You may have heard a famous saying:

"The rich get richer the poor get poorer."

What does it mean exactly?

Those who receive opportunities tend to acquire additional opportunities.

Those who receive initial disadvantages tend to accumulate further disadvantages.

The advantage tends to beget further advantage and vice versa, disadvantage beget another disadvantage. It's a self-reinforcing loop that drives a chain of reaction either positive or negative.

I know many people who are stuck in a vicious cycle and always have problems with their jobs, relationships and health. They complain about the same thing over and over again.

Funny enough I observed that similar events happen year after year at the same time.

One of my ex-colleagues for 3 consecutive years at the end of each year experienced a break up with her latest partner, work problems, and health issues.

I observed  other people when they  used an opportunity they got another one and  kept creating new opportunities in life. Some faster than others but in the general tendency is positive → they keep growing.

Such self-reinforcing loop is called Mathew-effect (or accumulated advantage).

The term was first coined by sociologist Robert K. Merton in 1968 and takes its name from a line in the biblical Gospel of Matthew:
For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he
shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even
that which he hath.

Here are some examples of the Mathew effect in different life facets:

2. Education:

When children fail at early reading and writing they begin to dislike reading and get less attention from teachers and fewer opportunities to perform.

High-performing kids continue to level up their performance and get more opportunities for learning.

3. Sports:

Each time a child kicks the ball or strips the ball from someone else, or passes to a teammate, or dribbles with the ball they learn.

As they get better teammates tend to give them more passes and they gain more opportunities to score the goal

4. Business: First mover advantage tent to accumulate more advantage:

Examples: eBay, Amazon, Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, Dropbox, Youtube.

5. Fame:

Famous researchers are going to get the largest share of research money and resources. Famous business people, generals, politicians, etc. will inevitably get more credit for developments than they deserve.

6. Dating:

The more you attract the other gender the more attention you get, the more attention you get the more attractive you become.

7. Career:

The more visible you are to management from a positive angle the more career opportunities you get. If you work hard but nobody sees the work you will stuck in your career.

8. Health:

The more junk food you eat the more junk food you tend to it.

The more healthy food you eat the more healthy food you tend to it.

The more you physically move the more you keep moving.

The more you seat the more you keep seating (inertia).

9. Relationship:

The more you fight with your partner the more you will keep finding reasons to fight.

The more you enjoy doing things together the more you keep finding new things to enjoy.

I am sure you can find a self-reinforcing loop in many other areas.

What is also interesting is that it's easier to fall into a vicious cycle and it's hard to get out of it.

You can think of it as the gravitational power of negativity.

It's easy to get drunk, get addicted to drugs, procrastinate, consume mindlessly instead of developing healthy habits, consistently creating something useful, connecting, and networking with people.

If you are in a vicious cycle you still can get out of it but it would take some effort.

First of all mental effort to believe in yourself, that you can get a better lifestyle. Set some actions towards it and start gradually building a new mental habit of how you think about yourself and the life that you can have.

Takeaway:

Create more positive self-reinforcing loops. Seize opportunities and build upon them.

If you are in a disadvantaged position you still can get out of it but it will take more time and effort.

Start with your mind and reframe negative self-image into positive.

Develop a new habit to think differently about yourself. Use your challenges to fuel your actions in the right direction.

You get what you think about whether you want it or not.