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“If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” It’s a famous phrase from Tony Robbins – because it’s true. Growth is one of the 6 human needs, and it’s just as vital as significance and love.

How our athletes think is important to us. We want our athletes to develop both physically and mentally. True champions are always looking for ways to be better, push harder and reach even higher. But you don’t have to be Tia Claire-Toomey to live your life with a growth mindset. Cultivating growth in your life is actually a series of small steps that lead to big results.

WHAT IS A GROWTH MINDSET?

Growth mindset involves both the way you think and the way you act. It is a way of perceiving yourself and the world as full of potential for growth and betterment, provided with enough time and conscious effort. The idea comes from psychologist Carol Dweck, who argues that there are two types of mindset: “fixed” and “growth.”

People with a fixed mindset see things as largely unchangeable, and if they are changeable not worth the effort. They avoid challenges and hard work, give up easily, ignore useful negative or constructive feedback, and feel threatened by the success of others. They usually see their weaknesses and strengths as innate, for example “I am bad at making new friends,” or “she is a naturally talented dancer.”

People with a growth mindset understand that they can work to change themselves and their surroundings if they put in the time and effort. They seek out challenges, are persistent, learn from criticism, and are inspired by the success of others. They avoid seeing things in binaries (good/bad, win/lose, success/failure), and see skills or mastery as the result of practice over time.

Growth mindset is a “win or learn” approach: something is only a true failure if you fail to learn from it.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to identify whether you tend to have a fixed or growth mindset in certain situations:

  • When I am faced with a daunting task, do I shy away from it, or treat it as an opportunity to see what I am capable of?
  • When I fail or make a mistake, does it make me want to give up? Or do I look forward to applying the lessons I learned from that experience?
  • Do I tend to focus on external forces (other people, the weather, bad luck) when things don’t go according to plan? Or do I put those things aside and focus on what I can do to make things better?

Positivity

“Don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses.” -John Wooden. Changing your words can change your life. Understand the law of attraction and get rid of negative words like “can’t” and add growth-minded words like “yet.” You are in control of your thoughts. Positivity involves actively choosing to focus on what is in your control, and ignoring things that are outside of your control. Being positive is not a matter of being cheerful or constantly optimistic. While those traits can be valuable, you don’t need to be always happy to have a positive mindset.

Positivity is a way of perceiving and reacting to any given situation. Positive people will look at a set of circumstances and find the “upside:” whether that be something to be grateful for, or for areas to improve. They don’t waste any energy dwelling on things that they do not have the power to change. When they do have the power to change something, however, they take full responsibility and take action.

Here are two examples of what a positive response and a negative reponse might look like in common situations at the gym:

1) A challenging workout is coming up later in the week.

Negative response:

  • worrying about how painful or hard the workout will be
  • stressing about looking bad or going slow

Positive response:

  • thinking about how the workout is an opportunity to get better
  • focusing on the aspects of the workout you find particularly hard, and what you can do in the moment to execute them well (good technique on a lift, keep moving on a run, etc.)

2) You are late to the gym due to unforseen circumstances (traffic, minor household emergency, etc.)

Negative response:

  • getting upset
  • dwelling on the lateness, see it as ‘ruining’ your training session

Positive response:

  • once getting to the gym, realizing that the problem has happened and is behind you
  • focusing on doing the best you can in the time you do have

Hard work

Being positive or having a growth mindset are most effective when they are backed up by the willingness to work hard and work smart. It is easy to be busy, and harder to be productive.

People who are able to make meaningful change or progress are those who can put in consistent effort over long periods of time. They don’t just check the box, they make sure every minute they dedicate to reaching their goal is their best effort in that moment. Hard work involves not only recognizing what is in your control, but making sure to optimize things in that area of control by working diligently towards specific goals.

Improving your mindset

Just like we practice and use drills to work on a complicated lift or gymnastics movement, improving your mindset requires conscious and continuous effort, and it is easier when broken into smaller steps.

Eventually, these practices and ways of thinking will become more natural, but before they become habit, teaching yourself to think differently needs to be an active part of your day.

In this section, we are going to recommend some examples of real-life mindset practices anyone can benefit from, and also some drills you can use to work on changing or fine-tuning your mindset.

1. Daily Reflection

Schedule time in your day to just think and reflect. This time could be used for meditation, going for a quiet walk, having a bath, or any other thing that works for you. What is most important is that you take this time to clear your mind and relax.

2. Having a plan

We recommend all of our athletes read the workout before coming to class, and think about how you want to approach that class. If you have any movement limitations, injuries, or movements that you usually scale, this is a good time to think about what weights or substitutions you think would be appropriate for you.

If you are unsure about the workout structure, or are unfamilar with some of the movements, we suggest you come up with questions, and first try to see if you can answer them yourself first.

If you have already spent a bit of time thinking about the workout for class, then you can approach the coach at the beginning of class with specific ideas or questions. Even if you don’t need special attention from the coach, developing a specific individual intention for the class workout will help you get the most out of your training session.

3. Expressing gratitude

Postivity and gratitude go hand in hand. You can’t really have one without the other. Here is a simple daily exercise to help you practice gratitude:

  • Everyday, write down something that you are grateful for. This can be little and not attached to any one person (eg. I am grateful that I have two working legs that get me to work everyday) or can be specific and attached to an individual (eg. I am grateful for my sister’s kindness in helping me move my furniture today). Whatever you are grateful for, write it down, and make sure that it is sincere.
  • If you want to take it a step further, try to share what you are grateful for with others. If you are grateful for the rain for watering your vegetable garden, bring that up to your friends, colleagues, or even a complete stranger! If you are thankful for a specific person for an action they did, consider sharing that with them

4. Establishing control

Part of being both positive and growth-minded is recognizing what is in and out of your control, and putting your time, energy, and focus into the things that you have the ability to change. A way to make this clear to yourself is to write a list of all the things you have control over in your life. These can be big areas or smaller things, or you can connect the small things with the bigger things. For example:

  • Training
    • consistency (attending class)
    • moving well and training with intention
    • recovery (sleep, nutrition)

Once you have your list, you are not done yet! Come up with some real checkpoints or metrics that will help you stay accountable to yourself in these areas. For example, for the category of training, you could try the following:

  • Training
    • consistency (attending class)
      • attend class 4 times a week. register well in advance on Wodify, and put in my calendar.
    • moving well and training with intention
      • come early to class to warmup specific movement patterns I struggle with
      • the night before a training day, read the workout and come up with some intentions or goals for my session
      • record my workouts in a journal, on Wodify with notes on how things felt and how I executed based on my goals
    • recovery (sleep, nutrition)
      • sleep 8 hours a night. Set a bedtime alarm.
      • make sure to eat 3 meals a day of meat and vegetables
    • etc.

5. Learning from success

Just like how reflecting on failure can be a good opportunity to grow and learn, we can use our accomplishents as lessons on how we can succeed in other areas of life.

1) Think of something you have completed or achieved that makes you feel proud. For example, this could be a project at school or work, or a skill you developed.

2) Think back about what you did leading up to that achievement. How much time did you dedicate to it? Did you plan or schedule? Did you work with others? Did you do the bulk of the work at a certain time of day? Did you pair working on that thing with something else?

3) Come up with a list of what you think the key factors were that contributed to that success. Examples:

  • I worked on that project every morning for 20 minutes.
  • I was accountable to someone else for regular check-ins.
  • I was sleeping and eating really well around that time.
  • It was a project I really cared about.

4) Once you have that list, think about how you could apply some of those strategies to another goal or project you are working on currently.