Key to the New Science of “Growth Mindset” Reflections on Learning and Failure

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Viktor Frankl On Suffering and Living a Meaningful Life

On Suffering in Life and Understanding on how to craft Meaning in Life is worth our attention and reflection: Frankl recognizes suffering as an essential piece not only of existence but an important part of creating a more meaningful life:

Quote: ” If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete… Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”   Viktor Frankl  

The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity — even under the most difficult circumstances — to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not. … Such men are not only in concentration camps. Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering.

In working as a psychiatrist to the inmates, Frankl found that the single most important factor in creating the kind of “inner strength” vs. “inner death” that allowed men to survive or give-up on life was teaching them to hold in the mind’s grip some future goal. He cites Nietzsche’s, who wrote that “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how,” and argues against generalization when:

He writes :

Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost. The typical reply with which such a man rejected all encouraging arguments was, “I have nothing to expect from life any more.” What sort of answer can one give to that?

What was really needed to survive was a fundamental change in attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life — daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way for all people. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. “Life” does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life’s tasks are also very real and concrete. They form man’s destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny. No situation repeats itself, and each situation calls for a different response. Sometimes the situation in which a man finds himself may require him to shape his own fate by constructive action. At other times it is more advantageous for him to make use of an opportunity for contemplation or reflection and to realize assets in this way. Sometimes man may be required simply to accept (reality) fate, to bear his cross. Every situation is distinguished by its uniqueness, and there is always only one right answer to the problem posed by the situation at hand.

Reflection on Suffering, Happiness and Meaning for Living 

Many of us buy into the myths of happiness because we think that failure, sadness and suffering are the reasons we are not happier. We falsely believe that, if we’re not happy now, we’ll be happy “if and when” that perfect person comes into our lives or perfect boss and job magically appears, when we hit the Lottery, or when our suffering ends and on and on with these fantasies. When these things to not come to fruition or they come and we still aren’t as happy as we expected, we feel there must be something wrong with us or we must be the only ones to feel this way. Others have disaster fantasies about getting a life threading disease, finding the wrong partner or no partner at all, losing our money or our jobs and houses, or getting old. Really this type of thinking itself can lead to more suffering and unhappiness. Not only do our false expectations turn life circumstances into full-blown drama points, but, worse, they also steer us to make poor decisions and impair our psychological health. If we are convinced, for example, that a certain kind of marriage, job, and money would make us happy (and it doesn’t), then misunderstanding the power of “hedonic adaptation” may compel us to jettison perfectly good marriages and jobs, harm our relationships with our children, and become a miser with our money. If we are positive that divorce or old age would make us miserable forever, then not recognizing the power of grit and resilience and the rewards of being single and aging may lead us to remain in a bad marriage, settle for a poor romantic match, or undergo unnecessary suffering. The good news is that by practicing more effective strategies and experimenting with new approaches for coping with pain and suffering, adversity at work or with a partner we can grow and flourish– we can transform our crisis and suffering points into making us stronger and challenge us to face these difficulties and find new solutions for living a more meaningful, and fulfilling life.

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Want Inspiration? Don’t miss this poem by Regina Bret, 90 years young.

Poem–Words to Live By

Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

Your Job won’t take care of you when you are sick; your friends and parents will: stay in touch.

You don’t have to win every argument; agree to disagree.

Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

Don’t compare your life to others; you have no idea what their journey is all about.

Over prepare, and then go with the flow.

Be eccentric now; don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

Frame every so called disaster with these words: “In five years will this even matter?”

What other people think of you is none of your business.

Your children only get one childhood.

If we threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

By Regina Brett

MWH Note: After all the rain in North Carolina I have been feeling a little down, so I went looking for a poem to give me inspiration. The wisdom and grounding in this poem provides insight for how to live a full and meaningful life. I love the line about how to frame setbacks, and disappointments in life by asking: In five years will this even matter? It reminded my of my favorite mantra when faced with troubles or difficulties in life–“it could have been worst”. What is your go to line when disaster or setbacks overwhelm you?

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Self-Coaching Challenge: Learn the Power of Reflection to Increase Self-Awareness

Daily Quote: “This is the key to life: the ability to reflect, the ability to know yourself, the ability to pause for a second before reacting automatically. If you can truly know yourself, you will begin the journey of transformation.” Deepak Chopra

Reflection: If you are open to new ways to improve  your life both at work or home, you might want to try the Self-Coaching technique of “Self-Awareness through Reflection”. Increasing you ability to be more Self-Aware will keep you from living life on “autopilot” or feeling “stuck” by just moving through daily activities and tasks like this is all there is in life. This approach to living is boring and self-deflating to say the least. Self-Awareness and reflection is gaining in popularity because new neuroscience research on the brain’s ability to grow and expand. The Brain is more like a muscle than a fixed structure. The potential for expansion and learning through out life is getting more attention because it is important in helping you shape your thoughts and behavior which impact decisions about career, relationships, and your life.

