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How Does the Brain Play Into Mindset?

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body and is the object of countless research. It’s also a significant research subject as scientists strive to understand how it works and its role in our mindset.

Our brain is a dynamic system that assimilates information, makes predictions, and reorganizes itself upon them. All of this becomes a learning experience that guides us through life. This article will explore the answer to the question, “how does the brain play into mindset?”

Kinds of Mindset

Psychologist and researcher Dr. Carol Dweck defines a mindset as how people think about themselves. According to her studies, our view of ourselves is directly related to our behavior and learning ability. In her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” she describes two different kinds of mindsets, fixed and growth.

Fixed Mindset

A fixed mindset eliminates the possibility of learning or achieving something that seems impossible at first sight. This kind of mindset leads us to believe that talents are innate. Either you’re good at something, or you’re not. It eliminates the possibility of looking for new challenges, as the fear of failure is always present.

What’s more, any unsuccessful attempt to try something we think we don’t have the talent or intelligence to do becomes a confirmation of our mindset. A person with a fixed mindset will be less like to make an effort or more prone to abandoning a specific task at the first sign of difficulty.

This person believes that if we weren’t born with a particular skill, we should stay clear of it. This mindset eliminates the notion of learning from our mistakes; therefore, we do nothing about it upon failure.

There is a kind of mindset that is also fixed but at the other extreme. An overly perfect view of ourselves can be equally dangerous. When you think you’re already perfect the way you are, your brain stops recognizing opportunities for improvement.

Educator Salman Khan states that we must make our children focus on their growth opportunities instead of telling them how accomplished they are. Doing so helps to avoid this overly complacent view of ourselves. With this, he didn’t mean that you cannot celebrate an outstanding achievement, only that it’s essential to find balance and encourage our children to continue learning.

Fixed Mindset Behavior

A fixed mindset also affects how people behave and their view of themselves and others. They think that what defines them as a person are their successes or their failures. Consequently, they genuinely believe that others view them the same way.

They suffer from a certain ego fragility that will have them constantly comparing themselves to others in the search for signs of superiority or inferiority. This adds more pressure to be perfect and excessive fear that a failure will tarnish their reputation. They are always looking for approval because they feel that the extent of their intelligence limits them.

An example of a person with a fixed mindset would be someone who had difficulty in school. They could decide that they aren’t suited for college. As a result, they will likely land a low-paying, tedious job that doesn’t encourage the formation of new neural connections in their brain.

Growth Mindset

On the other hand, a growth mindset is a belief that every experience is a learning opportunity. It gives room for constant learning and improvement. With this mindset, a skill can be developed with effort and consistency.

Someone with a growth mindset interprets failure more naturally. Those with this mindset understand that failure is part of the learning process. For a person with a growth mindset, when a task becomes easy, it’s not due to innate talent but because of the hours invested in learning. They don’t take for granted that the journey of learning something new would be easy.

This kind of mindset also makes a person less competitive. They will not keep count of their triumphs or compare themselves to others. They will just focus on the task, learn from failed attempts, and understand that success results from the effort invested in it.

How Does the Brain Play Into Mindset?

Both types of mindsets previously mentioned are possible thanks to the incredible way our brain works. Our brain’s ability to create new neuronal connections from external or internal stimuli is called synaptic plasticity.

The brain is made of many different types of cells, including neurons. These neurons are in charge of transmitting messages to each other and creating connections. The connections are known as neural pathways. Understanding what neuronal pathways are, we can move to the central question of this article: How does the brain play into mindset?

We become good at a particular skill due to these neural pathways forming from the first moment we try something new. Upon repetition, those pathways become stronger, making us better the more we practice. However, those pathways will weaken if we stop the activity after the first failed attempt.

How Does the Brain Play Into Mindset

More impressive is that these neuronal pathways are not limited to learning new skills. Our behavior and personality are also affected by our neuronal connections.

If we do a good action, we automatically feel positive emotions, making us want to do them again. Once again, repetition strengthens the pathways and helps us build character.

