How a Positive Attitude Leads to Better Performance

How a Positive Attitude Leads to Better Performance

IQ isn’t everything. If you’re looking to build skills and boost your performance at work, positive attitude goes a long way.


A new Stanford study confirms that success lies in the power of positive thinking[1]. The study found that a child’s positive attitude is just as relevant as his or her IQ in predicting performance. When elementary school students completed arithmetic problems, a positive attitude towards math was connected to better function of their hippocampus, a vital memory center in the brain.

A positive attitude leads to success in math

The study included 240 children ages 7-10, who performed arithmetic problems testing their knowledge of math facts and math word problems. Researchers assessed the children’s demographics, IQ, reading ability, and working-memory capacity. The children’s guardians answered surveys about the children’s behavioral and emotional characteristics – including their anxiety about math and in general. The children then answered a survey addressing their “math attitude” – their interest in math and self-perceived abilities in the subject. 47 children also took MRI brain scans while performing the tests.

By analyzing the brain-imaging results, researchers found that a child’s positive-attitude scores directly correlated with activation of their hippocampus, the memory and learning center of the brain. These results suggest that the hippocampus is the connection between a can-do attitude and nimble fact-retrieval from memory, which is associated with problem-solving abilities.

Lang Chen, PhD, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral scholar in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, summed up the findings: “Attitude is really important. Based on our data, the unique contribution of positive attitude to math achievement is as large as the contribution from IQ.” In other words, beliefs about a particular subject, as well as self-perceived abilities, bare weight on the success of an outcome.

How to gain more happiness and success

While this study focused specifically on children and math, past research has shown that visualizing success helps you achieve your goals. With that in mind, it’s never too late in life to set yourself up for success by giving your attitude an overhaul. Here’s how:

Visualization: The act of thinking about a goal and seeing yourself achieving it can work wonders. Set aside some time each morning to envision yourself succeeding at something you’ve dreamed of. Be as specific as possible in your visualization. What is important is to tap into the emotions of happiness and joy you experience upon reaching that goal. You want to recreate that – in real time, in real life. Read here for more ways to open up the performance-enhancing intuitive side of your brain.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBD) is also an effective tool to help you change how you think about certain things, so you approach them differently. Negative thinking, for example, keeps people in a depressed state of mind. Learning to undo that thought pattern to allow the positive thoughts to bubble through can help depressed people feel better. In that way, even a daily gratitude practice can help. Self-efficacy – your belief in your ability to succeed – plays a major role in how you think, feel, and behave. Seek out a qualified CBD therapist or practitioner to help you learn the ropes.

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