Growth Mindset: Change the way you think

It feels good to succeed. We all know the feeling – when you master a difficult bouldering route or take an energising yoga class. Your confidence is boosted, you feel alert and you’re full of positive energy. And the best thing about this feeling? It’s totally self-generated.

Whether in fitness, work or personal life, success begins in the mind. With sport, if you want to achieve your goals you need to train regular and eat a balanced diet – but don’t forget about mindset.

And this is where Growth Mindset – or growth thinking – comes into play. The term was coined by Dr. Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.

Numerous studies show the right mentality is crucial for (sporty) success. But what exactly does Growth Mindset mean? Why does our mindset play such a major role in our lives? And how can you change it?

We asked Johannes Willms, executive coach, trainer and organizational consultant for numerous mindset development experts, a few questions. Together with his wife Sara, he runs the company willms.coaching, and offers learning programs for mindset development. (Take part in the free webinar.)

So what is a Growth Mindset?

Everyone has certain ways of thinking that are fundamental to their view of the world and shape their self-image. Growth Mindset is therefore also called “dynamic self-image.”

Johannes Willms explains that someone with a Growth Mindset experiences the following:

  • The confidence to develop further skills
  • Learns new skills more efficiently
  • Sees mistakes as an opportunity to try something new and to develop further

“What sets successful people apart is their mindset,” says Dr. Carol Dweck. “With a Fixed Mindset, a person takes feedback on their performance personally.” A Fixed Mindset is also called “static self-image” or “static thinking.”

According to Johannes Willms, people with a Fixed Mindset experience the following:

  • A belief that success depends on talent
  • Will learn new skills in order to get positive feedback (ie. a good grade, a bonus, a chance for promotion or praise)
  • Sees errors as a threat or devaluation of themselves

How does a Growth Mindset help in sports?

In sports, the goal is always to improve. Of course, it’s also about having fun while exercising, but that comes with increased abilities, and this only comes with learning and self-development.

The Mindset concept is therefore extremely important in sports and is the very foundation of learning. “We often think our role models or sports heroes, such as Michael Jordan or Cristiano Ronaldo, simply have a lot of talent and were born with outstanding abilities. But in reality, they train much more than others. They also have an irrepressible drive to develop themselves further,” explains Johannes Willms.

A Growth Mindset does not mean total self-optimization. “If you use all measurable information to constantly improve yourself, you quickly get into a hamster wheel of higher, faster and further, and it can be difficult to get out again. It’s best to set the bar from the inside.” This is exactly what Johannes recommends. In his opinion, you can only improve if you truly listen to yourself.

“For example, when you train your maximum strength, you should listen to your muscles and sense whether this movement feels right. It’s important to finely tune this inner awareness.”

Why is a Growth Mindset important right now?

It’s especially important to maintain a healthy mindset during this second lockdown because we need to reflect on both the inside and the outside. “Physical balance is particularly important,” says Johannes. “From my own experience I know that it’s more motivating and more fun to improve. When you notice improvement, confidence increases.”

Carol Dweck says that most people have both a Fixed and a Growth mindset. However the Growth aspect develops through experience and depends on your focus – i.e. personal life, work or fitness. But the good news is, you can train growth thinking!

Johannes Willms explains how this works in sports:

1. Try out new things and take on challenges

Dare to leave your comfort zone! Have you always wanted to try pole dancing, but are worried you won’t be good enough? Fitness is for everyone, you just have to take the first step and don’t give excuses a chance.

2. Define what success means to you

Being successful in sports does not necessarily mean running a marathon, doing a handstand or lifting 100 kilos – the important thing is you give it your all and try to constantly and steadily improve.

3. No excuses

People with a Growth Mindset learn from their mistakes. Don’t make excuses – simply accept your result, analyse what went wrong and make plans to improve next time. Learn from your setbacks and think about whether you can adapt your training routine or adjust your goals. And most importantly: don’t give up!

People with a Growth Mindset believe that skills can be developed through hard work. They accept challenges and feedback and are free of judgment towards themselves and others. Their good attitude brings great opportunities. 

Find out for yourself! With the right attitude, you’ll grow in every area of your life and reach your goals and master new skills!


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