Basically, Self Awareness and Reflection is the ability to process and gain understanding of what your experiences teach you about who you are and how to live a more fulfilling life. Self-awareness is important because it provides the opportunity to assess your strengths, recognize what is working for you and learn how others perceive and measure your competencies and capabilities. Learning how others react and perceive you helps to uncover “blindspots” which many times are the barriers for living a more productive and optimum life. A simple illustration of this is to overrate yourself as strong leader and get a false sense of pride out of it, only to be devastated when you receive feedback from your team that this not how they experience  and perceive you.

So in essence self-awareness is the capacity to reason about experiences and to use information about your effect on others to enhance one’s thoughts, plans, and life experience. Its chief components include recognizing personally relevant information about yourself from reflection and others, and using that information to create  a plan for personal changes and self-development.

If this doesn’t sound important, I will remind you of the fact that tens of thousands of individuals derail themselves by not acknowledging personal and professional behaviors and decisions that are not aligned with reality. They make wrong decisions about what jobs to take, what work environments to enter, who to work with, and by overrating their abilities and underrating their deficiencies lose touch with reality and become “stuck” and depressed about their lives. The good news is like so many personality and brain functions,you can develop new ways to think and behave that are more aligned with your goals to live a more meaningful and constructive life.

Your main tool for accomplishing these changes is to become more aware by using reflection and introspection. The key is to evaluate were you are now and where you would like to go in the future. Then reflect on the gaps between now and future and determine what needs to be changed.  For these changes to happen, self awareness and reflection plans must be clear, concrete and time-bound. This reflection process is a deliberate, time-consuming process that requires you to study yourself and others feedback to you so that you can assess yourself accurately.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Here is a methodology that I have used to coach executives and managers develop their self-awareness.

  1. Block off 30 minutes at the end of the day for reflection time.
  2. Select an one area of your personality that is not working for you or you would like to improve. Commit to reviewing and getting feedback on this area, such as your ability to listen to others or how you react to pressure or stress at home or work.
  3. Spend the designated time introspecting on the personality area you selected. As you reflect, think of real life examples where listening has been important for making decisions. Then, identify who was there and how you behaved in listen to their opinions or advice. Make the example as concrete and vivid as you can. Then, ask yourself some critical questions: In what way did you listen or not listen to others? Did you interrupt other people when they were talking? How long does it take you to criticize or reject ideas presented by others? When you are supposed to be listening are you really taking time to understand what the other person is saying or are building a rebuttal argument? to rebut you new information and what type of information is it easy or hard for you to learn? Are you a visual learner or auditory? Could you restate what the other person was trying to communicate to you to their satisfaction? Do you listen better in groups or individually? How did this interaction workout? What would you do differently to improve the outcome of the interaction?
  4. Reflect and Record your reflective observations in a journal. When capturing you reflections be sure to write down your thoughts and evaluate whether your behavior is following the 3-1 positivity ratio we have talked about in past posts. Having  a Self-Coaching journal will be useful to see how this negativity and lack positivity reflection keep you “stuck”.
  5. Develop a specific action plan to change your thinking so you can your behavior for the better.
  6. Then identify other areas of your thinking and behavior or habits you would like to change.

When doing more reflection I have one cautionary point –most of us are not very good at evaluating ourselves and consequently fail to be accurate in their assessment; they engage in self-deception. You can combat this tendency by thinking of multiple examples, rather than just one situation to review for each personality characteristic you study. You can also check the validity of your observations by asking trusted others for their thoughts and feedback about your level of competency on the characteristic you are trying to improve.

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Mindset for Self-Coaching— 4 Critical Elements for Getting Started.

4 tips on how to see ourselves from other people’s point of view.

Daily Quote:

“We never see ourselves as others see us…”  Eric Hoffer 

” O would some power the gift to give us the ability to see ourselves as others see us. ” Robert Burns, Scot Poet (1759 – 1796)   

Self-Reflection: How do we see ourselves? Effective self-coaching involves seeing ourselves as mixture of our ability to think clearly, see ourselves as others see us and being open to learning and change. Many times in life our mental set about ourselves and how we impact other people can be taken for granted or mis-perceived. Many times in our busy day to day activities we are operating in a vacuum or on automatic pilot and in order to move forward and continue growing we must work on developing open and flexible ways to gather more information. Our ability to develop this open perspective toward ourselves is the foundation for all self-coaching. This open approach to personal change allows us to use self-coaching tools, such as feedback to not only adjust our thinking but to enhance our effectiveness to change habits and behavior.

