Five ways to develop a growth mindset

Mindset, our personal belief framework for how we make sense of the world around us, is responsible for much of our behavior. The actions we take accumulate over time, and result in crucial outcome differences. Through intentional development, we can look to evaluate, adjust, and refine our beliefs, and thus our mindset. Creating a platform from which we can pursue mastery.

Stanford Psychologist, Carol Dweck, has dedicated her career to researching one the key beliefs which make up our mindset. Dweck’s research has focused primarily on the idea that we hold an internal belief about the capacity to improve, and how much control we have over this improvement. At opposite ends of the scale this creates, are two contrasting mindsets; a fixed mindset, and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is one in which we believe that our abilities are due to talent alone  and that they cannot be improved, regardless of how much effort is invested. A growth mindset states that the opportunities for improvement are endless, and only limited by our effort, commitment, and resilience. These beliefs aren’t black and white, that’s to say that there is a whole scale in between an entirely fixed and an entirely growth mindset. Additionally, they’re very situation specific. For example we may hold more of a fixed mindset regarding our salsa dancing skills, but have beliefs further towards the growth mindset end of the scale when considering our puck control.

Research by Dweck and her colleagues have shown that these beliefs result in differences in behavior and performance across many different domains. From students' grades on standardized tests, through to elite athlete’s use of coping strategies in moments of success or failure. The robustness of this work suggests that developing and maintaining a growth mindset is one of the most beneficial steps an individual can take. 

Coaches, parents, and teammates all play their part in developing our beliefs, but you can also work on them independent of others. Here are five techniques which anyone can use to help develop their own growth mindset today!

Set process goals.

By setting process goals for yourself, you can be intentional about the daily action items which lead to success. As you begin to achieve these tangible short-term steps, you can celebrate your successes, and adopt a process driven approach to improvement. Have you set your goals for this season? It’s never too late to do so!

Track progress.

Humans are really good at not acknowledging (or sometimes even remembering!) the progress we’ve made since beginning a new skill, routine, or sport. By keeping training logs and old event data, you can always look back and appreciate how far you’ve come, and how much your hard work is paying off. If you’ve not done this in the past, start today by making and keeping notes about your workouts, or match performance. 

Reframe failure.

Failing to meet your own standards is always going to be hard to deal with. The first step in these situations is to objectively review the event, beginning to sift through it for useful information. By starting to reframe setbacks as chances to learn, you can move forwards and approach future challenges as opportunities, not threats.

Make use of feedback.

As nice as it is to receive, when it comes to promoting a growth mindset, not all feedback is equal. Feedback that emphasizes effort and dedication, is far more effective in creating growth orientated beliefs than feedback focused on talent, or ability. Ask your support team to be intentional with their words, and do the same for them! Next time someone praises your abilities, try thanking them, but requesting that in future they praise the work you’ve put in instead.

Reflect often.

The life of a high performer can be busy, and reflection often gets forgotten. By setting aside a regular time each day to reflect on what you’ve learned with a journal, or even your phone notes; improvement can stay the central focus. Open ended questions such as “What did I learn today?” and “What could I improve tomorrow?” can be useful prompts. The key with reflection is consistency, try challenging yourself to answer these two simple questions for a full week and see what sticks!

We can all take responsibility for our own development. The possibilities for progress are really endless if we lean in to the process of growth, are intentional with the habits we form, and deliberate with the environments which we cultivate. If you try out any of these strategies, or use any which we’ve not recommended, then we’d love to hear from you!

Mzk Performance also conducts consultations and workshops where we deliver mental skills and mindset training and exercises to athletes, coaches, and leaders. For more information get in contact. Thanks for reading!