The Power of the Growth Mindset
Michael and I briefly hit on the topic of adopting a growth mindset during a recording about progressing… or lack thereof. For many of us who find ourselves falling short in certain tasks or goals, it very likely comes from the fact that we haven’t tapped into that area of our minds which allows us to adapt to, overcome, and learn from the challenges we face.
Researcher and author, Carol Dweck, wrote Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, which lays out her years of research on people who could be classified as successful or unsuccessful to most of our perspectives. Dweck coined the term “growth mindset” which exposes the key characteristics of successful individuals. Tapping into that untouched potential can help anyone go from good to great to better by opening up possibilities we have blinded ourselves from through “fixed” mindsets. Before we dive into the how-to's of becoming a mindset superhero, it’s important to understand the differences between fixed and growth mindsets. There are many differences, and no one will fall perfectly into one category or the other.
In the fixed mindset:
Challenges are avoided.
Obstacles are viewed as an opportunity to give up.
Effort is seen as worthless or fruitless.
Criticism is ignored and irritating.
Success of others is viewed as threatening.
In the growth mindset:
Challenges are embraced.
Obstacles are viewed as an opportunity to persevere.
Effort is seen as the path to mastery.
Criticism is used as an opportunity to learn.
Success of others is viewed as inspirational and educational.
In the fixed mindset, one sees their current level of abilities as predetermined and unchangeable. “I could never do x because I’m not [tall, short, smart, strong, disciplined…] enough.” In the growth mindset, one sees their current level of abilities as ever-changing, adapting, and overcoming. “I can’t do x, yet. But I’m working on my [power, speed, problem-solving, time-management…]”
One of my favorite quotes from Mindset is, “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?” Let’s relate this to something we all have in common--working out. More specifically, a particular lift that you would like to get better at. I’ll use a personal example of my goal to get a heavier “total” by the time I competed in a powerlifting meet. I could have continually tried to max out each week to get stronger in the lifts leading up to the meet. Where would that leave me, though? Probably continually failing the same weight over and over. Or, at least only hitting a rep or two at the same weight without being able to increase the next time. I would think, ‘I’ve done it before, I should be able to do it again, and then do MORE.’
Sure, there are certain things that you can repeat day after day whilst getting better with a few failures under your belt. But, some things just don’t work that way. Max feats of strength and endurance, for example, require steps back in loading/intensity to allow certain neurological and muscular adaptations before repeated bouts. Taking yourself to the upper limits one day will mean you are taxed and depleted the following day. You don’t put a car through a race without some extra gas and TLC in between bouts, do you? If your body keeps breaking down or failing repetitions, why would you keep pounding on more volume? (Sounds a lot like insanity to me...🙄)
So, instead of proving over and over how great you are, why not step back a little and treat yoself to some TLC to get even better. Don’t view your current limitations as predetermined or unchangeable because you continually fail or are stagnant, take a step back and determine how you could make progress if you made some adjustments to what you’re currently doing.
In a growth mindset, you shift your focus from the end goal to the process. I really wanted to move that heavy weight, but I knew I needed to get comfortable with the process that would get me there. I was open to accepting the fact that I had weak points and learning about how to overcome them. When meet day came, and I lifted the most weight I’ve ever lifted, I was just as satisfied with what I did to get there than what I lifted on meet day. Even if I had failed my heaviest attempts, I would have reflected on the process and taken the opportunity to learn from my mistakes along the way and improve on them next time. Learning to appreciate the process to achieve a better outcome is what goal setting and execution is all about. Failures are opportunities. Failure simply means “not yet”.
The “yet” indicates a work in progress. Next time you begin negative self-talk about how much you dislike doing something because you’re not x-enough, add a “yet” to it. “I don’t like skiing because I’m not as fast as the tall guys….yet.” The growth-minded person will say, “Ok, I suck at skiing so maybe I should be sure to show up on those days and work on my pacing, breathing, and form to get better each time I get on that machine." The fixed mindset would say, “Nah I suck, I’m gonna skip that day.”
Take advice from those who are offering it with your best interests in mind. Be open to critique and criticism to break through your current skill and strength levels. Take on challenges head-first, without fear of failure. Be excited to learn and grow from your mistakes. Celebrate with your opponents when they kick your ass, or your coworker when they get a promotion. Use their success as a fire to push yourself even more. Even if they don’t deserve it, show everyone why YOU do.
Question your current routines and methods. What do you do each and every day that drives you closer to the person you want to be? How much time are you wasting on social media when you could be reading, walking, stretching, working out, spending time with your family/friends, or even with yourself? When was the last time you looked at someone else’s point of view and tried to truly understand their side of the argument? Even if you KNOW you don’t agree with someone, or perhaps they truly are incorrect, can you try to understand why they feel the way they do? What’s something you do every day that is entirely unnecessary but you do it out of habit?
Seize every day as an opportunity to learn and grow from your mistakes, inefficiencies, or even your “good habits” that could be even better.