The “Growth Mindset”; Psychology to success
Who are you?
As an individual, you are the product of three things: your genetics, your environment (community, culture & relationships), and your thoughts & choices.
Now, this looks like common sense on the surface but looking beyond the surface of those things we can see how we are somewhat programmed. Yes, programmed, like robots but we run on organic material and genes, not electricity and code. But what does this have to do with you? Well, a lot. Everything… Which is way more than I’m willing to get into in this blog. Now a lot of who we are we don’t control but, despite that which we don’t control (our genetic potentials/limits and the environment we grew up in), we have one thing that we can control; Our choices. But there’s a problem here, some people aren’t aware of this or, rather, they aren’t aware of the extent of power they have over it. The people who are more aware that they have power have what is called the “Growth Mindset” and those who are less aware have a “Fixed Mindset”.
The view of yourself that you choose to adopt profoundly affects the way you lead your life.
The Fixed Mindset
What is it?
Have you ever felt you’re not good enough and never will be? In the context of health and fitness, have you ever felt like a failure for having that donut? Like garbage for missing your workout? Like a complete waste of space for saying a couple of weeks ago that you’re going to start living healthy (or any other health/fitness related goal) and then 3 months later you’re the same place you were?
Have all these thoughts made you believe that that’s the best you can do? If your answer is yes, know that you “CHOSE” to believe that ⸻ the embodiment of a fixed mindset. The belief that your qualities and characteristics are set in stone is the fixed mindset.
“Do I have it?”
Have you ever done anything remotely similar to the above? In whatever context you have done it, yes, you’ve had a fixed mindset in the past. BUT I hope this can increase your awareness that you can choose to get out of it. For further analysis read the statements below and indicate which ones you agree with most:
- Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.
- I just don’t know how to diet.
- I just don’t know how to work out.
- You can learn new things, but you can’t change how intelligent you are.
- Even if I learn how to diet, I’m not going to lose weight because I’ve never done it.
- Even if I learn to work out, I still won’t get fit because I’ve never been fit.
- No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit.
- I’ve never dieted before, but I can learn.
- I’ve never worked out before, but I can learn.
- You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.
- Hey, if I keep studying nutrition, I can learn enough to do a course and become a nutritionist!
- Hey, if I keep working out, I can learn enough to compete in a marathon one day!
The Growth Mindset
What is it?
This mindset is the mind of all genuinely successful people within their specific fields. Those people who made it happen despite what can be perceived as set-backs ⸻ The Micheal Jordan’s, the Thomas Edison’s, the Chris Bumstead’s and, to be fair, that one friend in school who always flunked but then decided that they wanted to do well in school and graduated as a most improved student. Decided is bolded because it emphasizes the power of “choice”.
Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset” put it simply – “…the growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things that you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others.” So, I ask you, do you have a growth mindset? Welp, you might in some areas and you might not in others. But I hope this short blog can change that so that you can choose to have it in whatever area of life you want. You can quite literally become whomever you want to be if you choose to!
“Do I have it?”
I hope you will! What matters at this point is not whether you had it in the past, or even right now, it’s whether you will aim to attain it from now on! This is something I teach and try my best to encourage my clients because it’s often very difficult to come to grips with the fact that you can be the master of your fate. Now, this is difficult, the choice is one thing, behavior change ⸻the entire process of it⸻ is another but despite even this many have taken themselves from “I’ll never be like that” to “I can get there with time and effort.”
Here are some more questions to ask yourself to determine if you do or don’t have it:
- You are a certain kind of person, and there’s not much that can be done to change that.
- No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially.
- You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are can’t be changed.
- You can always change the basic things about the kind of person you are.
How can I earn it?
It’s completely up to you. What I can tell you is the first step is deciding (choice) that you want to have it. Shift your mindset from “I can’t” to “I can” ⸻ very cliché, I know, but this is the reality. Ancient philosophy has stated it and contemporary studies in psychology have proven it. You can become whoever you want ⸻within reasonable means and enough time⸻ if you choose to.
Let’s head back to “who are you?” and how the knowledge of this can help you foster a growth mindset. Firstly, your genes are set in stone and nothing can be done with changing it but we have limited control over our environment and total control of our choices.
“Limited control of our environment? Whatever do you mean?!”
What I mean is that you can choose your friends, your influences (Social media, television, news, books, etc.), the groceries you fill your fridge with, your furniture, your job, your hobbies, etc. BUT you don’t control who you’re being birthed from as hereditary parents and, when young, you don’t control what community/culture you’re raised in.
“What does this have to do with a growth mindset?” you ask.
Ok, hear me out. Let’s create a scenario of a hypothetical you…
Now, let’s say you were born into a family where you ended up with eating habits that left you a bit “heavy”. Having visited your doctor, your goal has become to lose some weight before your next check-up because your doctor said you’re overweight and pre-diabetic. You’ve chosen to make this your goal (congratulations, 3 points!), now you just need to lose 20 lbs. to be within the range of healthy weight. Great, let’s get it! Fast forward 2-3 weeks and 0 progress (a heavy brick on the jump shot). Why is that? Think! Why were you overweight in the first place? You habitually fill your fridge with foods that you can’t get enough of, you barely move because of your desk job and you haven’t read that diet pamphlet or called the nutritionist your doctor referred you to.
We can see that the growth mindset isn’t just all about choice. Now you have to put in effort which, for some people apparently, is a bad thing. I’m not even joking, people compare themselves to others (who have an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCE) and say
“Hey, if I put in more work than him and get fewer results at the same time that must mean I suck!”
No. It means that they are a completely different person (different genetics, different environment, different choices) who is fortunate to have things work out for them that way but you can still get there despite having to take a bit more time. Don’t be discouraged. Back to the hypothetical you now.
So, you’ve got your next check-up with your doctor in a couple of weeks and you haven’t lost any weight. You still have time so you haven’t failed. Time to put in some effort. You read that pamphlet, you consult a nutritionist who told you to stop filling the fridge with your soul-foods, you start taking brisk walks every other day for an hour while listening to a good weight loss podcast your nutritionist referred you to and in 6 weeks you’ve dropped a staggering 10 lbs! Your doctor congratulates you and tells you to keep it up!
“WOW! Why didn’t I do this sooner!? I feel great!” you say with a copious dose of dopamine swishing around in your brain.
And that’s when you start to see it, you’ve consciously experienced the growth mindset. You realize then that you can lose the weight if you want by just deciding and taking the necessary steps without concerning yourself with anyone else because you know you’re trying your best and that you did your best.
Now, while this was a very specific scenario. You can apply it to any goal you have in life and I hope you do. Just remember that it starts with your choice, and then persistence gets you to the goal.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.
 The first two options indicate a fixed mindset…
 Carol Dweck is a renowned researcher on personality, social psychology and developmental psychology. She’s also a professor of psychology at Stanford university and has had positions in a number of eminent scientific organizations.
 2 and 4 reflect a growth mindset.