“We hold the keys to victory within us, but usually cannot find them.”–John Coates
There’s a tingle that starts at the base of my neck and runs up the length of my head when I win at something. I thought the tingle was unique to me, but there is a reason success feels good. Neuroscientists call it “the winner effect.” When humans win a contest, our bodies release testosterone which gives us a lift in confidence and a slight euphoria. Losing a competition releases cortisol which has the opposite effect of testosterone and results in sadness and an aversion to risk. The release of these hormones happens, on varying levels, when winning or losing at everything from Candy Land to the Olympics.
Here’s the kicker to the winner effect. Long-term exposure to either testosterone or cortisol changes our brain chemistry. Have you ever known anyone that always seems to win? Or, someone who always seems to get the short end of the stick? It turns out that winning and losing streaks aren’t just platitudes. Our bodies are built to keep those streaks alive. Imagine this as our bodies giving us positive or negative reinforcement to winning or losing. Research has shown that over the long haul, winners have a greater chance to win and losers are more likely to lose given the trend of those chemicals in one’s bloodstream.
If you’re at the cortisol end of the spectrum, all is not lost. Remember that winning at anything will help reverse cortisol exposure. Competition isn’t just measured in terms of you beating someone else. Completing a hike or winning a video game gives one the same hormonal release as winning the World Series. When you’re down, complete an activity you know will give you a win. Chain that small achievement with a larger one. Before long, your body’s positive reinforcement of sequenced wins will set you on the road to desiring the next success and science says you’ll have it.
The Winner Effect: Accelerators
- Do you routinely experience wins or are you often on the short end of the sick?
- What patterns exist in your most recent wins? Your most recent losses?
- How can you create a “progressive” string of wins in order to take control of your brain chemistry?
Dr. Jeff D. Standridge is the best-selling author of “The Innovator’s Field Guide” and “The Top Performer’s Field Guide.” He serves as Managing Director for the Conductor and Innovation Junkie, and teaches in the College of Business at the University of Central Arkansas. Jeff helps organizations and their leaders generate sustained results in the areas of innovation, strategy, profit growth, organizational effectiveness and leadership. Learn more at InnovationJunkie.com.