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.  

Growth Mindset Research–Why we need to re-consider teaching cursive handwriting.

Quote:  “Cursive handwriting improves neural connections in the brain,” and stresses physiological movement of writing cursive letters to “build pathways in the brain while improving mental effectiveness.” Iris Hatfield

What you may not realize–and what many educators and parents do not realize– is that by learning cursive you are learning how to communicate in another method from printing and keyboarding. In practicing cursive you are building the neural pathways necessary to stimulate brain activity that enables language fluency and vision-motor control important for cognitive development, learning, reading, sports, and other everyday tasks. In most three grade classrooms computers and key boards now dominate every classroom. With the entrance of the information age has come a shift to emphasizing the development of knowledge skills over physical skills.  Keyboarding is in vogue and cursive is out as one of the Common Core Standards for best education practices.

What you may not realize–and what many educators and parents do not realize– is that by learning cursive you are learning how to communicate in another method from printing and keyboarding. In practicing cursive you are building the neural pathways necessary to stimulate brain activity that enables language fluency and vision-motor control important for cognitive development, learning, reading, sports, and other everyday tasks. In most three grade classrooms computers and key boards now dominate classrooms throughout our nation. With the entrance of the information age has come a shift to emphasizing the development of knowledge skills over physical skills.  Keyboarding is in vogue and cursive is out as one of the Common Core Standards for best education practices.

Without recognizing it, those repetitive cursive handwriting drills we did as children were some of our first and most basic steps in developing our cognitive abilities. Fine motor skills are the building blocks our brains need to connect and make sense of the world around us through our 5 senses. Understanding and knowing how to form letters on lines to a certain shape and size, at a certain angle, in real time and space comes through the fine motor control of the hands and arms. Cursive handwriting naturally develops sensory skills, as they are called, by taking advantage of a child’s inability to fully control their fingers. Through repetition the child begins to understand how much force need be applied to the pencil and the paper, positioning of the pencil to paper at the correct angle, and motor planning to form each letter in fluid motion from left to right. This physical and spatial awareness allows them to write but more importantly builds the neural foundation  of sensory skills needed for a myriad of everyday tasks such as zipping up clothes to tying shoes, picking up and using objects, copying words from blackboards, shaking hands, and most importantly, reading! Unfortunately we are abandoning the activities that allow for this cognitive and physical development to take place.

Over the past few years doctors and neuroscience specialists alike have been working to understand and educate the masses on the effects of educating the mind alone.

As Pulitzer Prize nominated neurologist Frank Wilson wrote in his book, “The Hand: How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, And Human Culture,” “teachers should not try to educate the mind by itself.” If educators continue to dissolve the disciplines that involve the hands and the body in full movement, much of the knowledge will be poorly processed and inadequately learned.

So what do we need to do as parents if neuroscience science experts and their brain research studies show the positive effects of teaching cursive handwriting as a basic building block of cognitive development?

Challenge: Find ways to educate school leaders on the neurological benefits of cursive handwriting and make parents aware of the positive effects on brain development and cursive handwriting One solution is to promote this problem is for schools to require and teach all three modes of writing–  printing, cursive and keyboarding. All of these modes have benefits for brain development and are necessary tools for brain development.

Consulted resources and research:

  1. The Hand: How its use shapes the brain, language, and human culture. Frank R Wilson. First Vintage Books Edition, September 1999.
  2. http://www.newamericancursive.com/docs/NAC Why Teach Cursive.pdf
  3. http://www.helium.com/items/197736-cursive-handwriting

 

Three Decades of Growth Mindset Research tells us how to Raise Smart Kids

Rule #1:

” Don’t tell your kids that they are”smart”. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on “learning process and strategies”—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life” Carol Dweck

 A classic paper by reported in Scientific American by Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck about “Growth Mindset” and how we talk to students  showed that praising young adolescents for their intelligence—saying they were “smart” when they did well—created a fixed mindset and its problems. It put students in a world in which people evaluate and judge intelligence and does not encourage students to challenge themselves or make the effort and risks needed to learn new things. Praising reinforces their need to show they are smart in every situation by avoiding learning challenges and not making mistakes which undermine the belief that they are “smart”.
Growth Mindset talk which praises the student’s “learning process” like their effort or willingness to seek out more challenges and use different learning strategies to improve their understanding of new material put learners on a growth mindset track and fostered resilience from mistakes and failed attempts.

 

Bottom Line Tip:

Parents and teachers can engender a growth mind-set in children by praising them for their persistence or strategies (rather than for their intelligence), by telling success stories that emphasize hard work and love of learning, and by teaching them about the brain as a learning machine.

 

 

Daily Quote–Anne Frank

“Everyone has inside of them a piece of good news.

Good news is that you don’t know how great you can be.

How much you can love!

What you can accomplish!