For example, the art and science of public speaking or presenting are learned, as well as the skills to handle different situations and audiences. When this is recognized you can use deliberative practice tools by yourself or in conjunction with a good coach or teacher to figure out the steps to do something better by using your time and space to practice and learn more constructive ways to reach our full potential as a fully functioning person. With time and good support, every person can discover their own ways to become a more effective and efficient communicator.

1. Reflection

Self-coaching also involves an ongoing process of reflection. We need to view our lives as an ongoing exercise in experiential learning, and we need to obtain the necessary critical distance to be able to observe and reflect upon our experiences, while also fully inhabiting those experiences in the moment. The precise steps we take in this process will look different for each of us, and they will vary over time, but it’s critical to regularly engage ourselves in conversation and to develop the habitual practices that support this reflection.

2. Self-Awareness

An important product of this reflection is increased self-awareness, by which I mean both a heightened in-the-moment perception of how we respond to various situations and a deeper understanding over time of who we are as individuals. Our immediate perception of our physical and emotional responses to situations is often blunted–it’s only in retrospect that we fully understand what we were feeling. Honing this in-the-moment awareness of our responses allows us to expand the range of options available to us and to make choices that will best support our goals in any given situation.

Over time this heightened perception contributes to a deeper understanding of ourselves. We learn more about our tendencies and preferences, and patterns in our behavior (with certain people, in certain settings, at certain moments) begin to reveal themselves. We can then capitalize on these patterns, exploiting those that work to our advantage and challenging (or avoiding) those that work to our disadvantage.

3. Committment to Personal Change

At some level self-coaching is all about change. Changing how we spend our time so we’re more fulfilled, and changing our behavior so we’re more effective. Doing more of what’s working in our lives, and doing less of–or stopping entirely–what’s not helping us reach our desire results.  We may even want to change the direction of our lives in a more comprehensive way, and all large changes result from a series of small smart steps using the Plus1 performance technique.

4.  Clarity of Personal Values and Vision 

Our self-coaching efforts occur within a context defined by our personal values and our vision for ourselves. If self-coaching is a sequence of steps to help us effect positive change in our lives, then our values and our vision are the source of meaning and purpose in our lives, the underlying rationale for the changes we seek to make.

It’s important at the very beginning of self-coaching to identify the critical values that drive our action and to establish a vision of the future. Where you want to be after your self-coaching experience? Values and vision are the underpinning for self-coaching success because they ground us in what is important in our lives and where we we want to go. These values and vision will be rechecked through your self-coaching actives and will be refined by the end of your experience. Although we will be working on many of the elements that roll-up into a vision or provide clarity on your priority values in life through smart-step activities and structured exercises I think having an overall direction and “big picture” for self-coaching  is critical for your success.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Over the next week reflect on these 4 elements for Self-Coaching. Use the scale 1 -not ready to 10 absolutely ready. After your evaluation commit to either finding a coach to get get you started or if you are ready for self-coaching do something to get started, like reading articles or a book on self-coaching.  

Inspiring Quote On Effort By Coach Wooden

 Fundamental Purpose  in Life

“The goal in life is just the same as in basketball: make the effort to do the best you are capable of doing – in marriage, at your job, in the community, for your country. Make the effort to contribute in whatever way you can.

You may do it materially or with time, ideas, or work. Making the effort to contribute is what counts. The effort is what counts in everything.”

This is one of Coach Wooden’s core constructive living principles. Life is about making the effort to do the best we are capable of doing. Constructive action through effort is the driving force of living on purpose. Never give-up is  everything. Period.

Don’t worry about how smart you are, or how educated you are, whether you’re winning or losing, failing or succeeding. The one thing that counts is your effort. If you do the best you can do, then you have succeeded in living a meaningful life.

Inspiration:The Story of Misty Copeland–A life of Struggle and Thriving to be the Best You Can Be.

