I’m not a fan of sports in the traditional sense of the word. And by that, I mean the sense that involves people getting into teams and throwing or kicking balls back and forth.
Despite being married to arguably the world’s biggest sports fan, I can’t force myself to get into fandom.
I’ve walked out of multiple professional sporting events without the faintest idea who won. I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s tough for me even to care who wins.
There are times when I wish I could care about scores and teams for my husband’s sake. But at the end of the day, it’s tough for me to emotionally engage in something that has no direct impact on my daily life. Win or lose; my life goes on, so why waste the time or energy?
Despite a complete lack of interest in the mechanics of sports, there are concepts related to sports that deeply fascinate me. Such concepts include leadership, teamwork, and Michael Jordan.
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Champions: Born or Made?
I know what you’re thinking. Michael Jordan is not really a concept. He’s more of an iconic player the likes of which neither basketball nor the world is likely ever to see again.
And this is precisely what intrigues me!
How do the best in the world get to be the best? I’m not talking about people who are kinda good.
I’m talking about the type of skill that even someone 100% sports illiterate can recognize.
Is it luck? Are some people just born champions, automatically destined for greatness?
Honestly, I hope not because what kind of message does that send to those of us not blessed with immediately apparent superpowers? Are we all just doomed to a life of mediocrity even despite our best efforts?
Or are champions made? Do hours upon hours of hard work and sacrifice slowly mold someone into an icon?
The Myth of Natural Talent
I have to admit that I’ve always secretly hoped for the latter. I mean, who hasn’t rooted for the one with all the odds stacked against them?
And isn’t watching the underdog surmount seemingly impossible obstacles more thrilling than watching the character “born to play the game” anyway?
Despite my love for the underdog, there’s always been part of me who buys into “natural talent.” It’s the same part of me who has always believed smart people don’t have to work hard.
Or that if you’re meant to do something, it should come easily to you. You shouldn’t have to work hard at anything for which you are “destined.”
At first glance, being born with a gift for doing something seems completely legitimate. It’s an easy explanation for why some people stand as legends in their field. They are simply “born this way.”
But a closer look reveals a completely different story. It’s a story of passion, dedication, and perseverance under the most challenging circumstances. Turn on a documentary about any legendary sports figure, and you’ll see hours upon hours of (gasp!) hard work and sacrifice.
Not a single one of these legends chalks their success up to the luck of the draw. I would venture to guess that many would be insulted at the mere thought that someone would consider them a natural because it dismisses all the effort they’ve put in along the way.
Although I’m far from uncovering all the secrets to becoming a champion, I am pleased to say that I’ve found a few answers. And I’m more convinced than ever before that champions are not born. They’re made.
I know it sounds like a bold statement, but evidence supporting the truth of improvement through effort is all around. As previously mentioned, try to find one sports documentary that doesn’t touch on effort. And there are also entire books dedicated to the topic.
There is even a book dedicated to making meaningful improvements through the art of practice. And spoiler alert, there will be a blog post coming soon about this topic!
But this particular post is about mindset. Specifically, growth mindset.
So if I haven’t yet mentioned this, let me take this opportunity to encourage you to read Mindset. Written by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, it’s a powerful testimony to the impact mindset has on our lives. The book also specifically breaks down mindset techniques applicable to work, parenting, relationships, and teaching.
I promise that it will change how you think about thinking. It will also challenge how you interact with friends, colleagues, your spouse, and even your kids.
The book is a complete game-changer! And to demonstrate what I’m talking about, let’s get into what it means to have a growth mindset.
The Secret’s in the Mindset
“In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.”Carol Dweck
“Mindset” is a word thrown around all the time, but a mindset is simply a way of thinking. It’s how we sort out the world around us. And in her book called Mindset, Carol Dweck explores two specific types: the fixed and the growth mindset.
In the most basic sense, the difference between the two lies in the states of either becoming or being. The fixed mindset often revolves around continually needing to prove oneself to those around them. It also involves having very “fixed” viewpoints with little belief that meaningful change is possible. The fixed mindset is, therefore, the state of being.
