Recent findings have increased our understanding about the brain and behavior in the last three decades.

At the same time, we’ve gained much understanding of success by studying persons in their particular areas of achievement, seeking to know their thoughts, beliefs, strategies, and so on.

Here are three important lessons we’ve gained from studying success.

1. Success does not create happiness; it is the other way around: happiness creates success.

Success in an inside job. It does not come from resources outside of you in the environment—a car, a house, a degree, a promotion, financial wealth — regardless how desirable or wonderful these are as goals.

That’s right. Lasting success stems from what goes on inside of you. In particular, it depends on your thinking patterns, beliefs and attitudes.

Your body works best in a state of balance. What you believe creates inner thoughts that have a direct impact on the internal balance of important dynamic processes of your body and behavior.

For example, your thoughts:

  • Determine what chemicals are released into the bloodstream.
  • Affect the chemistry of your brain.
  • Cause emotions and physiological sensations in your body.
  • Shape your overall thinking patterns.
  • Influence what you say.
  • Produce images in your mind.
  • Impact the choices you make.
  • Have a direct effect on your behaviors.

And so on!

When your thoughts energize an overall positive physiology inside you, this energized emotional state, in turn, makes you virtually unstoppable. It can create both the momentum and direction you need toward your desired outcome.

2. True fulfillment comes from balancing the demands of home and work in way that prioritizes key relationships.

Fulfillment involves more than completing “to do” lists to achieve your goals. On the path, there are people to work with, to include the ones in your personal life.

If your focus and desire is to primarily achieve success in one area of your life, and you ignore key relationships, you are not likely to find true fulfillment.

Why? According to Dr. Daniel Goleman, author of the 1995 groundbreaking international bestseller “Emotional Intelligence,” emotional mastery is the:

“capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.”

This relational skill is now considered the strongest predictor of success at school, in the work place, at home, more effective than traditional measures, such as GPA, IQ, or standardized tests.

Persons who have high emotional intelligence are more likely to succeed in work and in life, because they’re the people who have greater capacity to give and receive love, to be self-aware, and to empathize with others. A person who can handle his or her emotions well is better liked on the job and at home. These are key attributes to finding success in life.

Your brain is a relationship organ. Like it or not, so are you. Your core impulses instinctively drive you to seek to love, be valued for who you are, meaningfully connect, and so on, in your relationships. These emotional yearnings propel you to balance your giving and receiving, and make meaningful contributions.

Healthy thinking patterns that support your success include a willingness to learn, be flexible, and take action to do what is necessary in the direction of your goals, and that means being willing to slow things down, as needed to strengthen and cultivate healthy relationships, especially with those closest to you.

3. You are completely in charge of the size of your success.

The extent of your success depends on how much you want to succeed and how you define success to begin with. To get clarity, explore the following in depth:

  • First, specifically what do you want…do you know?
  • Second, why do you want what you want…what are your reasons, driving purpose?
  • Third, what are you willing to do to get it?

Ultimately, the measure of your success depends on how clearly you can picture what you want, how deeply you stir the passions that drive your reasons, and how clearly you identify the level of commitment you’re willing to make — toward taking consistent action.

That’s the formula for success.

You probably haven’t met a person who does not want financial prosperity, great relationships or a healthy and fit body, right?

So you know that it’s not enough to just want something. You need a clear vision.

Once you have clarity, you also need a strong why, a driving purpose. Reasons energize your passion and spark the enthusiasm you need to step into your vision, make it yours, and hold onto the reins all the way. Enthusiasm also maintains your momentum to help you get around any obstacles along the way.

Your thoughts are powerful energies that shape and direct the chemical reactions in every cell of your body. Your perceptions form neural patterns that determine how you relate to yourself and others, and best predict your emotional and behavioral responses. Thus, the extent of your success rests on the images you consistently entertain in your thoughts.

The bottom line is this. If you’re a human being, and you are, you are designed to hunger for success. You’re hardwired with inner emotional drives to thrive that propel you to seek happiness and fulfillment; to share your talents and abilities, and contribute to life and others around you. Abraham Maslow called these divine aspirations for connection and contribution self-actualization.

Regardless the label, happiness is not a goal, however. It is the means to successfully realize each and every one of your aspirations in life.

If you find yourself waiting for something or someone, you’ve missed the train. Get on at the first opportunity.

The overall lesson? Follow your bliss. It’s all about staying in your bliss in the process.

To stay in your bliss, cultivate a mindful practice of asking reflective — brain boosting — questions, ones that energize emotional states such as clarity and enthusiasm in you.

If you wish, start with the following: “Do you have a clear picture of what you want…why you want it…and what you are willing to do to make it a reality in your life?”