Psychology: This quality is more important than your IQ to your success

Who is clever, automatically has success in life? Psychologists disagree. You can read here which trait is more important according to studies in order to be successful.

In the minds of some people, success and intelligence are closely or inextricably linked. Those who are intelligent, that is the underlying idea, get good grades at school, get a great degree, easily get any job they want, and the rest is done by itself. On the other hand, those who lack cognitive performance For years she has been working with lots of tutoring from math work to math work, only to arrive with an average final grade in an equally average life marked by many struggles and compromises.

But it’s not that (simple) at all.

Intelligence is not a guarantee of success

First, to be successful can mean a lot. It can mean that we have healthy relationships, that our children are doing well, that we run ten kilometers in under an hour, that our business is generating higher sales every year, that we have 10,000 followers on TikTok and and and and and. To be successful means achieving your goals or trying to win something in the process. Perhaps the most important prerequisite for being successful in life is therefore to know your own goals and to be clear about them – and not let the goals of other people dissuade you from your own path.

Second, not everyone can: r use their intellectual potential for their own success. After all, our mental capabilities make up only a small part of our personality, and so it may very, very well be that other characteristics (e.g. low tolerance for frustration, social incompetence, lack of self-esteem …) stand in a person’s way a lot more when a high IQ advances them.

In fact, psychologists have been able to show in a study that even in our educational system, where a certain level of intelligence would perhaps most likely be assumed to be a fundamental advantage, another quality is more important to be successful: self-discipline.

Study: Self-disciplined students are more successful than intelligent students

In the first part of their study, the researchers from Pennsylvania initially focused exclusively on the relationship between self-discipline and academic success. At the beginning of the school year, they had a test group of 140 children aged 13 and over and their parents answer questions related to the children’s self-discipline (for example, the child can stick to rules, is he able to anticipate a fast, but to forego short pleasure …). Based on the data, they distributed points to the test subjects, based on which they could classify them on a self-discipline scale.

Seven months later, there was a clear connection between self-discipline and school success: Self-disciplined students: they got better grades and had an advantage in choosing high school.

The psychologists repeated something similar with a second test group of 164 children, also 13 years old. This time, in addition to the classification on the self-help scale, they also carried out an intelligence test with the children. After seven months, they checked again how their test subjects were doing in school, and again they found that self-disciplined students were remarkably successful. Indeed, in twice as many cases a connection between self-discipline and school success was seen as between intelligence and success.

With self-discipline in the flow

In the online magazine Psychology Today explains psychotherapist Donald Altman why he believes self-discipline is so important to be successful: “Any area in which you want to be successful – whether music, sport, management or efficiency at work – requires discipline and determination to be successful Developing your own abilities over time. Self-discipline then becomes a habit, an integral part of your behavior. Once mastered, it becomes part of your flow in everything you do and gives you a feeling of ease and joy . ” As a habit or part of our personality, according to Altman, self-discipline leads to the fact that we can enjoy the path to a goal, even if it involves work. That in turn helps us to persevere and invest energy.


Self-discipline alone is probably not the one quality that leads us to success in life. After all, we also need, for example, enough sleep, a certain flexibility and adaptability to the unpredictable, resilience, relationships and a lot more. But the bottom line is: We can acquire everything we need to achieve our goals. To be successful does not require a rare, above-average talent, which we either have or not. Everyone can be successful if they really want to. And most of them actually are – sometimes just without realizing it.

Sources used:, The British Psychology Society (