The three best predictors of long-term success

Michelle Gielan is a positive psychology researcher and the best-selling author of Broadcasting Happiness. In this podcast, she shares the three greatest predictors of long-term success. And while it’s couched for listeners in the workforce, the studies are based on research done with students in the academic world.

According to the research, your long-term predictors of success are:

1. Levels of optimism
Part of this optimism is the expectation that good things will happen, especially in the face of challenge. But more importantly, it’s the belief that your behavior matters. You get to make choices about how hard you study, whether or not you prepare for a presentation, and how you treat your fellow students or co-workers. A person with high levels of optimism believes that those choices—more than elements they can’t control—make a difference.

My college admissions corollary: The high school students who believe that their work ethic, character, curiosity, and interest in learning matter more than whether or not a famous college says yes have higher levels of optimism than students who believe an acceptance to an Ivy League school is the key to a happy and successful life.

2. Your relationship with stress
Your brain responds differently to stress depending on how you perceive it. Do you look at stress as a challenge or a threat? If you see it as a challenge, your brain reacts well and your performance actually gets better. But when you perceive stress as a threat, you’re simply not at your best, and you’re less able to handle the challenges you’re facing.

My college admissions corollary: The student who approaches a big test worrying that everything from his grade to his GPA to his college admissions chances is on the line is already putting his studying brain at a disadvantage. But the student who approaches that same test with the idea that this is her opportunity to show how much she’s learned is increasing her likelihood of performing well.

Here is a collection of past posts to help you respond to stress as a challenge rather than a threat.

3. Support provision
It’s more productive in the short- and long-term to focus on supporting those people around you as opposed to measuring and worrying about how much they’re supporting you. In fact, Gielan’s research showed that people who are among the top 25% of supporters within an organization are 40% more likely to receive a promotion over the next year than the people in the bottom 25%.

My college admissions corollary: Worry less about which teacher treated you how you think you should be treated or which student got what you think you deserved. Instead, focus more on making every class, club, team, etc. better for everyone in it, not just for yourself. In fact, that’s the best way to assure your own success.

And here was the research’s most compelling stat: taken together, these three things account for 75% of long-term job success.

It’s also a formula that has nothing to do with grades, test scores, or admissions outcomes.