Unlocking the Winners Mentality: Delving Deep into the Psychology of Winning

The exhilarating rush of victory and the heartbreak of defeat – these are emotions familiar to anyone who has ever competed, whether in sports, business, or even everyday challenges. However, what really sets winners apart? Is there something intrinsic in the winners mentality that keeps them consistently ahead of the curve? A captivating study by Reeve, Olson, and Cole from 1985 provides some thought-provoking insights into this realm, giving us a deeper understanding of the mindset of a winner.

The Study: A Dive into the Psychology of Competition

The focus of the study was clear-cut – analyzing the effects of competition outcomes, specifically winning or losing, on a person’s intrinsic motivation. With a mix of 29 females and 25 males as participants, a unique setting was chosen: a puzzle-solving contest. Each participant was pitted against an opponent of the same gender.

But how was intrinsic motivation gauged? Following the competition, participants were left alone with the puzzle. Unbeknownst to them, researchers measured the time they spent engaged with the puzzle, using this as a proxy for their intrinsic motivation.

The Results: The Power of the Win Mentality

The findings were both intriguing and illuminating. Those who emerged victorious in the competition didn’t just exhibit a transient joy of winning. They displayed enhanced actual competitive performance. Furthermore, their intrinsic motivation, as gauged by the time they spent with the puzzle post-competition, was significantly higher than those who faced defeat.

It suggests a simple yet profound idea: possessing a winners mentality doesn’t just culminate in the act of winning but extends to a heightened passion and motivation for the activity itself.

Dissecting the Mindset of a Winner

Let’s unpack what the study tells us about those with a win mentality:

  1. Boosted Performance: A victory isn’t just a one-time achievement. It acts as a catalyst, enhancing confidence and propelling individuals to better their performance in subsequent endeavors.
  2. Intrinsic Motivation: The mindset of a winner is driven more by passion for the task at hand than by external accolades or rewards. They find genuine joy and satisfaction in the activity, making them more likely to engage deeply and consistently.
  3. Resilience and Persistence: Winning fosters a mentality that craves challenges and is undeterred by hurdles. This drive keeps winners persistently engaged, refining their skills and readying themselves for bigger challenges.

Broader Implications: Transcending the Puzzle Contest

While Reeve, Olson, and Cole’s study was centered on a puzzle-solving contest, its insights resonate far beyond this context:

  • Sports: Athletes ingrained with a winners mentality are more likely to train with greater intensity, remain committed even during challenging times, and continually seek ways to refine their craft.
  • Business: In the corporate world, individuals with a win mentality often emerge as innovators and leaders, driving growth and constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
  • Personal Development: On a personal level, adopting the mindset of a winner can translate into a relentless pursuit of self-improvement, learning, and growth.

In Conclusion: The Path to Cultivating a Winners Mentality

Reeve, Olson, and Cole’s study illuminates a profound truth: the act of winning extends far beyond the moment of victory. It ignites a passion and motivation that can drive consistent excellence and achievement.

If you’re looking to cultivate a winners mentality, it starts with recognizing the intrinsic joy and satisfaction in your chosen activity. It’s about being deeply engaged, constantly challenging oneself, and finding motivation from within. Embrace this mindset, and you’ll not only savor the joy of winning but also the journey that leads to it.


Reeve, Johnmarshall & Olson, Bradley & Cole, Steven. (1985). Motivation and performance: Two consequences of winning and losing in competition. Motivation and Emotion. 9. 291-298. 10.1007/BF00991833.

Photo by Joshua Golde on Unsplash

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