 steps to arrive at her front door, but the wait is so fun. There is a turret in her apartment and makes the entire effort worth climbing. There are some challenges such as bats and poor heating functions, but other than that it is a great first place to live.

Our son, Jaimeson, is a realtor with the Keller Williams Company. His team at Keller Williams is a perfect mixture of youth, energy and eagerness. Jaimeson is learning so much about business, people and life. In one of his searches, he found a small house that is perfect for him and Moose, his Australian shepherd dog. He is learning all about living alone and changing old light fixtures and lighting gas stoves. It is fun and sometimes a struggle to observe our children struggle and stretch while making major life decisions.

My husband, Ted, and I continue learning and practicing neurofeedback and neurocounseling. I am teaching in Bradley’s new online counseling graduate program as well. Teaching online has made me an even better teacher, as I am forced to rely on details, expectations, simulations and rubrics to make the class come alive. I also was a Visiting Professor at Ebero University in Mexico City, Mexico last spring. It was an incredible experience, and I met such fascinating people. I am also stretching by stepping out of my administrative jobs at Bradley for the first time in 26 years! Amazing. Being back in the classroom fulltime and researching will be wonderful.

So this year could be your year to “embrace the awkward, be uncomfortable and become more persistent.” Stretch out of your comfort zone and be consistent. Remember that persistence is the biggest predictor of successful living. May your goals for 2017 be determination, conscientiousness and persistence. Here is to a happy and successful 2017!

And if you truly want to learn more about strategies for brain health, please join us for the 2nd Annual Online Super Brain Summit, March 3, 2017.

In my September, 2016 blog I wrote about neuroplasticity and Dr. Michael Merzenich’s work. He will be one of our guest lecturers. There is an active website listing online registration, summit bios and lectures. All of the proceeds are for future brain research. Go to

Also for more information on neurocounseling, make sure to check out the Bradley University Counseling Program at:


Amen, D. & Amen, T. The Brain Warrior's Way. (2016). New American Library, NY:NY.

Friedman, H. & Martin, L. (2012). The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study. Plume, NY:NY.

Grossman, M., Eslinger, P., Troiani, V., Anderson, C., et al. (2010). The role of ventral medial prefrontal cortex in social decisions: Converging evidence from fMRI and frontotemporal lobar degeneration, Neuropsychologia, 48(12): 3505-3512. doi. 10.1016/neuropsychologia.2010.07.036

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