How you respond to challenges, setbacks, and criticism is your choice. It also determines the character you will develop, on and off the field.
Dr. Carol Dweck’s writing and research in the area of mindsets is brilliant, and I have been teaching her material to young people with great results. In its simplest form we either have one of two different mindsets, fixed or growth. “Athletes with a growth mindset find success in learning and improving, not just winning. The more you can do this, the more rewarding sports will be for you and for those who play for you and with you!” Dr Carol Dweck
Depending on a number of things like your upbringing and schooling, we develop one of these two opposing mindsets. The “growth mindset” creates a passion for learning and “fixed mindset creates a desire for approval. A growth mindset believes that human qualities like intelligence and creativity and even relational capacities like love and friendship, can be grown and developed through effort and practice. A fixed mindset believes these qualities are set in stone.
I have discovered that in the groups I have taught that over 75% of young people have a fixed mindset that connects significantly to their sporting life.
The big difference between the two mindsets is this:
Fixed mindset – believes that your intellect, talent, personality and creativity, etc. is fixed, set in stone and immovable, and therefore, you have what you have, and it can never change. The outcome of this mindset is a constant need to prove yourself and your fixed amount of talent or intellect. As a result, you may plateau early and achieve less than your full potential. I’ve seen many people with this one track mind of proving themselves—in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for approval and validation of their intelligence, personality, talent or personality. Every experience or event is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?
Growth mindset – believes that your intellect, talent, personality and creativity, etc. is fluid, which means it can grow, develop and change. The outcome of this mindset is the desire to learn and grow, which is empowering to your journey in life. As a result, you reach even higher levels of achievement in life.
There is a lot of information that I could write here but I want to keep this simple and short, and focus on three significant differences that Dweck identifies between the two mindsets and then how to develop a growth mindset to empower your life. When I first began to research the mindset theories, I realised that I was predominantly a fixed mindset person, and have been developing my growth mindset ever since.
Remember that most of your thinking and response around these things is going on in your subconscious mind, until awareness is created, which is what we’re doing here.
“Those with a growth mindset find success in doing their best, in learning and improving. And this is exactly what we find in champions. Those with a growth mindset find setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wake-up call. Those with a growth mindset are the ones who show the most character or heart. They are the ones who have the minds of champions. Character, heart, the mind of a champion. It’s what makes great athletes and it’s what comes from the growth mindset with its focus on self-development, self-motivation, and responsibility.” Dr Carol Dweck. Mindset.
1/ Challenge: fixed mindset tries to avoid challenges, unless they are completely confident they can get it right. Challenges become a threat that might expose to others that they are not as good as they thought. The growth mindset embraces challenges because they see it as an opportunity to learn and grow, to become even better. The fixed mindset will give up easily when it gets tough, because they don’t believe they can be better or different, so why risk failing or looking silly. The growth mindset loves the challenge and persists when things get tough, because they believe they can grow, and they are excited by that possibility.
2/ Effort: fixed mindset sees effort as fruitless and therefore will often only put in the bare necessity of effort into anything. They believe their ability is set in stone, and no amount of effort is going to change that, so minimum effort is often the outcome. The growth mindset believes that effort creates growth and is the pathway toward success. They believe that the more effort you put in, the greater the results, outcomes and achievement you can experience. This is one reason it is important to praise, appreciate and celebrate effort, not simply results, which empowers the growth mindset.
3/ Failure & criticism: fixed mindset sees failure as fatal and therefore can avoid taking risks or trying new things that they are not guaranteed to succeed at. The growth mindset has a healthier view, seeing failure as feedback to help them grow and develop. They are open to constructive criticism because it is a pathway for learning and growth. The fixed mindset believes they are already as good as they can be and therefore ignore useful feedback and criticism, and often see it as an attack.
Shifting Mindsets: (adapted from: Mindset | How can you change from a fixed mindset to a growth … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mindsetonline.com/changeyourmindset/firststeps)
1/ Awareness – Being aware is the first step in this journey. Have a look at how you respond to challenges, effort, the success of others and criticism. An honest appraisal here will give you some indication of your mindset around life.
2/ Realise you have a choice – How you understand challenges, setbacks, and criticism is actually a choice. You can decide from a fixed mindset, and see them as an indication that your talents or abilities are lacking. Or you can take them in a growth mindset as an indication that you need to ramp up your effort, stretch yourself, and expand your abilities. It’s up to you.
3/ Listen to your self-talk and begin to change it: for example
Challenges – Fixed mindset: “What if I fail—I will be a failure, and I don’t want people to know that about me”. Growth mindset: “Successful people have failures along the way too, but they don’t see them as fatal, but great feedback toward success.”
Effort – Fixed mindset: “That would be easy if I already had the skill.” Growth mindset: “Football wasn’t easy for Tim Cahill and music wasn’t just easy for Kylie Minogue. They had a passion and put in lots of effort to get the results they achieved.”
Criticism – Fixed Mindset: “It wasn’t my fault. It was something or someone else’s fault.” Growth Mindset: “If I don’t take responsibility, I can’t fix it. Let me listen and learn whatever I can to develop myself further.”
As you can see, developing a growth mindset will empower your sporting development, relationships and success across all areas of life, and help you reach your greatest potential.
Follow the three steps above and think about where you might have a fixed or growth mindset, and work on some new thinking to help shift the way you think.