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This Is Why Morning People Are More Likely To Be Successful (Backed By Science)

This Is Why Morning People Are More Likely To Be Successful (Backed By Science)

Night people (those who are most alert at night, and typically stay up long after dark) might be a bit smarter than morning people, according to a report published by Roberts and Kyllonen in a 1999 issue of Personality and Individual Differences. But, morning people (those who are up and about early in the morning, roughly the same time even on weekends) are more likely to be successful.

That might come as a shocker to you, but it is scientifically proven. Here’s why morning people are likely to be more successful than night or evening people, backed by science:

1.   They are more proactive

Christoph Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany, reported in a paper published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology that morning people are more proactive than evening types. He described proactivity as the willingness and ability to take action to change a situation to one’s advantage.

Because morning people tend to be more proactive than evening people, they do well in business, Randler said. In an interview on Harvard Business Review Randler noted:

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“When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards. They tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges, which then leads to better job opportunities.”

This finding makes sense because, in theory, earlier in the morning is when your mind is most rested, your motivation highest and there is relatively less distractions. The mind is most creative at night, but most productive in the morning. This might explain why morning people tend to rule the world – winning the promotions and high level contracts.

2.   They are less prone to bad habits and drug abuse.

Not that evening types are always ill-mannered and drug dependent. Actually, night owls are smarter and more creative. But, morning “larks” hit the sack early at a respectable evening hour (typically in bed before 11 p.m.). That seems to make them a little less vulnerable than night people to bad habits—namely, drinking, smoking, and even infidelity.

A number of studies support this assertion. One study of 537 individuals comprising of professionals and students with different but regular work schedules found that night types consume more alcohol than morning larks. Another study of 676 adults from a Finnish Twin Cohort found that night people were much more likely to be current or lifelong smokers, much less likely to stop smoking, and at much higher risk for nicotine dependence as per diagnostic criteria compared with morning folks.

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These findings are not entirely surprising considering that the nightlife is more conducive to drinking and infidelity.

3.   They are conscientious, less showy, and thus more agreeable

The tendency to drink and smoke more among night people is associated with a trait that psychologists call “novelty-seeking” or simply NS.

According to PhyscologyToday, NS is “a personality trait associated with exploratory activity where someone seeks new and exciting stimulation and responds strongly from the surge of dopamine and adrenaline released when anyone has a novel experience.”

Numerous studies have linked night people with this “novelty-seeking” characteristic. Randler and a colleague also studied the relationship between morningness–eveningness and temperament in adolescents ages 12 to 18. They found that evening types tend to display an extravagance in approach to reward cues (showoffs.) Morning people are more conscientious and less showy, and thus more agreeable. Agreeableness is a positive trait that can help in the pursuit of success, though not always.

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4.   They procrastinate less

A 1997 study led by delay researcher Joseph Ferrari of DePaul looked at college students and found that trait procrastinators referred to themselves as “night” people. Ferrari discovered there is a link between procrastinating behaviors and a general preference to do activities in the evenings. This finding that evening people tend to be worse procrastinators was based on six days of daily task records.

In 2008, a team of researchers that included Ferrari did a follow up study on procrastination. This time they looked at adults with a mean age of 50. The findings of the earlier study held true. Once again night people were associated more with avoiding tasks that needed to be completed. The 2008 study was reported in the Journal of General Psychology.

Given that putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the “last minute” before a deadline can create problems, the researchers also hinted that this general tendency to delay tasks until nighttime may cost night people career success. That’s particularly true at jobs where strong daytime work ethics are expected or required.

5.   They have better moods and tend to be happier

That’s the argument that was put forth in a 2012 paper by Dr. Lynn Hasher and Renee Biss, psychologists at University of Toronto. The researchers assessed a sample of 297 older adults (59 to 79) and 435 young adults (17 to 38) on their current moods, as well as their preference to mornings or nights. They found that morning people were generally happier and more alert than their peers who sleep in.

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One reason night people might find it harder to stay alert and feel less happy than morning people is because of the disconnect between their nighttime preferences and conventional daytime expectations. Generally, night people are out of sync with the typical day-to-day schedule. They often have to force themselves to wake up early and perform at their peak during the day, which leaves them emotionally drained, and can even cause them sleep loss. Social scientists call this effect “social jetlag.”

For morning people, everything is as it should be. Morning people are happy with the typical day’s schedule.

“Waking up early may indeed make one happy as a lark,” wrote the researchers.

And who’s to say when you’re happy and alert and proactive you can’t perform better?

Featured photo credit: Stephanie Brooks via flickr.com

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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