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.  

Victor Frankl about the meaning of life and facing difficult times in our life.

We all suffer difficult times and challenging moments oin our life. When change gets overwhelming and I feel stuck in life I generally turn to someone  wiser than my self for wisdom and direction.

Frankl writes in Man’s Search for Meaning :

” We can discover this meaning of life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.  The first, by way of achievement or accomplishment, is quite obvious.  The second and third need further elaboration.

The Meaning of Love

Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality.  No one can become fully aware of the essence of another human being unless he loves him.  by his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features of the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized.  Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities.  By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true…

The third way of finding a meaning in life is by suffering.

The Meaning of Suffering

We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed.  For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement.  When we are no longer able to change a situation–just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer–we are challenged to change ourselves…

But let me make it perfectly clear that in no way is suffering necessary to find meaning.  I only insist that meaning is possible even in spite of suffering–provided, certainly, that the suffering is unavoidable.  If it were avoidable, however, the meaningful thing to do would be to remove its cause, be it psychological, biological or political…

There are situations in which one is cut off from the opportunity to do one’s work or enjoy one’s life; but what can never be ruled out is the unavoidability of suffering.  In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this meaning literally to the end.  In other words, life’s meaning is an unconditional one, for it even includes the potential meaning of unavoidable suffering…

[In Auschwitz] the question that beset me was, “Has all this suffering, all this dying around us, a meaning?  For, if not, then ultimately there is no meaning to survival; for a life whose meaning depends on such a happenstance–as whether one escapes or not–ultimately would not be worth living at all.”

What I find comforting in Frankl’s perspective is that he’s not denying the difficulty and  rage that spring from suffering and tragedy.  He’s not “making the best of things.”  And he’s not blithely suggesting that “everything happens for a reason”or just let go and move-on  (which I find a particularly unhelpful expression of being stuck or hurting from loss.

What Frankl is doing is encouraging us to acknowledge our grief, stuckness and even unproductive rage, and also to see our suffering or upsetness as an experience in which it is possible to find meaning.  The nature of that meaning will be different for all of us, of course, even in response to the same situation or circumstance..  There’s no one-size-fits-all meaning-of-life.  Discovering your meaning will take effort, perseverance and courage. Remember your life is your own to create so start today to make the changes  that will make your life more meaningful.

Take Small Steps to Change Your Stuckness. If you make them too big, you get overwhelmed and you don’t do anything. If you make small goals for change accomplish them, it gives you the confidence to reach for higher dreams.

Want to differentiate yourself from the pack? Learn to design and present good stories.

“Storytelling is the essential human activity. The harder the situation, the more essential it is”. Tim O’Brien

Storytelling Consultant’s and speech making authors are making money with an old idea of teaching people how to tell effective and inspiring stories. Learning — or relearning — how to tell stories requires some skill. And consultants are lining up to teach it — sometimes for a hefty fee.

Although the power of storytelling to attract — and even manipulate — is well known, the reason for its appeal has been unclear. But Dr. Zak from Clairemont University it may have something to do with oxytocin, also called the love hormone.

To see the impact of storytelling on oxytocin, Professor Zak conducted a now well-known experiment. Participants had their blood drawn before and again after watching videos of character-driven stories. The result? When those watching the stories had an increase in oxytocin, they tended to help more — donating money to a charity associated with the story, for example. But not every story is well told. Most of us know a compelling tale when we hear one, but “it’s difficult for people to articulate why they like what they like,” Professor Zak said.

So don’t miss the ideas, in a New York Times article , where he and other colleagues point out that good story telling hing on how to develop and present stories that show ho to “balance your personal story — incorporating your values, tying it together with a vision of the future, and telling how listeners can get involved and also benefit themselves.”

Happy New Year–How to make Every Day better in 2017

Start 2017 with Daily Challenges, Reflections and Action

The design and layout of these daily activities for personal change are provided with the goal of making new research findings and old wisdom for living a constructive and meaningful life accessible and doable for our fast paced daily life. Accessible is accomplished by providing small smart steps for living a more fulfilling life by providing insights for accomplishing far more personal development in less time by focusing on what works when trying to go from where you are now to where you want to be in your personal and relationship development journey.

These Daily  Reflections and Ideas  for Action  Guides were created with the intention of providing lessons learned and inspiring personal challenges that you can actually use in your real life. Here’s a sample from the Mental Toughness Action Guide:

Pick one these daily activities for the Week of January 1st through the Jan 8th. Reflect on the challenge present and try to incorporate and on the quote in your daily interactions. Good Luck. I will present seven new challenges next week. Coach Mark

INTRODUCTION FOCUS ON GROWTH CHALLENGES  

  1. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Arthur Ashe
  2. “When you think about DOING YOUR BEST, think about mental toughness and effort.” Carol Dweck
  3. Strong is not just physical strength, it is a mindset. Schwartz
  4. Change your thoughts and you change your world. Fake it until you make it. Jim Loehr
  5. Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right. Henry Ford
  6. Mental toughness is something you become not something you are given. Wooden
  7. Experiences and risk can make you mentally tough, if you are prepared to learn. MWH

Reflections Move Ahead…Poem by MW Hardwick

Doubt and ambivalence haunt my sense of certainity

To question trust in others and institutions is normal.

Here in the midst of lies and false news causing confusion.

The “Father of the Birther” movement becomes President Elect

Our future based on trust and accurate information, planning and a steady hand this time around…

May not hold true.

We stop to engage where we are

And see many potential scenarios, that scare us

These difficult times leave us with many questions

This reality of change may not support our beliefs and values

And challenge our reality and security,

The answer may be to consider living in the here and now

We worry about things we can’t control

This day, now, awaits you and challenges you to do your best,

With what you have…have the courage to admit that these are scary times.

Move ahead…Move ahead….remembering there will always be more reasons for gratitude than for despair.

Suffering and Failure can be good – if you use them as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Cultivate living in the moment as a way of being,

We not change the world and its lies and ills

We can change our perception and response to the world.

If we fill our lives with moments of love…

Moments of love…moments of life… and respond by answering

The call of a meaning by just being in the “here and now”…

We will indeed love the life we have…if stay awake and engaged

By just moving on…step by step…

Daily Quote: Elements of High Performance Teams

“I believe ability can get you to the top,” says coach John Wooden, “but it takes character to keep you there.… It’s so easy to … begin thinking you can just ‘turn it on’ automatically, without proper preparation. It takes real character to keep working as hard or even harder once you’re there. When you read about an athlete or team that wins over and over and over, remind yourself, ‘More than ability, they have character.’ ”  Coach Wooden