What your potential is! ”

Anne Frank

Reflection: Identify your good news or strengths to overcome fears. Do it now don’t wait. Coach Mark

How to overcome critics and embrace Teddy Roosevelt’s Arena of Courage.

Memorable Quote: “There is nothing more frightening than the moment we expose our ideas to the world.”Dr. Brene Brown 

A great speech about how critics and our self doubts keep us from being more creative in our work and lives. Dr. Brown uses the platform of the 99U conference to talk about what it means to be in the “arena” of hard work and presenting our ideas can make us feel vulnerable and less confident. She cites Teddy Roosevelt’s quote as being her inspiration for having the courage to say and do what really matters to her in living a daring and fulfilling life. Please read the following quote and then listen to her down to earth and inspiring presentation that highlights how to deal with self-doubt and fear when living an open and caring life based on solid values and your truth.

Teddy Roosevelt’s “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris on 23 April, 1910.  The Man in the Arena quote:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

 

 

 

Breakthrough Research on the Power of Belonging

Tons of research has documented how important belonging and being connected socially on our happiness and productivity. (Maslow made it one of his hierarchies of needs). Being social and feeling included is critical to our growth and development.

Dr. David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, in his breakthrough research on the Brain has identified the powerful concept of relatedness — feelings of trust, connection, and belonging—as one of the five primary categories (SCARF)five primary categories (SCARF)of social pleasures and pains (along with status, certainty, autonomy, and fairness). Rock’s research shows that the performance and engagement of employees who experience relatedness threats or failures will almost certainly suffer. And in other research, the feeling of working together has indeed been shown to predict greater intrinsic motivation which is known to be the trigger for curiosity, engagement and enjoyment that results in high productivity and a person or team’s very best performance.

 

What would Aristotle say about the “Marshmallow Effect and Happiness?

What would Aristotle say about marshmallow effect and happiness?

The essence of instant gratification or “marshmallow” effect is summarized here: Delaying Gratification More than 40 years ago, Walter Mischel, PhD, a psychologist now at Columbia University, explored self-control in children with a simple but effective test. His experiments using the “marshmallow test,” as it came to be known, laid the groundwork for the modern study of self-control. Mischel and his colleagues presented a preschooler with a plate of treats such as marshmallows. The child was then told that the researcher had to leave the room for a few minutes, but not before giving the child a simple choice: If the child waited until the researcher returned, she could have two marshmallows. If the child simply couldn’t wait, she could ring a bell and the researcher would come back immediately, but she would only be allowed one marshmallow. In children, as well as adults, willpower can be thought of as a basic ability to delay gratification.

Aristotle would be strongly critical of the culture of “instant gratification” or eating the marshmallow in the moment. Yet in our world of instant gratification, most people want to be rewarded now not later. For example, instant gratification is so predominate in our society today because of or selfishness and technology. Yet in Aristotle’s non-tech world his view was in order to achieve a life of balance and complete virtue, people needed to make the right choices, and that involved keeping an eye on the future, on the ultimate result want for lives as a whole. Aristotle believe that people  achieve happiness not by enjoying the pleasures of the moment. Unfortunately, this is something most people are not able to overcome in themselves because of lack of will power.

As Aristotle laments, “the mass of mankind are evidently quite slavish in their tastes, preferring a life suitable to beasts… and instant pleasures (Nicomachean Ethics, 1095b 20). Later in the Ethics Aristotle draws attention to the weakness of the willpower. In many cases the overwhelming prospect of some great pleasure obscures one’s perception of what is truly good. Fortunately, this natural disposition is curable through self-awareness and training, which for Aristotle meant education and the constant aim to perfect character or what he called perfect virtue. As he puts it, “a clumsy archer may indeed get better with practice, so long as he keeps aiming for the target.”

Note also that it is not enough to think about doing the right thing, or even intend to do the right thing: we have to actually do it. Thus, it is one thing to think of giving up alcohol or smoking, or create a beautiful piece of art or heart felt poem and another thing to put together a plan to create the sustained energy, effort and time to do it. When we impose a form and structure upon the idea of happiness and actually produce a compelling change in our daily life, we are challenging our rational and intellectual abilities and emotions that if accomplished bring a sense of delayed happiness, pride and fulfillment.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Examine your life over the next 24 hours and identify one instant gratification” habit  you would like to change. Then create a SMART STEP Action Plan for change it in the next 30 days.

Problem Solving –The Einstein Way

Daily Quote and Challenge:

Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I knew the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

Through experience and reflection Einstein knew he had to understand an issue deeply before addressing it. In order for his solution to have the most meaningful impact. You need to overcome the core, often hidden problem in your work — not just the visible stumbling block.

Challenge: Over the next 24 hours identify a problem or issue in your life; then use the proven WOOP method to set goals to solve it.  WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan. WOOP has been shown to significantly improve effort, homework completion, attendance, and even GPA when the method is done with fidelity.

Good Luck and Enjoy. Coach Mark