The Science of Personal Success

things do not change ThoreauDo you think change is easy? I used to think it was. Past tense. I made up my mind and did what I wanted to do and the shift happened. If there would be setbacks, I would take a deep breath and get back on track. Easy.

And then things started to happen around me. A neighbour got seriously ill and still could not stop smoking. A friend tried to drink his depression away and was less and less able to function. His troubles grew with the amount of alcohol he took in. A colleague was not able to organize himself well enough to keep his job. And friends saw their debt growing with the day and could not shift into a healthy spending pattern.

On top of all their sadness and problems came the self talk. “I am weak. I don’t have any will power. I should, but I can’t. I want to, but I can’t. Others can, so it means that I’m not good enough…” You know what I mean.

Yes, they wanted change and were motivated. Yes, there were people around them that supported them. And there were those who didn’t. Yes, they tried – and failed. And tried and failed. And gave up, because they thought they just were not capable to change anything.

Is there a science of personal success?

At that time, I started to search for the why and how. Because I did not believe that my friends and colleagues were weak or not able to change. There had to be other factors playing in the background that we did not see. If I do not find answers in myself, I always start to look for what others have to say about it. What I found was lots of information and I happilly passed the golden nuggets to those who needed it.

And I learned a lot about myself. It was not that change was more easy for me or that I had more will power, strength or character than others. I had some very favourable circumstances. And without knowing it, I had implemented the things that according to research supports change…

I had to think about my insights this week. My life has shifted tremendously over the past years. And much of the structure and support system that made change easy for me is gone. I noticed that big time as I tried to breeze through some tasks that I am internally resisting. I started out with good intentions, but I just could not pull it through. It is not that the project is not important. It is very important. And still I found myself doing all sorts of things that were not connected. I got tired and realized that my resistance was taking a lot of energy.

So I got one of the helpful books out that I found some years ago: “Change Anything”. It lists the six sources of influence that are the keys to lasting change. It was a journey of aha’s! And I rapidly made sure that I have my keys in place. Today I worked non stop and even enjoyed it!

The six sources of influence are:

  • personal motivation – know what you want and why
  • personal ability – know what you can and learn what you can’t
  • social motivation – find out who is helpful and who is in the way
  • social ability – find information and support 
  • structural motivation – make progress visible and pleasurable 
  • structural ability – structure your environment 

We often rely on only one or two of those key components to change. We can make it much easier for ourselves, if we have all six sources work for us. In order to make that happen, we have to see the path to change as a joyful process, an experiment, a project. Personally I think that it is also good to turn it into something we can enjoy along the way. By taking a seriously playful approach…

Dive in deeper

I know this information only scratches the surface since I cannot rewrite the whole book here… If you would like to dive in deeper and see how you can implement these principles in your life, I recommend that you read Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success. Follow the link for a description of the book. It has helped me a lot and you may like it as well.

Of course this is not the only research that is valuable if it comes to change. The Science of personal success has many branches. I will share more in coming articles.


Next steps:

  • Reflect on the six sources of influence and share your insights with other readers in the comments so that they can benefit
  • Share this message with friends – it can help them change their life


Have a wonderful day!


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