We often delight in seeing an A on a test or witnessing our children or team win a game. Expressions of admiration for our children’s looks or talent are common. You have probably heard phrases like, “She’s brilliant,” or “he’s a good-looking young lad,” or “She is such a naturally gifted athlete.”

Such feedback and praise appear harmless, but research suggests otherwise. Celebrating innate ability or talent can lead to a skewed perspective with significant repercussions.

How Celebrating Talent Promotes a Fixed, Self-limiting Mindset

When we heap praise on talent, a child may latch onto this praise as defining a fixed attribute. They might grow up thinking, “I’m smarter than others.”

But the implications extend further. The child learns the expected behavior of a ‘smart’ individual: completing their homework swiftly without exerting significant effort. Everyone admires the A+ grades and the so-called ‘smart kid’ behind them.

Over time, the notion that being smart equates to achieving outstanding results with minimal effort becomes ingrained. Attempting to learn from mistakes, seeking feedback, or expanding knowledge through concentrated effort are considered unnecessary and reserved for ‘less smart’ kids.

This mindset instills the idea that they should be noticed and lauded for their talent rather than reserving our attention and praise for reasonable efforts.   Many bright kids experience few mistakes in their early years and thus start perceiving mistakes as indicative of low intellect or lack of talent rather than valuable learning opportunities.

As the years pass, those with a fixed mindset crave instant results and easy wins. They start looking for shortcuts and quick fixes, compromising their personal growth and diminishing the importance of learning.

Interestingly, this approach also generates a fragile and vulnerable self-concept.  This occurs because one’s self-worth is tied to results rather than the best efforts to get that result.  And results are not controllable, whereas self-effort is within our control.

The Neuroplastic Brain

Recent studies have shown that our brains are more capable of growth and adaptation than ever imagined. This is due to our brain’s remarkable ability to develop new and improved neural connections and reorganize existing neurological pathways. In simple terms, our learning capacity is essentially limitless.

These studies show an exciting possibility: regardless of the topic or skill, our brains can learn and grow through this neurologically adaptive system. Unexplored brain regions can be developed, and with consistent practice, new neural pathways will form where there were none before.

Our brains are astoundingly adaptable, flexible, and capable, regardless of perceived ‘inborn’ talents. However, we must be aware of a critical factor in all this.

The Critical Factor is Consistent, Repeated Effort.

This principle is similar to muscle development. All muscles, no matter how weak, can strengthen with consistent effort. This effort is the path to increasing muscle strength and endurance.

Similarly, consistent effort is paramount for strengthening any brain region. It is the secret ingredient that catalyzes our neuroplastic brain and its limitless capabilities. Effort and the feedback it provides is a sort of magic formula for growth.

Remember, effort doesn’t guarantee perfection, but it does promise results. These results, regardless of their nature, provide valuable feedback. This feedback loop, born from our focused effort, paves the way for constant growth.

In a nutshell, effort equals growth and knowledge, achieving one success or setback at a time. We need to value and seek this feedback for sustained, nourishing growth. Viewing our setbacks with the same importance as our wins is vital. This philosophy is powered by one key element: ongoing effort.

Life Responds to Effort. Not Talent.

Over time, we see wasted talent that was never developed in every area of life. The problem is the absence of consistent effort and the desire to have excellent results with minimal effort. For those that excel, there is often some baseline of talent. But, it is the application of effort over time that produces excellence. There are no exceptions.

Whether it’s a beautiful garden, a moving piece of music, or a spelling bee champion, we find that effort is behind life’s astounding results. We build muscle with effort. We build skills with effort. We build businesses with effort. We build self-esteem with a focus on effort.

Discover the Magic: Why Embracing Your Best Efforts Leads to Happiness and Success

Turning our focus towards effort, instead of just the result of that effort, can spark positive changes. The most significant of these is the realization that we are always in control of our efforts – we determine whether or not we are putting forth our best.

When you consistently model a dedication to effort, complimenting and encouraging it, you will notice its impact on your children. They will understand that the seeds of learning and personal growth are rooted in their ability to control their efforts and always give their best! This generates a focus on the controllable in life, which nurtures self-esteem and takes the focus off of the results.

In doing so, your children learn to break free from the anxiety and fears that stem from comparing themselves with others on dimensions (like IQ or grades) that are out of their control. This freedom opens the door to more joyful and full-throttle efforts to learn and grow.

Adopt these beneficial strategies to guide your children towards committing their best to everything they do. Please encourage them to see their self-worth in their willingness to learn from triumphs and failures. These are the keys to fostering growth, confidence, and success.

At Capital District Neurofeedback, our aim is to mentor minds of all ages, enhancing their focus and performance while cultivating a more profound appreciation of life. Harnessing Neurofeedback technology, we pave the way for the neuroplasticity of the brain, building new neural pathways that foster learning and growth. Explore more here.