Mindset is a term thrown around a lot in the fitness community. A lot of trainers will advertise it with their services.
They’ll say things like“1-on-1 personal training, nutrition advice, mindset coaching”.But what does mindset even mean?
Your mindset relates to your beliefs or assumptions about your personality and others. Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck is an expert in Mindset research. She splits mindset into two groups, “the fixed mindset” and “ the growth mindset”.
In a fixed mindset you believe in natural talent. You agree with terms like “he’s a natural runner” or “she’s got a knack for languages”. Those of you with a growth mindset believe that through hard work and consistency, anyone can become good at anything.
“I divide the world into learners and non-learners.”
-Benjamin R. Barber
The Fixed Mindset in Action
In ‘Whiplash’ Andrew is an up and coming jazz drummer. He attends one of the top musical schools in America. He gets spotted by Terrence Fletcher and gets a place in his jazz band. What follows is a roller coaster of ups and downs as Andrew struggles to make the cut as the band’s lead drummer.
Fletcher terrorises him and keeps beating him down. The movie shows both characters showing a fixed mindset. Fletcher pushes all of his students to the edge. Something he repeats throughout the film is that he won’t let anyone sabotage his band. His whole identity is tied into that job. Only perfection is accepted. Failure is not an option.
Andrew and the others may love music but their main motivation throughout the film is to impress Fletcher. There is little enjoyment. It comes to the point where Andrew quits drumming completely because it’s destroying his life
A growth mindset teacher would try and instill confidence not fear in their students.
The Growth Mindset in Action
Benny Lewis had a fixed mindset when it came to languages. He did poorly in leaving cert German and after finishing university he moved to Spain to teach English. He thought that moving to Spain would make it easier to learn Spanish but after 6 months Benny still spoke no Spanish. He was sure he didn’t have “the language gene”.
Then something changed. Benny adopted a different mindset and instead of believing all the reasons why he couldn’t learn the language, he started assessing what was stopping him. He totally immersed himself in Spanish and stopped speaking English. He cut out the Spanish people who were only using him for his English and started only meeting people who were helping him achieve his goal.
Since adopting the growth mindset a lot of things have changed in Benny’s life. He went on and became fluent in Spanish and worked in various jobs where fluency was needed. But Benny didn’t stop there. He now runs one of the most popular language learning blogs on the net and is fluent in 12 languages. Benny is a prime example of the growth mindset. He changed his thoughts from “I can’t” to “I’ll try”.
“Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training.”
– Carol Dweck
Up until recently I have had a fixed mindset in most parts of my life. In school and university I didn’t believe I needed to study to get good results because I felt I was smart enough already.
Putting in an effort would mean I wasn’t smart. I had a feeling of entitlement. I believed those who worked hard weren’t as gifted as me. I adopted the same approach with sports, getting lazy with my training as I felt I didn’t need to exert myself as much as others.
All this thinking did was hinder my progress. It also protected my ego. Instead of putting my all into something and failing I sat back and said “I could have got a better grade if I tried” or “I could have won that match if I trained more”.
It was difficult to make this change initially because my fixed mindset was there to protect my ego. It stopped me from addressing weaknesses. To change this I had to accept a lot of flaws.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
In the last 12 months I have removed this type of thinking in some areas of my life as I realise success is 90% grit, hustle and determination and 10% talent.
Instead of stating how I could of achieved this or that now I try and make small steps in the direction I want to improve in. Instead of looking at a task as something to get defensive about I look at it as something new to learn.
Applying the Growth Mindset to Your Lifestyle
- The first step is Becoming Aware of Your Internal Dialogue.
Are you the person who says things like:
- “I just have to look at food and I put on weight”
- “ I always hurt myself when I lift weights”.
- “I’m not good at running”.
- Reply with a Growth Mindset
- “If I stay 90% complaint to my eating plan I feel I will get results.”
- “If I focus on technique and progress slowly I have a better chance of avoiding injury”.
- “If I run a few days a week I will get better at running”.
- Stop Working Out, Start Training
So you can’t squat and you’re not a runner. Remember that there was a stage in all athletes careers when they couldn’t do an exercise or run a certain distance. What changed was their training and urge to grow.
It’s time to approach exercise like an athlete. If you want to improve your movement and strength focus on performing the basic barbell lifts with good technique. Training should focus on improving technique and putting more weight on the bar.
Nutrition is no different. The first few weeks of a new nutrition plan will be painful. Cravings will be there and you might miss your daily sugar high or glass of vino. But now you’re approaching it with a growth mindset. You’re no longer the chubby kid. You now know that you can change and you’re ready.
- Setbacks are Part of Growing
?Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure.”
– Thomas Watson
Accepting failure and being prepared to learn are key ingredients to the growth mindset. A strong social support group can help you successfully adopt this new mindset.
Getting to know people who have gone through what you are going through will help when you need advice and inspiration.
Remember no matter what level you are currently at, you can always improve. The key is be willing to make the effort.
“Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments – everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
– Carol Dweck