How we can change our abilities and achieve more


In the following Ted x Talk Eduardo Briceno draws on the work of psychologist and author of Mindset, Carol S Dweck explaining the theory of the fixed versus growth mindset. Briceno teaches us demonstrable ways to change a fixed mindset into a growth mindset. The major factor here being changing our self talk, in order to achieve more. He does this by telling us to talk back to our fixed mindset voices, especially when learning new tasks. He implores us, ‘When we hear ourselves say, “I can’t do it” Please, add “yet”.’

‘When we have a growth mindset we bring our game to new levels’

For those with a growth mindset the brain becomes most active when recieving information about how to improve. A growth mindset views a goal and success as how much was learned during the process. A fixed mindset views a goal as the social outcome (grade, score). According to Dweck’s research this attitude toward learning and achieving is often gleaned from our childhood teachers, mentors, and most of all our parents. However, changing the shortcomings of a fixed mindset may be, as Briceno theorizes, as simple as retraining our brains’ way of speaking to us. In short, becoming our own parent and unlearning the attitude decreeing that a valuable achievement is something related to those entitlement factors of brains, talent or luck as opposed to effort.

If your parents did not focus on process-related feedback and instead focused on telling you how smart you were, or talented, begin attempting to train your inner voice to commend your efforts as opposed to talents. Think about how much you learned the last time you put an enormous amount of effort into a new skill, and how many doors that opened up for you. How did you go about putting effort into your task, what did you gain from this? It may not have been worldwide acclaim, but it may have been the learning of a new skill, something to make your mind sharper, or a new way of looking at objects or the world around you.

It may seem silly to some, but changing our inner self talk and by extension, our deepest beliefs about ourselves can heavily impact our day-to-day activities, ability to learn new skills and levels of motivation. Self-talk is a regulatory mechanism that can have an enormous impact on our moods and thus motivation.

The results of a study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Self Talk as a Regulatory Mechanism: How You Do It Matters surmised as much. Psychologists used five different studies and subject groups to assess what happened when the subjects reviewed themselves after a social interaction. Some groups were asked to distance their reviewing self from their past self (the reviewed) by changing the wording in their inner monologue. Certain groups made up of similar or diverse individuals reviewed themselves in the third person. This distancing had an immense impact upon the individuals ability to process and let go of certain emotional memories and social interactions. While focused specifically on the idea of speaking to oneself in the third person, the findings showed undoubtedly what the title of the study suggested: How we talk to ourselves matters.

“Small shifts in the language people use to refer to the self during introspection
consequentially influence their ability to regulate their thoughts, feelings, and behavior under social stress.”

“The language people use to refer to the self during introspection influences self-regulation.”

In a study  published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity the habits of overweight individuals attempting to create physical changes and re-train their eating and exercise habits were monitored. Findings suggested that self-regulation and a monitored change in how they tailored their self-talk was seen to be invaluable in creating the mental change they needed to overcome their habitual self-defeating internal monologue.

“Combining skill development with underlying, intrinsic motivation and reason, is believed essential for lasting change. Intrinsic motivation does not rely on external pressure, like rewards/approval or punishment/disapproval from peers or health professionals. It exists within the individual, and is driven by interest or enjoyment in the task itself. This is the basis of the self-determination theory.”

These results could be tailored to other situations that require motivation and higher levels of productivity. Many of our habits begin with our self-talk, which reflect our beliefs. Many of our habits which reflect our tendency to give up on a goal, like learning a new skill, can be tied back to a fixed mindset which can also breed a victim mentality. It’s important to distance ourselves from our ‘fixed’ or ‘victim’ mindset and be mindful of changing that particular inner voice when we catch it. One way of doing this is to literally stop when we have a fixed or negative thought, or a thought/idea that enables a habit we are trying to step away from, and completely change the sentence. Briceno says, ‘say I can’t…yet’. Here we suggest looking at the sentence you have just declared in your mind and, internally, saying back,

‘No. I can do this. I want to [insert goal here] because it will help me reach this larger goal and increase my productivity for today. [Activity] will set in motion the domino effect of creating good life habits that will allow me to reach my goals, large and small.’

Creating this different mode of self-talk is an actionable CBT response.

“CBT is a treatment for emotional and behavioural problems that aims to help individuals identify and modify dysfunctional thoughts, assumptions and patterns of behaviour. It explores the range of factors that influence one’s behaviour, both external (e.g. environmental stimuli and reinforcement) and internal (e.g. thoughts).” 

 Using CBT can aid in actively changing a mindset and creating a new pattern of cognitive behaviour – i.e. New ways to think about the self and activity. This can aid in the completion of tasks we want to perform, but often talk ourselves out of due to factors of instant gratification.


“Self-talk is a ubiquitous human phenomenon. We all have an internal monologue that we engage in from time to time. The current research demonstrates that small shifts in the language people use to refer to the self as they engage in this process consequentially influences their ability to regulate their thoughts.”

As humans our mental health and internal monologue appear to have the deciding say in our lifestyles. The findings above suggest the change to a more productive, efficient lifestyle comes when we train ourselves through various modes of CBT into a growth-oriented mindset that thrives on challenge, evolution and the self-discovery we make through our internal and personal experiments – especially when these experiments lead us to learn new skills, reach new goals and gain greater heights of self-mastery.



Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Self Talk as A Regulatory Mechanism: How You Do It Matters:


Ethan Kross University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Emma Bruehlman-Senecal

University of California, Berkeley

Jiyoung Park, Aleah Burson, Adrienne Dougherty,
Holly Shablack, and Ryan Bremner
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Jason Moser
Michigan State University


International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: A Randomized Controlled Trial to Evaluate Self-Determination Theory for Exercise Adherence and Weight Control: Rationale and Intervention Description.


Marlene N Silva

David Markland

Claudia S Minderico

Paulo N Vieira

Margarida M Castro

Silvia R Coutinho

Teresa C Santos

Margarida G Matos

Luis B Sardinha

Pedro J Teixeira



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