Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Value of a Growth Mindset

This article is 100% based off of Carol Dweck’s work and mainly her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. I highly suggest reading it immediately.

What is growth mindset?

A growth mindset is having the thought process that you can develop skill and ability through practice. It’s having a mindset that enjoys the process and journey rather than what’s at the finish line. Those with a growth mindset look at challenges as opportunities of growth rather than problems.

The opposite of this would be a fixed mindset that believes one has an innate ability to perform a certain task and no matter what they do they will have a predetermined limit to their ability. They’re feel it’s measured by the end results, often based on others opinions.

Why is this important?

You can come to your own conclusions with that question but in my opinion this is the basis for success. Looking at athletics, if someone feels they have only a natural ability they are less willing to put in extra work everyday that gets them a little bit better. However, if they have a growth mindset they are constantly pushing themselves to an uncomfortable level. Constantly pushing that level means they are learning at a higher rate that if they were practicing something they have already mastered.

If you’ve read any of the “Talent” books they’ve talked about how the elite constantly go into deliberate or deep practice. This practice means that constantly challenging one’s limits creates a better and faster learning environment. You cannot get to this level without a growth mindset.

How is this developed?

The best part about a growth mind set is that it is not genetic. I’ll check with some scientists but I’m pretty sure there isn’t a DNA strand that predetermines if you’re resilient or someone who gives up easily. One major way its developed is through the parents, coaches, teachers, and mentors that work with kids. Praising effort and improvement must be #1 over praising ability. Saying hey did a good job is fine but back it up with “because you worked hard is why you did so well.”

I have previously posted one of Carol Dweck’s studies where she showed how one praises could significantly affect a child’s behaviors. Those praised for growth accepted challenges and attacked them, while those praised for effort shied away from challenges to their label of being “smart.” This all with 6 words after one easy puzzle that they all could complete.

Danny Woodhead..... Not supposed to be in NFL. Don't think he really cares

This also can be changed in adults. Remember it is not a genetic predisposition. It takes a lot of work and humility but the changes reap tremendous benefits.

I also believe the youth must see it with their own eyes. Kids absorb everything, as we know. Watching parents, siblings and others have a deep focus in a task, the kids want to imitate those they admire. If a parent constantly blames referees, coaches, and teammates for mistakes, who do you think are the kids that grow up the same way? Blaming others is always the easy way out, but always ends up with the worst results. A growth mindset is about taking responsibility and holding yourself accountable. Realizing mistakes are going to happen and it’s how you respond to those mistakes that will make you a better person or athlete.

If you still don’t believe it’s important, look at the lives of Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Tim Lincecum, Steve Nash, etc. All of who weren’t expected to be MVP’s of the respected leagues. Some weren’t even expected to make it professionally. If they didn’t have a growth mindset instilled in them there would be no way they could achieve what they have.

Steve Nash Future NBA MVP from Santa Clara?? Yea right....

So if you have a fixed mindset (I noticed I had some of both depending on the subject) take it upon yourself to change. You won't believe what you can do when you eliminate excuses for yourself.


  1. The growth mindset is the most important aspect for improvement and learning, yet it is the least applied tool of all.

    Where ever you look, the most successful coaches are the ones who can instil and cultivate a growth mindset in their players.

    It's ironical because it is the one thing which is never talked about or taught at coaching clinics