We each have a personal narrative that shapes our view of ourselves and of the world. Our inner voices can be expansive or limiting. Neuroscience research demonstrates that we can change our perceptions of ourselves, both mind and brain, to create possibilities rather than obstacles.

Dr. Carol Dweck wanted to see how children coped with challenge and difficulty. She gave 10 year-olds problems that were slightly too hard for them. Some of them reacted in a positive way to say things like, “I love a challenge.” With a growth mindset, they understood that their skills could be developed.

Other students, however, a fixed mindset concluded, “I failed.” “I don’t have what it takes.” Then some of those with a fixed mindset decided they would cheat the next time instead of studying more; others looked for those who did worse than they did so they could feel relatively good about themselves.

We know from social science research to praise wisely—not of intelligence or talents, since that has failed—but to highlight strategies, perseverance, and improvement. This process of praise has been shown in numerous studies to create children (and clients) who are hardy and resilient. A growth mindset transforms effort and difficulty to a readiness for change and transition. Those with a fixed mindset showed declining performance and continuing struggle.

For a fixed mindset, a failure means, “I’m not good enough.”

For a growth mindset, a failure means, “Not yet.”

As a Mentor Coach, I engage with executives and professionals to, at times, perturbate a closed system: to challenge a default assumption or belief that ghostwrites a limiting story. By converting the closure of a period at the end of a sentence to a comma, new possibilities become possible, new connections in the brain activate.

By systematically understanding the old stories and creating new ones, we can actively change the narratives of our life, wellness, money, relationship, and career stories. By revising the stories we live by, we transform the meaning of effort and difficulty to the power of believing that we can improve.