Success starts in your head, no matter whether it’s at work, in your personal life, or in health and fitness. If you want to reach your fitness goals, you have to think about more than regular workouts, the right form, and a balanced diet. Your fitness success also has a lot to do with your mindset. And this is precisely where the growth mindset comes into play. The term was coined by Dr. Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Studies show how the right mentality is critical to success (in sports and otherwise). (1, 2, 3) So, what is a growth mindset exactly and how does it help in maintaining fitness motivation?
Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset
Dweck differentiates between a fixed and a growth mindset. Have you ever felt like your body wasn’t built for sports? Maybe you think you’re too thin, too heavy, too small, too weak? Maybe you compare yourself with your peers and think that you’ll never be as fit, fast, or good as they are? This way of thinking is called a fixed mindset.
People with a fixed mindset:
- believe that intelligence and talent are fixed traits that cannot be changed
- consider effort something negative
- avoid challenges
- get discouraged by setbacks
- can’t deal with negative feedback
- see successful athletes as competition
This way of thinking makes it difficult, if not impossible, to get motivated to exercise and reach your fitness goals. One thing that can help in this situation is adopting a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset believe that talents can be developed with hard work. They embrace challenges and welcome feedback so they can learn from it, and they view failure as an opportunity. They don’t see other athletes as the competition; instead, they get inspired by their achievements. No matter how talented these athletes might be, it was hard work that got them where they are. Studies have shown that a growth mindset improves self-efficacy – the confidence in your ability to handle situations – as well as self esteem. It also increases exercising frequency,(4) which, in turn, motivates you to continue working out.
Good to know:
Everyone has a combination of a fixed and a growth mindset, (5) which develops throughout your life. For instance, your mindset can change depending on the field you are in (sports, work, education, etc.). The good news is that there are exercises to build your growth mindset. Keep reading to find out how.
4 Tips: How to Grow Your Growth Mindset
Did a few of the descriptors above sound familiar to you? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. And the best part is that you can build a growth mindset by doing mental exercises and activities. The tips below will help you.
1. Redefine success
It’s all about the journey. It may sound corny, but it’s really true in this case. Being successful in sports doesn’t necessarily mean you have to run a marathon, do a handstand, or pump tons of iron. The important thing is that you do the best you can and always try to improve. Even if your goal is to run a (half or relay) marathon, make sure to celebrate your first 5 km, 10 km, 21 km. You’ve improved, and you should be proud of yourself. Only with that, you can maintain fitness motivation in the long run.
2. Learn from setbacks and defeat
You’ve been training hard, but you still can’t do a full push-up? In your last race your were slower than you expected? Everyone has setbacks. Life would be dull if everything came easy to us. But we can learn a lot from these tough moments. Think about whether you can adjust your workout routine, or if you might have set your goal too high. The most important thing is to never give up!
3. Try new things and accept challenges
Dare to leave your comfort zone – you always wanted to try boxing, but you think you’re too weak? Your friends invite you to go climbing, but you’re afraid you can’t do it? Everyone can find a path to fitness that works for them – you just have to take the first step and quit making excuses.
4. Look for role models and accept feedback
Don’t be intimidated by other people’s success, get inspired! Ask people you admire for training tips and feedback. Check out these tips from pros on how to find the right warm up or even to train for a marathon.