Don’t be too hard on yourself

perseveranceSelf criticism. Wow! that one hurts a lot doesn’t it. Especially if you are the type that no matter how well you do it is never enough.

Well, enough is enough and it is time to kick that doubter into touch.

Why? Well, research proves that it isn’t anything to do with You, but instead just the way you have been taught to measure yourself.


If you haven’t learned the difference between entity vs. incremental theory, and I mean “learned” and not just “read about” the difference then you really want to look it up.

Here’s an explanation from Carol Dweck about the theory in relation to intelligence-

“Some people believe that their intelligence is a fixed trait. They have a certain amount of it and that’sThe hallmark of successful individualsx500 that. We call this an ‘entity theory’ of intelligence because intelligence is portrayed as an entity that dwells within us and that we can’t change.

This view has many repercussions for students. It can make students worry about how much of
this fixed intelligence they have, and it can make them interested first and foremost in looking
and feeling like they have enough. They must look smart and, at all costs, not look dumb.

What makes students with an entity theory feel smart? Easy, low-effort successes, and
outperforming other students. Effort, difficulty, setbacks, or higher-performing peers call their
intelligence into question—even for those who have high confidence in their intelligence.”

Powerful stuff. How long have you been blaming yourself for failures, when in actual fact you should just be appreciating that it’s all good and you are just in the practising and learning phase of mastery.

What do I mean? Well, Dweck goes on to state-

“Other people have a very different definition of intelligence. For them intelligence is not a fixed trait that they simply possess, but something they can cultivate through learning. We call this an ‘incremental theory’ of intelligence because intelligence is portrayed as something that can be increased through one’s efforts.

It’s not that people holding this theory deny that there are differences among people in how much they know or in how quickly they master certain things at present. It’s just that they focus on the idea that everyone, with effort and guidance, can increase their intellectual abilities.”

And this theory can be applied to other areas of life and not just intelligence.

Dweck explains that at the point of failure an “entity” based learner will believe that their failure is a statement that their level of ability has been reached as it is fixed and finite. Whereas, an “incremental” based learner will see their failure as a feedback that they need to work harder or find better strategies and with perseverance overcome the challenge.

What a different way of looking at your life’s goals, problems, achievements and desires. Instead of thinking that any set back you may experience is failure on your part and it means you are not capable, you realise it is just a learning step and opportunity for incremental excellence.

Learning this was an answer to a question that had been bugging me for a long time with regards to my daughter. I’ve always believed in positive reinforcement when teaching her, as is the case for or any of my students whether it was in martial arts, medicine or sales coaching, but I’ve always had this doubt in the back of mind with some of the statements I would make to my daughter because I didn’t feel congruent.

Usain_BoltTelling her she is the smartest or the faster at running is positive, but is it real? No. Simple answer, no. Unless she can run like Usain Bolt or outsmart Stephen Hawking I was probably setting my daughter up for a fall because at some point she will fail an exam or lose a race.

What’s the alternative then? Well, luckily I realised that a good proportion of the time before learning about the entity vs. incremental theory I was using what it seems like now as incremental reinforcement and would motivate her based on her efforts and always reinforce the law of the power of perseverance.

So, now, instead of using positive reinforcement based on something that is outside of control, her innate fixed abilities I focus on her effort, persererance and always remind her that practice, practice, practice = (incremental) improvement.

If you want to learn more look out for the book: Self-theories – Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (Essays in Social Psychology) by Carol Dweck • Psychology Press.

And as always, if I can be of assistance, give me a call or contact me in the form in the side bar.

Have an awesome day.