Throughout life, our needs will change, and we will have to adapt to different situations. These situations will set our brain cells in a dynamic process of rearranging in response to those needs.

You constantly develop new self-perceptions, whether you realize it or not, and this ongoing process of adaptation is tremendously thrilling.

A study at Michigan State University was conducted upon the premise, how does the brain play into mindset? It has led to discovering what happens in the human brain upon facing failure depending on our mindset. The results showed that our mindset directly impacts our neuronal activity.

Neuroscience and Growth Mindset

In the case of a growth mindset, upon facing a mistake, the brain starts processing all the information received. It tries to identify the causes of the mistake, creating new neuronal connections and learning to provide us with better skills for the future.

Neuroscience has proved that enhancing the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) with a growth mindset is possible. Our brain is in charge of creating or destroying pathways that will impact our behavior and actions.

A person with a growth mindset will use every experience to learn; consequently, their brain will create new pathways that will make them more creative, resilient, and intelligent.

A perfect example of the neuronal pathways becoming stronger the harder you work on a particular task is when you learn how to drive.

The first time you get behind the wheel, you’ll be nervous and uncertain, thinking twice before stepping on the pedal. In that lesson, your brain has already started making new pathways and processing the information received. The more lessons you receive, the stronger these pathways get. That way, every time you drive, it will get easier.

Neuroscience and Fixed Mindset

The results from the study conducted at Michigan State University, mentioned earlier, were very different in people with a fixed mindset. For this mindset, failure is justified by a lack of talent or the right skills. A fixed mindset makes people avoid new chances and challenging situations. To clarify, if people think they are not good at something, they won’t even try.

The study results show that the neuronal activity of a person with a fixed mindset stays dormant in the face of a mistake.

It’s engraved in a person’s brain that they have nothing to learn from failure, and there’s nothing that will make them improve in the future. This causes the person’s neuronal activity to reduce, and their brain will not even try to create new pathways and learn from the experience.

Can a Mindset Be Changed?

Studies have shown that mere exposure to the concept of a mindset starts creating new pathways that encourage a person to change. This occurs even if that person disagrees with the premise, which will most likely be true for someone with a fixed mindset.

In her studies, Dr. Dweck remarks on the importance of introducing the concept of mindset in the classroom. However, as she points out, it wouldn’t be enough to teach the concept once.

Certain measures must be taken to promote a growth mindset among the students. This should include allowing the student to take risks and try new methods. As we’ve seen before, a growth mindset believes failure is a learning opportunity.

Just the concept of mindset won’t help us rewire our brains. However, there are methods we can put into practice to start changing it.

Take Risks

You shouldn’t let the fear of failure prevent you from attempting new things. In many circumstances, repeat failure led to some people’s success today. Although it may not feel nice to fail or be rejected, stepping outside your comfort zone and acting despite your fear will bring much greater rewards.

Start Using the Word Yet

You shouldn’t say that you’re not good at learning something new. Remember that a growth mindset is achieved upon understanding that learning takes time and effort. Saying you’re not good at something will always leave room for growth.

Focus on Growth, Not Speed

Improvement and personal development are not things that will come easily or quickly. Comparing yourself to where others are today will put you in a mindset where you always feel like you’re failing. Instead, try comparing yourself to who you were the day before for some healthy perspective.

Setting Our Mindset for Change

So, how does the brain play into mindset?

We’ve seen that the brain plays an essential role in mindset, as it creates or destroys neuronal pathways that form upon our life experiences.

A fixed mindset will prevent a person from taking risks because they don’t believe they can improve or acquire new talent.

On the other hand, a growth mindset allows a person to challenge themselves and take risks. This kind of person is passionate about learning new things.

According to Dweck, 40% of people have a growth mindset, and another 40% have a fixed mindset. The 20% left will have a different attitude depending on the moment. The most important thing is that just by reading this article, you’ve set the wheels of change in motion.


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