• Jesse Engelbrecht

Mindsets, where are you?

Carol Dweck, the professor of psychology at Standford, has spent over 40-years researching and conducting numerous studies to attempt to understand how we face and confront challenges in life and how our mindset plays a crucial role in success or failure. According to Dweck, individuals can be placed on a continuum according to their views and beliefs of where ability comes from. This continuum has a growth mindset on the one side and fixed mindset on the other.


Those with a growth mindset show greater resilience and the ability to bounce back from setbacks. For example, in sport and life, people who exhibit a growth mindset are better able to handle challenges, take criticism and problem solve than those with a fixed mindset, who are typically more likely to avoid the challenge altogether, blame other factors for failure and ultimately give up.


Those with a fixed mindset have a need for approval as explained by Dweck, “Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality or character. Every situation is evaluated; Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? They are seeking constant validation for all areas of their lives.”


Whereas those with a growth mindset have a hunger for learning and a desire to work hard to get results. There is a love of the process around a task or challenge sometimes even more so than the end result. With a growth mindset, people see failure as feedback and challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow. Are you exhibiting a growth mindset around your squash results?


In Dweck’s studies, what some of the findings are showing is the way we get praised has a huge influence. In a repeated study over several decades, children that were praised on their intelligence and talent for solving a problem were far more likely to exhibit fixed mindset characteristics in future challenges. Whereas children that were praised on the process, the effort, their strategies, their focus, their perseverance showed vastly improved growth mindset traits for future challenges. This form of praise produced kids that were hardy and resilient later down the line.


So how can we relate these amazing findings to our own lives and look to cultivate more of a growth mindset in all we do? Language and the way it’s used in regard to our belief systems and behaviours is immensely powerful. The language we hear from others plays a crucial role to our identity, but what is of higher value and importance is the language we use ourselves to tell our own story. In sports this is often referred to as our inner voice. First and foremost, we need to work on becoming more aware of our inner voice and the tone and words we use to describe challenges and obstacles to ourselves. Once awareness of our inner voice takes place, this is 60% of the problem solved. Awareness is a fundamental tool that needs to be practised and developed.


Practical tips


- Try and make it your goal to make awareness of your inner voice your first port of call

- Once awareness of the inner voice is more present then begin to reframe the way you speak to yourself

- Practise traits and behaviours of growth mindset people, and like anything, with time and practise we form strong and permanent habits

- Try and use the line “I’m having the thought that…” when you become aware of your inner voice that may be exhibiting fixed mindset characteristics


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