What makes people happy? Doing better than the people around you is what makes some of us feel successful. But after working so hard to climb to the top, why do so many strivers self-destruct?

BBC News reports on a new study that shows that a man is happiest with his paycheck if he is making MORE than his fellow workers in the same office. MRI scans reveal that being paid more than a coworker stimulates the “reward center” in the male brain.

But if a man doesn’t feel like he really DESERVES his success, he may end up tearing himself down. New research shows that how people view their abilities in the workplace impacts how they respond to success.

Psychologist Jason Plaks found that those who thought of their capabilities as fixed were more likely to become anxious and disoriented when faced with dramatic success, causing their performance to plummet, compared to those who thought of their abilities as changeable. In other words, if you don?t expect to be successful?but you are, anyway?you may throw it all away later, because you feel unworthy. In contrast to this, people who feel that are capable of growing and changing?getting better?feel they deserve their rewards and do not self-destruct.

He says, “People are driven to feel that they can predict and control their outcomes. So when their performance turns out to violate their predictions, this can be unnerving?even if the outcome is, objectively speaking, good news” (in other words, a big paycheck).

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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