Neuroscientist David DeSteno focuses on what science shows about how to achieve long-lasting, sustained success, not the instant gratification, superficial high we might feel in the moment of a job well done. Important to note: this isn’t a self-help topic, but a scientific, evidence-based approach to the way our brains work when it comes to success.

We’re a society obsessed with success. But the current advice out there on how to get it is weak—focusing on strategies that use willpower, distraction, or related cognitive “tricks” to overcome problematic temptations (to find a quick “fix-it” solution rather than study or work hard, to binge or eat unhealthy foods rather than help ensure future health with a nutritious diet and exercise, to spend money on impulse buys rather than save for retirement or related future goals) is tenuous.

If we cultivate morally toned emotions like gratitude and compassion, however, they automatically make us value the future. They nudge the mind into valuing the future over the present, and thus ease the way for us to pursue our goals. And unlike relying on willpower, they’re don’t cause stress, meaning they heal the body over the long-term instead of harming it.

In the book, David talks a lot about how our society’s shift in values. He says, “The original purpose of self-control wasn’t to get good grades, save for retirement, or complete the Whole 30. It was to avoid selfish behavior or, put simply, to have good character. And that required sacrificing to help others.” The dogged, get-ahead virtues leave us feeling lonely and sick and stunted. Cultivating emotions like gratitude and compassion not only increase professional success, but social success as well.

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