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Do your thoughts hinder or help you grow?

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The psychologist Carol Dweck defines two kinds of thinking that create two different lives: the Fixed vs. Growth mindset. If you change your thoughts, your life will change.

Research shows that we tend to be subjected to one of the two types of thinking. The first leads to depressive tendencies and failure. The other leads to satisfaction and much better results. Studies show that how our life will look is largely dependent on what’s in our head. If we change our thinking from the “fixed” to “growth” mindset, then our lives significantly change for the better.

Fixed mindset: Growth mindset:
Avoiding challenges. Embrace and looks forward to challenges.
When faced with obstacles, easily gives up. Persists in the face of setbacks.
Effort perceived as fruitless or worse. Effort seen as the path to mastery.
Ignore useful negative feedback. Learn from criticism.
Feel threatened by the success of others. Find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.

“Obstacles are there to stop others.” -Randy Pausch



(Image Credit: Brain Pickings,

Is it innate or adaptive?

In Dwecková’s research, she took 128 children ranging from 10-11 years of age and divided them up into two groups. She let them solve math problems, and then told the children in the first group: “You’re doing well, you must be very smart.” And she told the second group: “You’re doing well, I’m sure you tried hard.” In another part of the research, she gave them more difficult problems to solve. They were so hard that almost no one was able to solve them. In the third step, the children received easier problems again. The results were that the children that were praised for their intelligence (something innate = fixed) did almost 25% worse than the children praised for their effort (something adaptive = growth).

People with a fixed mindset believe that the cards are already dealt. Their intelligence and abilities are innate. They believe, for example, that if they’re introverts, they’ll always be introverts. On the other hand, those with a growth mindset believe that things can be changed. Current research of the human brain shows that the second group holds more truth. The brain deals with neuroplasticity – we can strengthen it similarly like our muscles. Qualities like creativity, willpower, courage, diligence and communication skills are not innate, but rather learned.

Martin Seligman’s research also shows that optimism and pessimism are not innate, but learned. How we explain our failure, the so-called explanatory style, significantly affects our risk of depression. If positive minded people fail, they tell themselves that they’ll do better next time. If negative minded people fail, they tell themselves that it’ll always be that way. The exact opposite reaction happens to both groups when it comes to success. If positive minded people succeed, they say that it’ll always be that way. And if negative minded people succeed, they say that they’ll fail the next time. If we change our explanatory style when it comes to failure, we would significantly reduce the risk of having depression and increase our satisfaction in life.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” -Henry Ford

Self-fulfilling prophecy

There’s a big problem that divides people into pigeonholes and various typologies. Whether it’s dividing them into groups like choleric, sanguine, introverts, extroverts, an Aries, or a Gemini. If you tell someone that they fit in “some sort” of a category, he or she will often take it as a fixed fact. Thanks to this type of mindset, it becomes the truth. The so-called self-fulfilling prophecy becomes reality.

In one study, schoolteachers were given tips about particular clever children, but they were completely mediocre and normal students. In just one year, the children significantly improved due to the teachers’ expectations. From the hidden records of the experiment, the results showed that the teachers acted differently towards selected students – the students were called on and praised more often.

Similar research was done with rats. Participants in the study had to teach a rat how to walk through a maze. They learned that the animal came from two different groups – “clever” and “dumb.” In reality, the rats were mixed up and divided into two different groups that the participants didn’t know about. The rats that were considered as clever learned how to go through the maze much faster because the participants communicated with them more intensively than with the rats that were considered as dumb.

Did someone condemn you like this during your childhood? Did they tell you that you’re not good enough when it comes to math, or sports, or that you’re indecisive, or that you’re shy? Maybe you weren’t like that but rather became like that because someone made you that way. Change your fixed mindset to a growth mindset, and release your will.


  • Book: DWECK, C.: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine Books, 2007, ISBN: 978-0345472328.
  • Book: MCKAY, T.: Science Shows the Difference Between Successful and Unsuccessful People's Brains. URL:
  • Book: SELIGMAN, M. E. P.: Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. Vintage, 2006, ISBN: 978-1400078394.
  • Book: DWECK, C.S.; Mueller, C. M.: Praise for intelligence can undermine children's motivation and performance. Journal Pers. Soc. Psychol., 1998

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