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The Science Behind “Think and Grow Rich” and Why it Works

The Science Behind “Think and Grow Rich” and Why it Works

Have you ever wondered if Napoleon Hill was right? Can you really “Think and Grow Rich?”

If so, you’re not alone. As a career-driven professional, chances are you’re looking for ways to have a leg up on growing in wealth and influence through your life’s work.

Hill’s best-selling book on achieving success in our lives maintains its status even after his death in 1970. Why? Because his blueprint for wealth and abundance is captivating and clear. Why wouldn’t you be captivated by the concept of growing rich simply by using your thoughts?

Hill lays out thirteen principles for success in any line of work, summarized from interviews with many individuals who have amassed great wealth. Think of his work as a dissertation from a qualitative longitudinal research project. There’s a science to why it works.

Passionate pursuits lead to suffering.

The book suggests that success starts with a burning desire. This burning desire relates to a definite purpose that is meaningful to you. It also becomes an obsession that your mind is already convinced will come to fruition.

When you pursue this meaningful purpose, two things happen in your brain. First, you experience a more basic, compelling emotion that initiates passion, which often feels like intense enthusiasm and pride. Passion is impulsive and instinctive, as it emerges from having an incomplete perception of the nature of reality. It can motivate you to survive past obstacles, but it isn’t a reliable guidepost to great achievement or fulfillment.

The emotional area of your brain is responsible for your passion with such intensity. This includes your amygdala, basal ganglia, and brain stem, which are the primitive structures for impulsive and instinctive behaviors.

Passions can be the source of human suffering, because they’re nothing more than impulses toward pleasure and instincts to avoid pain. Our best life requires rational control over passionate appetites.

Second, you experience knowledge of a definite purpose, which is a primary and essential function for your fulfillment. A definite purpose clarifies your direction and your deepest, most objective reason why you want to achieve your desires. This is your true north, your highest intrinsic value, and your resolve to be unstoppable.

Your brain’s prefrontal cortex is responsible for your pursuit of definite purpose. It drives all the higher-order cognitive functions, including self-mastery. This allows you to control your emotional impulses created by passion.

It’s no coincidence that the first principle in “Think and Grow Rich” is to have a burning desire backed by definite purpose, not passion. It activates the prefrontal cortex that initiates persistent and consistent action toward your goals.

[Related: Be a High Achiever Instead of a Workaholic]

Reality always mirrors imagination.

The next few principles in "Think and Grow Rich" involve visualization and human imagination.

Your subconscious programming is responsible for everything you’ve created in your present and future life. The conscious mind won’t behave in a manner that is inconsistent with how the subconscious mind operates.

All of our beliefs, values, goals, and dreams have been programmed in the subconscious mind since birth. Subconscious programming influences our life outcomes, even if we’re not consciously aware of it.

Research shows that your brain responds the same way to real and imagined scenarios. This means you can influence your subconscious mind through your imagination, and hence how you react and respond to your reality. Your subconscious mind is powerfully responsible for producing the majority of your life experiences.

This is why Hill’s next principles to success involve visualization and imagination. The habits formed from applying these principles will reprogram your subconscious mind so that it produces future life experiences that are aligned with your definite purpose.

[Related: The Dream Job Project: Giving Yourself a Permission Slip to Dream]

The filter between your conscious and subconscious mind.

People who reach success aren’t trying to succeed any more than people who reach failure are trying to fail. They both happen automatically based on our subconscious programming.

The scientific evidence for this lies in the part of our brain called the Reticular Activating System. The RAS is responsible for allowing important information through to your brain while filtering out anything unnecessary.

Imagine you’re in a busy coffee shop, having a conversation with a friend. There are multiple conversations going on around you. But you can focus on the conversation with your friend only. This is because other conversations aren’t valuable to you, and your RAS will filter them out.

The same goes for your conscious and subconscious mind. When you engage in visualization and imagination of your definite purpose, any “conversation” of failure will get filtered out. And only “conversations” of success will move from your conscious to your subconscious. This allows you to set an intention to achieve goals related to your definite purpose.

By pursuing meaningful purpose, visualizing, and reprogramming your subconscious mind to expect the success you desire, you can think and grow rich through your life’s work.

[Related: Everything You Desire Starts Here]

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Dr. Grace Lee, neuroscience expert and CEO of career coaching firm Mastery Insights, helps professionals joyfully maximize their impact and potential through brain-based coaching that integrates career and life. She discusses fulfillment, meaningful purpose, and other career topics on her Career Revisionist Podcast and YouTube Channel. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out her website.


Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

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