A little over 30 years ago Dr. Carol S. Dweck discovered through her research that the theories people hold about their intelligence, and their ability to improve it, had significant impact on their effort, motivation, and approach toward challenges. She discovered that those with what she termed The Fixed Mindset, a belief that one’s intelligence and abilities are fixed and cannot be improved, had the desire (sometimes unknowingly) to appear smart, or capable and therefore were more likely to avoid challenges that may expose their ‘weaknesses’, to give up when presented with obstacles or setbacks, and to see effort as a useless endeavour. On the other hand those with The Growth Mindset, believing that intelligence and abilities are malleable and can in fact be developed and improved, were more likely to embrace challenges as opportunities for learning, to persist in the face of setbacks, and to see effort as essential to progress and the path to mastery. When we consider that the journey toward better health and fitness is one that certainly requires effort and persistence, and is full of challenges and obstacles, it’s clear that our mindset can have a considerable impact on our progress.
If after reading that, you recognise yourself as someone with a predominantly fixed mindset, don’t worry! As although you may not feel it possible just yet, you can indeed develop your intelligence, improve your abilities and learn how to take more of growth minded approach to the world. Our best recommendation is to read the book ‘Mindset’, written by Dr. Dweck, but for now, here’s a handful of tips to get you started.
Learn to see challenges as opportunities for growth. When faced with a new challenge, something that feels like it initially might be beyond our current level of skill or ability, we can try to view it not as a test or an evaluation of our capabilities, but instead as an opportunity to learn and develop into something greater than our current selves.
Learn to value your effort over the outcome. When it comes to developing a growth mindset it matters more how hard you try, than how far you get. The benefit of valuing effort over outcome is three-fold: We tend to put in more effort in the first place, we come to find greater satisfaction and enjoyment in that effort ‘the process’, and achieve greater progress as a result.
Watch your words. “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny”. As this quote suggests, our thoughts and words have significant impact on the outcomes of our lives. Look to replace negative or judgemental thoughts with ones of positivity and acceptance. Ask yourself, “would I talk to or about another, as I talk to or about myself?”
Learn to be OK with where you’re at right now. Because you can’t do something ‘yet’, doesn’t mean you wont be able to do it in the future. Take the phrase “I can’t do that”, and replace it with “I can’t do that, yet.” If we can accept where we’re at right now, we can start to make progress toward where we want to be.
Learn to stop comparing yourself to others. You are enough. You do not need to judge yourself against another’s yard stick. Learn to accept yourself for who you truly are and let go of the idea that you must live up to expectations. No one else has travelled the path you’re on, and you have not travelled theirs. This journey is yours, and it’s the only one that matters.
Learn from failure. In the same way that challenge is an opportunity for growth, failure is an opportunity to learn. Failure provides us with valuable feedback about what didn’t work, what we could do better, and gives insight into how we can succeed next time around. Failing is not a representation of who you are – it does not define you. Refrain from judgement and instead appreciate the fact that you had the bravery to try. Dust yourself off, be welcoming of feedback, and try again.