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Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives

Perhaps you can think of a time you avoided a particular situation, or you didn’t participate in a particular activity, because you didn’t want to risk making a mistake and looking foolish in front of others. Or maybe you can recall getting negative feedback from a boss, or a bad mark in an exam, and it felt really painful, maybe even devastating to you at the time. Or there may have been a time when you gave up learning something because you felt like you were struggling, and you told yourself that you were simply no good at it. All of these are signs that, at least at times in life, you’ve been operating from a fixed mindset, as opposed to a growth mindset.

When people operate from a fixed mindset, they believe that their intelligence and their ability is set in stone, and that it is out of their control to change it. Some people with a fixed mindset might believe that they are unintelligent and untalented, whereas others might believe that they are talented and brilliant. But either way, their fixed mindset will still be holding them back in life.

On the face of it, it might seem like a good idea to try to believe that you are intelligent and talented, but this is actually a very fragile, uncomfortable way of thinking of yourself. Because, if a person who believes they are fundamentally intelligent and talented makes a mistake, or if they struggle to learn something, then that immediately threatens their identity as an intelligent person.

Research by Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, found that when children were complimented on their intelligence after succeeding at a test, they actually became less willing to attempt more difficult, challenging tests afterwards. The researchers found that praising the children for their ability actually encouraged them to adopt more of a fixed mindset when it came to their own intelligence. On the other hand, children who were complimented on their effort – children who were told “You must have worked really hard to have solved these problems” – became much more motivated to attempt further, more challenging tasks. They developed more of a growth mindset, where they became more open to challenges and to future learning.

People with a fixed mindset tend to avoid doing anything too challenging or difficult, because they don’t want to risk shattering their belief that they are intelligent and talented. And in doing so, they hold themselves back from learning, developing and reaching their full potential. In contrast, people with a growth mindset believe that success is fundamentally about learning, developing and making a continuous effort. They understand that the more you practice something, the better you ultimately become at it.

Modern neuroscience offers us a growing body of research evidence to support this position. For example, to become a taxi driver in London, you need to pass a test called “The Knowledge”, which involves memorizing a vast number of street names and locations. Neuroscientists at University College London in the United Kingdom studied the brains of people before and after training for “The Knowledge”, and they found that in each case the hippocampus – the part of the brain linked to spatial awareness – had measurably increased in size. The fact is, your brain is incredibly adaptable and changeable, and the more you learn, and the more you challenge yourself, the more your brain adapts and develops.

Therapeutic hypnosis can help you internalize this attitude, so that you begin to consistently operate from a growth mindset in life, and to treat every situation and every challenge you encounter as a magnificent opportunity to learn something new – and to grow without restrictions.


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