The Winner Effect: How Small Wins Rewire Your Brain For Success


An adage resonated with me recently: ‘success breeds success. And, as it turns out, there’s mounting evidence to prove that the saying is true; the more you achieve, the more you are likely to succeed.


In other words, small wins, over time, can make a big difference. I’ve recently reflected on a term in biology called ‘The Winner Effect, which describes how an animal who has won a few fights against weak opponents is much more likely to succeed later bouts against stronger contenders.


Scientists have found that when we win something, regardless of how small, the brain releases dopamine and testosterone, chemicals associated with confidence, attention, and mood. Interestingly, studies have shown that the brain can rewire itself for success over time.


Professor Ian Robertson, a Scottish psychologist and neuroscientist, has devoted his life to studying a winner’s neurochemistry. And his findings are fascinating.


In the professor’s boof from 2011, appropriately titled ‘The Winner Effect, he explored the relationship between neurochemistry and achievement and how the act of winning physiologically alters the brains of high achievers.


The book shares various stories and anecdotes, ranging from sports to fish, and explains the relationship between success and neurochemistry. 


His findings suggest that if we want to become more successful, it’s better to start with small short-term wins instead of setting overly ambitious targets.


As the book explains, “Keeping motivated, therefore, means enjoying the intrinsic satisfaction of mastering day-to-day challenges. If you focus only on a distant, enormous goal, then you will devalue your small everyday achievements and make them seem worthless”


This is also known as developing higher levels of motivational intelligence or MQ, our intelligence system’s third and most influential level of intelligence. 


The people who ended up achieving the most tended to set moderately challenging targets for themselves: that is, demanding (stretch goals) but attainable.”


Professor Robertson explained that the reverse also exists alongside the winner effect, which he appropriately dubbed ‘the loser effect’


Predictably, winning increases testosterone, losing does the opposite, and brain chemicals such as testosterone and dopamine are reduced. 


Over time, the loser begins to feel weak, timid, and submissive, an evolutionary mechanism to prevent them from entering fights that could cost them their lives due to their memory and motivational intelligence of losing.


The loser effect applies to humans and animals, and the implications can be pretty profound. Put, the more you win, the more you are likely to win, and the more you lose, the more you are likely to avoid competition in the future.


As you can imagine, this can profoundly affect our ability to achieve. So that beckons the question: how do we rewire our brain for success?


Well, according to Professor Robertson, a series of small wins can lead us to much more substantial achievements over time.


His book cites sports as a prominent example of the winner effect in action. Boxers who choose weaker opponents at the start of their career are more likely to win against more formidable opponents in the future. 

Football teams who wear red are more likely to win matches due to the association of red with power.


And the opposite is also true.


Studies have shown that your IQ will lower if you enter a situation where you have low status in a group. You’ll feel less in control of your life and circumstances and are less likely to take risks in the pursuit of success.


“Success and failure shape us more powerfully than genetics and drugs”, according to Professor Robertson. 


So, if you want to rewire your brain for success, focus on small but challenging goals. 


In the process, you’ll rewire your brain for success and develop higher levels of motivational intelligence 


To your success,


James Fleming

The Power Within Training,

The Motivational Intelligence Company


To find out more visit.. https://www.thepowerwithintraining.com/mq