Everyone seeks to be successful, but not everyone accomplishes this goal. There are those of us who understand that success stems from our individual behavior and there are those that refuse to understand this concept. Behavior drastically affects one’s individual success and there are several factors to point out when speaking of this. Successful individuals know that the foundation of personal and professional success lies in understanding yourself, understanding others, and realizing the impact of personal behavior on others.

The first thing to understand when speaking of behavior and individual success is that how you behave stems from your childhood or how you were raised. It comes from understanding where you are from and then transforming that into where you want to go. For some of us, this is easy, because we come from very successful families and have been taught nothing but success, since we can remember. For others, this can be extremely difficult, because you come from a very unsuccessful family and lived in an unsuccessful community. Therefore, you have to train your mind to think differently then how you were raised. Never the less, regardless of where you came from, there are far too many successful individuals that have conquered all types of backgrounds.

Everyone has a different definition of success, but the key to being successful is understanding what you define as success. For some of us, success is being a stay-at-home housewife, successfully raising your children. For others, success may be teaching or counseling. To others, success may be defined by the amount of education you achieved. You may feel that you have to get your doctorate degree, because everyone else in your family has done the same. No one can determine what success is to you, but you. There are far too many of us living unhappy lives, because we are successfully doing something to make someone else happy, which means that you are unsuccessful to yourself. “We talk frequently about the critical few behaviors that individuals need to change, but we should talk even more about our belief in the rights of those individuals to be free from others defining the keys to their success for them” (Lattal, 2003).

One of my favorite sayings that my grandmother taught me is to “watch the company you keep.” Individual success can be greatly affected by the people we associate ourselves with. If you are hanging around negative people, you will be seen to be negative. It is very important to pay close attention to the company you keep. When it comes to being successful, you should want to associate yourself with successful people. This all stems from what you define as success and most of us define success as making above and beyond what is needed to care for our loved ones.

Goldsmith claims that groups are a characteristic of all social situations and almost everyone in an organization will be a member of one or more groups (2003). Once you land a job with any company, it is very important to pay attention to informal groups. As mentioned by Gibson, Ivancevich, Donnelly & Konopaske (2009), informal groups are formed as a consequence of employees’ actions and develop around common interests and friendships. These types of groups can be dangerous when trying to obtain success. Because the people within these groups are normally friends, it’s sometimes challenging to see how one person within the group is negatively affecting the group overall (p. 10).

At my current job, I’ve seen several people that were qualified for a promotion, but did not receive it due to the informal group they were a part of. The main point of this is to understand that there is always a leader watching what everyone is doing, and these leaders are the ones that make the decisions for promotions. When it comes to individual success, we sometimes have to monitor these type of behaviors. In most cases, we all want to have the highest role within our current position, which normally leads to management, but managers have to understand formal and informal groups to obtain and retain their position.

This is where mentoring comes in to play with becoming successful. No matter what your definition of success is, there is someone that has already become very successful at that skill. Those that have challenges at becoming successful seek to find a good mentor that can help guide them into learning the skills needed for success. Even those that are already successful sometimes seek to have a mentor, because one can always become more successful.

“In work organizations, a mentor can provide coaching, friendship, sponsorship, and role modeling to a younger, less experienced protégé. In working with younger or new employees, a mentor can satisfy his or her need to have an influence on another employee’s career” (Gibson, Ivancevich, Donnelly & Konopaske, 2009, p. 45). Using myself as an example, my career tremendously grew once I was advised by a mentor. There were things about myself that I didn’t even realize could affect my career, the main thing being that of the involvement within informal groups. After being mentored, I’ve mentored several new and younger employees, helping to prevent them from making the same types of mistakes. As with any other relationship, one has to be careful when mentoring, but it can provide a sense of being a part of the community; because you’re helping someone else to be as successful, if not more successful than you.

There are those that have mastered obtaining a specific behavior to become successful, but that behavior is not a part of them. This can be easily related to people in the sales industry. There are several people within my family that are extremely successful at selling, but that does not define who they are. They have learned how to portray a certain behavior to reach the goals they want. When they leave work, they are back to their normal selves, but how they behave at work defines their definition of success. If behaving a certain way brings in the funds, then this is how they will continue to behave. This can assist several of us in becoming successful, but trying to behave in a manner that is not yourself, can be very difficult for most.

“The more we believe that our behavior is a result of our own choices and commitments, the less likely we are to want to change our behavior. One of the best-researched principles in psychology is called cognitive dissonance” (Goldsmith, 2003). This simply means that the more we genuinely believe that something is true, the less likely we will be willing to change that belief. My family members believe that behaving a specific way to obtain sales has made them successful, so they can’t see behaving any other way. Goldsmith mentioned that their commitment encourages them to “stay the course” and to not “give up” when “the going gets tough”. This same principle can work against successful people when they should “change course” (2003).

There are several things to pay attention to when trying to become successful. We are normally our own worst enemy, because we overlook the behaviors that may be negative to constantly see ourselves in a positive manner. “Some of the personal individual attributes that we need to observe and control include our achievement attitude, emotional temperament, energy level, intellectual factors, material traits, maturity level, philosophical attitudes, physical features, risks actions, and task performance” (Taylor, 2006). All of these attributes work together to define one’s version of success. Even if you’re a stay-at-home mother, you have to learn these attributes before you can be fully successful at that job.

The last thing to focus on when speaking of how behavior can impact success is to mention job satisfaction. Job satisfaction is an attitude that individuals have about their job. It results from their perceptions of their jobs, based on factors of the work environment, such as supervisor’s style, policies, and procedures, work group affiliation, working conditions, and fringe benefits” (Gibson, Ivancevich, Donnelly & Konopaske, 2009, p. 106). It is extremely difficult to be successful if you don’t like the job you’re doing. A great example of this would be teachers. We are all aware that most teachers are underpaid for the job they do. At the same time, they teach, because they enjoy helping people learn. Therefore, success is defined by their students growing up to be successful and not by the amount of money they make.

There are several of us that work in jobs that we aren’t satisfied with. When one understands how behavior impacts success, they understand the importance of learning all they can within that current job. At the same time, they take the necessary steps to land a new and even better job. But by not allowing that negative situation to overcome them, they normally become even more successful in the new job.

In conclusion, there are several factors that play into behavior and how it impacts success. The main thing is to define what success is to you. Once you have mastered that definition, you have to figure out the steps and attributes needed for you to become successful. We sometimes need help with this and that can’t be overlooked. If a mentor will help you, take the help. There is always someone that has succeeded in what you want to do. It is important to study what they did to become successful and try to make the necessary adjustments. You can’t be just like them, but you can learn how to be as successful as them.


Gibson, James L., Ivancevich, John M., Donelly, James H., Jr., & Konopaske, Robert. (2009). Organizations – Behavior, Structure, Processes. Boston: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Goldsmith, Marshall. (2003). Helping Successful People Get Even Better. Business Strategy Review – London Business School.

Lattal, Darnell, Ph.D. (2003). PMezine – The Performance Management Magazine. The Science of Success: Creating Great Places to Work. Retrieved October 11, 2009, from

Okolo, Sidney. Ezine Success Articles. Success Depends on Individual Attributes. Retrieved October 11, 2009, from

Taylor, Michael. (2006). Associated Content – Lifestyle. How Your Personality Affects the Success in Your Life. Retrieved October 11, 2009, from

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