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Why Are Bronze Medal Winners Happier?

With the upcoming Summer Olympics right around the corner, I was doing some reading on the games and came across a study that surprised me. Psychologists determined by observing numerous contests found that the levels of happiness didn’t match the medal. Of course, the gold medal winner was overjoyed with their hard work resulting in their win. These psychologists found that the bronze medal winner was happier than the silver medalist. That’s right, the person placing third was happier than the person placing second!

How is that possible? After any significant event, you experience what’s called counterfactual thinking. You do this to make sense of the results you achieved as it relates to the world around you. Simply put, you run different “what if” scenarios in your mind that help you imagine how things could have ended differently.

For the gold medal winner, the only what if he can see is not getting the gold, and that’s why he’s happy. For the bronze medal winner, the major what if he can imagine is not getting on the podium, and that’s why he’s so grateful and happy. It’s different for the silver medal winner, though; his major what if is what kept him from gold and that’s why he’s not as happy as the other two.

There are two reasons I bring this up. The first reason is that a lot of the negativity, bitterness, and defeat you feel in business is due to this counterfactual thinking. You end up with results that fall short of what you wanted, and then you sit and stew over all the what if’s you can think of that may have impacted your success. Counterfactual thinking can be a useful tool to help grow your business IF you use it the right way. Most don’t because most use this thinking to blame circumstances for their shortcoming. Instead, you want to use this tool to determine how you could’ve done a better job.

The second reason is that counterfactual thinking starts with you thinking you’ve lost something. A negative place that makes blaming others or circumstance easy. Do this and nothing improves. I’m going to suggest that even if it’s something you didn’t achieve, take the time to see the positive, something to be grateful for first. Once you do this, you’ll be able to see more objectively what actions you can take to improve in the future that will give you the result you desire.

When you can stay grateful and hungry at the same time, you’ll show the world just how AMAZING you are, and the gold will be yours!

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