If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But what if there’s a better way of doing things?

Marianne Slotboom
Dec 16, 2021

Neuroscience investigations have learned us many things about the plasticity of our brain. By now, we know how to step away from routine and automatism in order to learn and do things differently.

Estanislao Bachcrach (Buenos Aires, 1971), who is a doctor in Molecular Biology and was a researcher for five years at Harvard University, defends brain neuroplasticity at any age (even at the age of 80 or 90) and points out that the first step in learning and changing is self-knowledge.

As it comes to self-knowledge, an important thing to find out is whether you tend to have a “fixed mindset” or a “growth mindset”. Research shows that this probably has to do with how you were taught at school or parented (I. Boniwell, 2013).

If, as a child, you were praised more often for getting things right, you might have developed a more fixed mindset. You learned to think in right or wrong, success or failure. A more static way of looking at growth and development.

 If in your childhood, you were praised for your efforts, even if they didn’t lead to success, you might have developed a more growth mindset. You have learned to handle failure and that learning is a process of finding out how things work. Flexibility is inbuilt in your style of learning.

How to use this knowledge of our brain?

The brain does not recognize reality or fantasy, but it recognizes your beliefs, this means that the first thing to do is to train yourself and believe that you can do it. People with a growth mindset find this easier to achieve. They also understand what will happen next: working on it, discipline, commitment, and time ...

With a fixed mindset, the voice of fear starts questioning easily: “Are you sure you can do it? What if you fail, how will you feel then? What will people think of you?” As soon as things get tough people with a more fixed mindset tend to give up because they think that their abilities and talents are limited. For them it often is rather difficult to take criticism. Constructive feedback sounds like: “You’re clearly not capable.”

‍If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But what if there’s a better way of doing things?

Below, we describe five ways to train your brain to be less fixed and to develop a growth mindset. This will help you to keep on improving, take risks, become more creative and positive about the things you can achieve.

1.     Except that you can’t get everything right at once. Every day you will meet opportunities to learn something new and get better at things that really matter for you. 

2.     Practice using different language, like:

      • I’m not sure how to do this right now, but I’m willing to learn or ask for help.

      • If I don’t get it right, I’m not a failure.

      • Failure is an opportunity for growth.

      • If I don’t try, I won’t improve never.

 3.     Try to accept that constructive feedback is not a criticism. Use it to help you grow.

 4.     Stop self-criticism about things that go wrong. The more you criticize yourself, the less you will learn.

 5.     See the unknown as an opportunity for growth, and not of the risk to failure.

How many of your best learning moments in life came from being very careful? Probably not a lot. And what about the feeling when you achieved something you never thought you would be able to do?

By the way, is the brain more prepared for the 'no change’?

Our brain is programmed not to change, but it has a huge capacity for change that we normally do not use. The brain looks for the routine and the automatism not to take risks because 100,000 years ago such a brain was efficient. But not today. Today there are no bears nor tigers on the street and taking risks is the only way to improve!


Marianne Slotboom
The author
Marianne Slotboom

Marianne is a strategic partner and practical developer of human behavior that helps leaders, teams and organizations become more focused and effective, elevating their value to customers. In 2015, Marianne founded Yellow Training to answer the call for more inspirational and creative leadership in the modern workplace.

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