CBS Local — For some people, no matter how well their life and career are going, they still feel unfulfilled. According to a new study, those bad feelings are actually a good sign that person will go on to even higher success.

Stanford researchers say that there is a connection between feeling unsuccessful and a boost in performance, which can lead to greater levels of success.

“Sometimes being ahead boosts our motivation and performance and sometimes it actually hurts,” said the study’s co-author Szu-chi Huang.

The Stanford experiment studied several groups of people participating in various competitive events. In one event being played for money, Huang and her colleagues found that the leading competitors who started to feel complacent ended up failing at the end of the game.

Another event, featuring 2,500 students on two campuses, tested how well people responded to being told they were failing. During a six-day book donation drive, some of the students were given a message reading, “signups at our campus are still 10 percent lower than our best year.” Those students finished the drive with twice the number of books donated than the ones who weren’t told how they were doing.

“By focusing on another standard that’s higher than where you are, you’re able to sustain motivation,” the Stanford Graduate School of Business professor added.


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