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Intelligence is not determined solely on traits acquired at the moment of birth, determination of being “smart” or “dumb” is easily interchangeable. The human brain is constantly creating new connections every day and rewiring itself to make the brain smarter. Self-theories of one’s own intelligence holds great influence on the individual’s own motivation to learn, which is why having a malleable brain (growth mindset) is important for learning new skills.
In 2006 Carol Dweck wrote Mindset: The New Psychology of Success which argues that people who have a “fixed mindset” believe that their basic qualities are their fixed traits and seldom develop new traits. In the growth mindset, brains and talent are just the starting point, however, new skills and intelligence can be developed through hard work and dedication.
Dweck’s findings suggested that when students have a fixed mindset and fail at something, they tell themselves that they aren’t able to do it to make excuses to rationalize failure. However, students have the growth mindset find strategies to overcome their failures. Students that believe that their dedication and hard work will increase their academic performances grow to become successful and resilient. Teaching students the growth mindset at a young age is essential for persistent and focused learning.
How to Develop a Malleable Brain in 4 Steps
1. Rewire your brain with baby steps: Studies have shown that when you develop habits, strong neural connections are created so that you can perform daily tasks and habits with minimal effort. Neural pathways turn your new daily activities into habits over time. Try incorporating something new into your routine, eventually, over time it will come naturally to you.
2. Supplement your brain with the right foods: Think of your brain as software that needs to be updated frequently. By eating a rich brain-healthy foods diet, you are providing your brain the nutrients it needs to create new neurotransmitters and protects your existing ones.
3. Stop overthinking: Through brain exercises, such as meditation, one can train the brain how to be quiet. Quieting the mind has proved to change the structures of the brain and strengthens the neural connections between various areas of the brain.
4. Don’t be afraid of failure: You’ll never know what you need to improve on if you never fail. The way to view failure in the growth mindset is to see that as the next level of achievement. If you believe you have a fixed mindset, just know that there is always room for growth and that you don’t have to stay there. For example, Elon Musk, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein have all experienced trial and error and embraced their growth mindset.