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Adopting a Growth Mindset – What does that really mean for me?


If you have perused any self-help information online or subscribe to any performance newsletters, you will inevitably find something related to a “Growth Mindset.”


But what is it, really, and more importantly, is it something that I can incorporate into my own life, personally, and professionally?


Stanford professor Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset, explains it this way -


Individuals who have a growth mindset feel their skills and intelligence can be improved with effort and persistence.





Those who embody a growth mindset essentially connect on four major points:


1. Embrace challenges

2. Persist through obstacles

3. Learn from criticism

4. Seek out inspiration in others’ success


Most other definitions of what a growth mindset is, is pretty much spot on Dr. Dweck’s explanation. There is a lot there. What it really is, for many of us, if we are honest with ourselves, is a lot of scary stuff, if you really look at that definition closely.


“Embrace challenges?” Do we, really, or do we try and see how we can navigate around the hard stuff?


“Persist through obstacles?” I would like to think I do. But, at times we do not give ourselves enough credit to be able to do so.


The last two are really challenging, aren’t they?


“Learn from criticism?” That is a hard one. Who wants to be criticized, even in the form of “constructive criticism?”


The last one is very challenging, especially in an era “one upmanship” that is our daily life, especially in the world heavy with social media.


“Seek out inspiration in others’ success.” We usually find ourselves mired in comparisons, comparisons with others on a personal and professional level.


The initial thought of each one of these pieces of the definition of a growth mindset is daunting for many of us. However, as we do in Mental Performance coaching, let’s break it down and look at these one at a time.


1. Embrace Challenges


We would like to think we do, right? Each situation we face in every area of our life, be it on the sporting field, in the workplace, or personally, we internally ask ourselves the following question: Is this a Challenge or is this a Threat?


Each person’s definition of Challenge and Threat is certainly different. What one sees as a Challenge (“Give me that mic and power point, because I’m nailing this presentation!”), another sees as a Threat (“Holy Crap! I can’t talk in front of people! What do I know! Did I research this enough? Do I have enough information on my slides? Can I call in sick and just sit this one out?”).


When faced with Challenge, Kobe Bryant said, “Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.”


Change that up a bit if you feel like what you are facing is a threat - “I am not sure that I have the ability, the strength, the wherewithal to go through with this. Let’s just get this over with or find a way not to go through with it.”


Try this exercise - Say the following two sentences out loud. Really try and focus in on how your mind AND body feels after each? It’s a clear difference.


“Embrace the Challenge”

“This is a Threat”


2. Persist Through Obstacles


We would like to think that we do this. We have all the best intentions of trying to work our way through mishaps, seen and unforeseen, mistakes, things thrown at us in the last minute, but do we really? How many times do we use those instances of things not going our way as a crutch? “Well, if the umpire doesn’t make a bad call, we win that game.” “If my coworker gets doesn’t keep distracting me, I can get my report done on time.”


Our reaction to those events, all very real, can say a lot to how we deal with life’s obstacles. Do we point our fingers, place blame and settle back in our chair cursing at the world, or do we take a moment, get a bigger perspective and see where we can go and keep grinding from this point


3. Learn From Criticism


As I mentioned earlier, the last two may be the most challenging for any of us. Taking “criticism” is extremely difficult for many of us. Many of us are looking for praise, even when we are just learning something new. We really have a difficult time with any criticism. One of the big reasons why is that we start to dive into the negative rabbit hole. “I knew it. I suck at this.” “I’m never going to be good at this task.” Or we switch emphasis to the case of life keeping us down. “I knew my coach would rip me a new one. He doesn’t like me anyway.” “I clash with my supervisor so it’s no surprise that I get criticized for this.”


Again here, the main point is learning. Maybe your coach, or manager doesn’t have the most pleasant way of telling you about a mistake, but if you are truly honest with yourself, you generally do not need someone else to tell you when made a mistake, or did not perform to your capabilities. Take a closer look and take the “criticism” as, again, an opportunity to see where you can learn and grow. That coach may have some great thoughts on ways you can improve for that next play, next game, or next season.


4. Seek Out Inspiration From Others’ Success


This one is a challenge for one very big reason. We tend to almost always compare ourselves to others in every aspect of our lives. “That person has a better job than I do so what’s wrong with me?” “How did that person get all of the breaks and I got screwed?”


A baseball hitter compares his stats constantly with teammates and opponents.


Instead of playing against the course, the golfer tends to always look at the scoreboard to see how she is doing compared to others in the tournament.


That person has a bigger house, a nicer car, on a better team, has better equipment, etc., etc., etc.


However, if we can turn that around and really be in the moment for others, we can use their success as our impetus to energize ourselves. What processes have they used that I might be able to adopt myself to learn more, to get better, and to become more in my game, in school or in my profession?


Another thought is seeking out those individuals for help. What can we learn from a teacher, a coach, another player, or a coworker, that we can use on our journey to get where we want to go?


A growth mindset. It is not just the current cool buzzword but an opportunity for us to move forward in a positive, gratitude filled way.


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