Have you ever heard the quote, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work?”
Originally said by NBA All-Star Kevin Durant, this is a perfect example of using a philosophy of growth – meaning your efforts can fuel your success. When you work from the opposite perspective (called a fixed mindset), you believe that your talents and abilities are predetermined. You are either good at something or you are not. End of the story.
You may think that you always have a layer of lint around your middle because you never stick to anything. Or, you avoid exercising because everyone in your family is uncoordinated. Or maybe you’re “so smart” but can’t figure out how the hell to shed the last ten pounds. If it is you, congratulations, you have a steadfast attitude.
When you begin to look at things through a more optimistic lens, you enter the realm of the philosophy of growth. And this is where the magic really happens.
Let’s define the growth philosophy
You cannot talk about this term without acknowledging the famous Stanford University psychologist who coined it. Decades ago, Carol Dweck published research that changed the world. In the study, Dweck and one of her colleagues puzzled 400 fifth graders. After completing the first puzzle, the children were praised either for their efforts or for their intelligence. The group that came up with statements like “You must have worked so hard!” Was praised. The next time, they decided on a more challenging puzzle than those who were told, “You have to be so smart!”
Years later, Dweck and other researchers retested the theory after 373 seventh grade students figured out whether or not the mindset could predict their grades over a two-year period. In this study, they taught one group about the brain and how intelligence can be developed while the other group had no intervention. As might be expected, students with a growth philosophy were more motivated and received better grades than their determined peers.
Students with a growth philosophy not only believed that through effort and persistence their skills could improve, they actually made it possible.
Examples of a growth philosophy
- I would like to improve that
- Mistakes help me learn
- That was a challenge, but I’m working on it
- I haven’t figured out how to do that yet
- This may take some time
Dweck’s research has shown that changing one key belief about yourself can make a world of difference. But of course not only students can benefit from this concept.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadell and his management teams conduct a growth philosophy tactic to create an environment of constant learning.
Michael Jordan (who was originally cut from his high school basketball team and passed away during the first two NBA draft picks) used it to persevere and become overly famous …
I use it in my own health coaching practice to help my clients overcome their previous self-described mistakes …
And you can too. You just need the right tools to change the way you think.
So what causes a fixed mindset?
Anyone who shaped your childhood – parents, teachers, coaches – may inadvertently have something to do with it. Research shows that the way children are spoken to (both positively and negatively) can have a profound impact on the way they think. Maybe you were told that you were super talented growing up. Or that you were “so thin” or “not strong enough” or some other feature-based comment.
This sends the message that what you can achieve is completely tied to something innate. On the other hand, if you have been commended for your hard work, you may have received the message that your efforts led you to your success. And that everything you want (looser clothes, better relationships, better sleep) is within reach.
Examples of a solid mindset
- I am having an eating binge
- I just have a slow metabolism
- I would never like to do that
- I have trouble sticking to routines
- I am a night owl
Regardless of your upbringing, don’t stick with what you have.
To break away from a fixed mindset, you need to dig deeper into your beliefs and stories, the way you talk to yourself, and the actions you take. Remember, nobody stays in a growth philosophy all the time. You might be growth-oriented by nature, but certain people or situations put you in a steady state of mind.
How to Cultivate a Growth Mindset
The most important thing is that achieving a philosophy of growth is not about ignoring your past. On the contrary. It’s about engaging in learning – taking educated risks, gaining wisdom from the results, and surrounding yourself with people who challenge you to grow. These are six strategies I can use to help my own clients change the way they think.
1. Review your self-talk. These are the (conscious and unconscious) messages that you send to yourself throughout the day that can motivate or limit you. Your brain’s job is to keep you safe. Sometimes negative self-talk can keep you safe in your comfort zone. If you are used to saying to yourself, “I’m not good at it,” try “I learn something new every day” and see how it feels. And don’t give up. Rewiring your brain’s nerve pathways takes time.
2. See challenges as opportunities. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” is a big part of self improvement. Unfortunately, it’s easier to focus on the perceived errors. And often it leads to you giving up before you even get started. If you are worried about doing something wrong or making mistakes, or simply taking it as a sign that you are simply not fit for what you are trying to do, you are missing out on a great opportunity to grow. The more you can test your skills, the more you will learn about yourself.
3. Stop looking for approval. Or rather, stop doing things to avoid disapproval. If you are a self-described lover of people, you know what I am talking about. Whether you are trying to eat healthier food, move your body more or take better care of yourself in general, seeking outside approval can lead you down a path of self-sabotage as you are always waiting to see if you get it right have understood. Or worse, never starting because of the overwhelming fear of this disapproval. Instead, work on your underlying beliefs about yourself (i.e. your stories) and learn to trust yourself enough to see what is possible.
4. Use the word “still” regularly. This is a really powerful way to move from a solid mindset to a growth mindset. The use of this word shows that while you are struggling with something, it is only because you haven’t got the hang of it yet. Try saying, “I haven’t satisfied my sugar cravings” or “I haven’t woken up at 5 a.m. to meditate,” and watch what happens.
5. Develop more grain. According to Angela Duckworth, TED speaker and author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, “grit is the tendency to maintain interest in and pursuit of very long-term goals.” She adds that while people are born with varying degrees of grit but this comes from experience. And that can lead to a philosophy of growth, as grittier people are more likely to stay on course even if they struggle, stall, or all fail. Here are some APA-approved ways to build up more sand.
6. Appreciate the journey more than the destination. Your ultimate goal might be to lose 15 pounds or get super ripped, but if you have a “travel mindset,” as researchers call it, you will benefit from the opportunity to learn and grow from your actions. Studies also show that you are more likely to continue the new behaviors you’ve adopted even after you’ve achieved your goal.
6 strategies to change your mindset
I’ll tell you firsthand that believing that your skills are set in stone will put you on the path to proving yourself over and over again – and not learning from it. Even if you grew up with a steadfast mindset, it’s never too late to grow. Do me a favour. Whenever you hear yourself saying things like “I can’t do it” or “I’m terrible at sprints,” try these strategies:
- Check your self-talk
- See challenges as opportunities
- Stop looking for approval
- Use the word “still” regularly
- Develop more grain
- Appreciate the journey more than the destination
What do you think? Do you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?
About the author
Erin Power is the coaching and curriculum director of the Primal Health Coach Institute. She also helps her clients reestablish a loving and trusting relationship with their bodies – while restoring their metabolic health so they can lose fat and gain energy – through her own private health coaching practice, eat.simple.
If you are passionate about health and wellness and you want to help people like Erin for their clients every day, you should consider becoming a certified health coach yourself. In this special briefing event hosted by PHCI Co-Founder Mark Sisson, you will learn the three simple steps to building a successful health coaching business in a maximum of 6 months.
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