The brain is a phenomenal problem-solving machine. It will work on problems even when you aren’t aware that this is happening. How many times have you experienced an idea popping into your mind that provides a perfect answer to a problem you have been wrestling with. Our subconscious mind constantly churns over problems. It even does this when we are asleep.
The research of the American Professor, Carol Dweck, suggests that there are two fundamental approaches which we can use when we encounter difficult learning or life challenges. One of these approaches will serve you well and carry you to many successes in life. The other will keep you stuck.
When did you last discuss something with someone and came to the conclusion that they were right and that you were wrong? For many of us the answer to this question will be, “Not for a while”. We all want to be seen as open-minded, but in reality, humans struggle to change an opinion once they have mentally signed up for it. We tend to defend our position even in the face of many contradictory facts.
I was ten minutes late for a dental appointment last week. It had been a fraught journey. I explained to the dentist that I had been stuck at a level crossing, held up behind a learner driver and then couldn’t find a parking space. This was all actually true, although, if I’m honest, I was also slightly over-egging it. To give reasons for our actions is very normal. And, our brain can fire out these reasons all day long. We give reasons in order to be reasonable. If I had been asked why I was late, and replied, “No reason”, then I would have been unreasonable.
Our thoughts are not to be trusted. This may sound a little extreme, but learning this fact can be tremendously helpful. The normal human brain provides a relentless ongoing commentary about the world and what we are doing. Sometimes the stories in this commentary are factual. But more often than not, they consist of judgements, evaluations, predictions and protests. For example, I had one client whose brain would routinely call him a ‘stupid, useless moron’ every time he made a mistake. (He was in fact a university lecturer!).