Growth Mindset and Quality Practice (Part 1)

Growth Mindset and Quality Practice (Part 1)

Developing Resilience with a Growth Mindset

Posted by: Ryan Bahadursingh | University of Denver Sport Psychology


A wise man once said, “The road to success is not linear.”

This is a familiar experience for many athletes. Though each season brings moments of success and triumph, it is rarely free of adversity. How can we respond to these challenges in a way that is productive? How can we be resilient in the face of adversity? One thing we can do is approach our challenges with a sense of openness and willingness to learn. In other words: approaching our challenges with a growth mindset.

Growth vs Fixed Mindset

Our mindset is the lens we use to view the world around us; it’s what shapes our perception and approach in life and how we view ourselves. When we utilize a fixed mindset, we perceive our knowledge, skills, and abilities to be inherent aspects of who we are. That is, we view our talents and abilities as something we either have, or don’t have. A fixed mindset says “I’m just not that fast” or “I’ve never really been that coordinated in the first place.” Whether or not these statements are true this outlook can limit our expectations and perceived capabilities.

A growth mindset takes a different perspective. Through this lens, our talents are believed to be adaptable. The knowledge, skills, and abilities that we have are not viewed as fixed characteristics, but as the result of dedicated effort and practice. When we utilize a growth mindset, challenge becomes an opportunity to apply these attributes and adapt them to the situation. The result – whether favorable or unfavorable – is an opportunity to refine our talents and learn something new along the way. Through the lens of a growth mindset, we see our capabilities as unfinished products that can be developed through hard work, problem solving, and creativity.

Cultivating a Growth Mindset

The key difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset is the perspective we choose to take. But the question remains: what can we do to shift our perspective toward growth and openness in the face of challenge? Here are four things to keep in mind.

  1. The mind can be trained. The mind is like a muscle. Just as we train our bodies to prepare for performance, we can do the same for our minds. Advances in science have recently shown us that our brain’s connective networks can shift and grow throughout our lives, even as adults. When we opt for a growth mindset, we allow ourselves the opportunity to facilitate these changes.
  2. Effort is commendable. A growth mindset is not just about perspective, it’s also about taking action. This means dedicated, effortful work. In the media we often hear descriptions of elite performance such as “they make it look easy” or “it’s simply automatic.” What ends up being portrayed, however, is that if we need to put in effort, we must not be that good. This is not the case. We must remember that the “making it look easy” or “automatic” only comes after long hours of effort and hard work. It is through this dedicated practice that we allow ourselves to learn and develop. Be proud of your effort, and commend others for theirs!
  3. Get outside your comfort zone. Getting out of our comfort zone can be hard. It is usually when we are in our comfort zone that we play our best and the uncertainty that lies on the outside can be unnerving. However, when we practice outside our comfort zone we allow ourselves to face new challenges. It gives us an opportunity to test our abilities and ask ourselves “What went well?”. We may even surprise ourselves with the results! It is when we step outside our comfort zone that we can see what else we are capable of, and work toward improving those talents.
  4. Language is key! Our perception of ourselves and of the world around is often expressed in what we say. The words we choose can help facilitate a growth mindset. For example, language that is focused on the outcome can be substituted for words and phrases that focus on the process that lead to said outcome. Rather than, “That was a great win!” we can say something like “That hard work and extra reps at practice really helped secure that win!” This shifts the focus to the effort and hard work that was contributed, as well as the knowledge, skills, and abilities that were developed throughout the process.

Putting it into Practice

A growth mindset is not just a way to think about performance, but also guides our actions on the field. By working to cultivate a growth mindset, we allow our perspective to become more open and flexible. This flexibility can translate the actions we take on the field, particularly in how we respond to adversity. When we approach challenges, setbacks, or unexpected outcomes with a growth mindset, we open ourselves to a variety of ways to approach the situation. We may try a different strategy, refine our technique, or even work on developing a new skill. In doing so, we create more opportunities for ourselves to learn and cultivate a greater sense of resilience.

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