Misty Copeland, principal dancer at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre is a case study on never giving-up and overcoming negativity to be a great ballerina. Copeland is an American ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre, one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States. Her style, grace, passion, and skills have gotten her […]

Misty Copeland, principal dancer at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre is a case study on never giving-up and overcoming negativity to be a great ballerina. Copeland is an American ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre, one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States. Her style, grace, passion, and skills have gotten her to the top, and made her the 1st African-American woman to be promoted in the ABT’s 75-year history! Breaking barriers indeed… See more at
“” The best piece of advice that I remember probably on a daily basis is to accept everything about me that is different. That is what makes me special…The path to your success is not as fixed and inflexible as you think.” Misty Copeland For those that don’t know the story of Misty Copeland and are struggling with obstacles and difficulties in life you are missing many lessons of how self-belief, learning , effort and perseverance begin with mental toughness, thriving and growing in life.Tom Ashbroke in his podcast On Point with Misty Copeland has produced an amazing 1 hour of insights, reflection and triumph of mind-body insights, racism and mindsets for discovering, accepting and acting on your gifts and strengths in living a life on purpose.https://www.npr.org/player/embed/523980570/523980581

Inspiration:The Story of Misty Copeland–A life of Struggle and Thriving to be the Best You Can Be.

Misty Copeland, principal dancer at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre is a case study on never giving-up and overcoming negativity to be a great ballerina. Copeland is an American ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre, one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States. Her style, grace, passion, and skills have gotten her to the top, and made her the 1st African-American woman to be promoted in the ABT’s 75-year history! Breaking barriers indeed… See more at
“” The best piece of advice that I remember probably on a daily basis is to accept everything about me that is different. That is what makes me special…The path to your success is not as fixed and inflexible as you think.” Misty Copeland For those that don’t know the story of Misty Copeland and are struggling with obstacles and difficulties in life you are missing many lessons of how self-belief, learning , effort and perseverance begin with mental toughness, thriving and growing in life.Tom Ashbroke in his podcast On Point with Misty Copeland has produced an amazing 1 hour of insights, reflection and triumph of mind-body insights, racism and mindsets for discovering, accepting and acting on your gifts and strengths in living a life on purpose.https://www.npr.org/player/embed/523980570/523980581

Unlock the key to Personal and Professional Growth through Changing Your Mental Maps.

Brain Research and the effects on our Mental Maps

New research has finally begun to shed light on the complexity of mental maps. Social psychologists Joyce Ehrlinger, Ainsley Mitchum, and Carol Dweck thought that the answer might lie in the implicit beliefs that overconfident people hold about the malleability of the brain and inherent ability. Decades of research by Dweck and others has shown that some people see personality and intelligence as relatively “fixed” (i.e., you are born a math whiz, leader etc. and there isn’t much you can do about it), while other people believe your intelligence, abilities and brain functions are changeable. With the brain being malleable, we are capable through learning and deliberative practice of changing and developing with effort and through experiences new wiring for our brains. These beliefs have profound consequences for how we live and see ourselves and others and how we learn (or don’t). For instance, people with a fixed mindset tend to be much more interested in proving or showing that they are smart, rather than pursuing opportunities to grow and get smarter.

Ehrlinger and her colleagues theorized that overconfidence might be another overlooked aspect of fixed mindset–thinking. In their studies, students solved a set of problems that varied in difficulty. Before learning their score, students were asked to guess how well they had done. Fixed mindset students were indeed overconfident — their estimates were more than 25% higher than their actual scores. Those students who believed their abilities to be malleable (i.e., “growth mindset”) overestimated their performance by only 5%. It seems that if you believe your abilities are fixed, that belief motivates you to inflate your abilities and skills.

To figure out why this overestimation of ability persists, however, Ehrlinger and her team had to dig a bit deeper. When they looked at how the students tackled the test, they realized that the fixed mindset students had spent more time working on the easier problems and less time on the harder ones. In other words, they’d selectively attended to the problems that reinforced their overconfidence — confirming their high opinion of themselves and ignoring everything else as much as possible. False beliefs and pride don’t just come before a fall; pride is what trips you in the first place.

Why do the arrogant, egoistic, and overconfident remain blind and ignorant of their own limitations? Could the findings of this research unlock the reasons some people get “”stuck” in living a life of disappointment and unhappiness?
Your challenge is to identify where in your life are you willing to face reality about your self and update your mental maps? With awareness can come growth and development.

Why Practice Mindfulness?

Practice Mindfulness daily to improve health, focus and a sense of well-being. So what is this miracle practice? Mindfulness means clearing our minds of distractions by maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. It means being present in the “here and now”. Mindfulness also involves self-acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.

Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the mainstream in recent years because of the research and writings of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which he launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Since that time, thousands of studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general and reduction in stress and anxiety in particular.