On the other hand, the growth mindset is about learning. Someone with a growth mindset cares little about what those around them think as long as they gain value from the experience. They are constantly looking for ways to improve and to give goals their absolute best shot. This is the mindset of becoming rather than being.
The growth mindset is crucial to achieving success in life. This is the mindset that sets champions apart from the rest.
It’s important to remember that everyone has characteristics of both mindsets. And one may come out more prominently than the other in certain situations. As with most things in life, awareness is the first step.
Now let’s dig into the secrets of channeling a growth mindset!
1. Growth Mindset Secret: The Power of Yet
My very first secret to channeling a growth mindset uses the subtlety of language. More specifically, the addition of one simple word to goals you’re working on achieving.
And that word is “yet.” Yet is a powerful reminder that your goals are on the horizon of just a little bit more effort. Whether you’re talking to yourself or your kids, including this one small word changes everything.
As an example, let’s consider a goal to lose weight. Consider each of the following statements:
A) I haven’t lost 20 pounds.
B) I haven’t lost 20 pounds yet.
Which of the two sounds more motivating? Statement A implies a vague goal that may or may not be achieved. On the other hand, statement B frames the goal in a way that feels as if those 20 pounds are right around the corner.
Language matters. Especially the language you use to yourself. Pay attention to your thinking and how you come across to yourself deep inside.
Is your inner voice forgiving and encouraging? Or is it harsh and critical?
Life is hard enough without a strict inner critic catastrophizing every move you make.
And if you’re looking for more on adding “yet” to your goals, check out Carol Dweck’s incredibly inspirational TED talk.
2. Growth Mindset Secret: Embrace Challenges
“People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenges, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch.”Carol Dweck
What goes through your mind when an unexpected roadblock to achieving your goal pops up? Does your brain take a turn to negative town? Do you immediately begin worrying about how you’ll make it through? Maybe you even think about giving up on your goal.
I don’t know about you, but this is my brain left unchecked. At the slightest hint of struggle, my brain automatically conjures worst-case scenarios. It’s kind of like my anti-superpower. And by that, I mean it’s the exact opposite of an actual superpower because it’s so wildly unhelpful.
Unhelpful, that is until I learned to embrace it.
We all have obstacles in our path. Some are physical, and some are mental or emotional. And I’ve learned that I’m often the one standing in my way.
I know this to be true because, in any given situation, things have always worked out for my good. It’s been the times that stand out as most challenging when I’ve learned the most about myself.
Challenge means change. It means massive growth on a scale impossible to imagine with the status quo.
Start embracing the challenges that come your way. Don’t give in to fear. And remember that everything is working for your good.
3. Growth Mindset Secret: Focus on Learning
“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”Carol Dweck
If you struggle with perfectionism, imposter syndrome, or both, this next growth mindset secret is for you!
After reading Mindset, it became incredibly apparent to me how fixed my mindset tends to be in certain situations. And I’ve discovered a connection between having a fixed mindset and imposter syndrome.
As an example, I’ve found that when my mindset seems to be most fixed, it also tends to be a situation when I most fear being uncovered as an imposter. They also tend to be situations when my perfectionist side comes out the strongest.
But when I started approaching these situations to learn rather than impress others, imposter syndrome has also magically released its hold.
Unfortunately, I’ve also recognized similar associations in my kids. But emphasizing “learning” rather than “being smart” is starting to transition my mindset and my kids to more of a growth mindset.
Embracing “learning” over “being” also tells that harsh inner critic to take a back seat because failure is expected when you’re learning. My most valuable lessons have come from some of my biggest failures.
Start framing your interactions with a learning mindset, and I’m confident you’ll see perfectionism and your fears of being discovered as an imposter melt away. I guarantee that it’s a more free and peaceful way to live!
If you’re looking for more on freeing yourself from perfectionism, make sure to check out this post.
4. Growth Mindset Secret: Watch for Success in Others
This next growth mindset secret goes back to where we started in the beginning. If you want to get better at something, find the best and learn from them.
Rather than be threatened by success, use it as the path to get where you want to go.
Thanks to the internet and social media, it’s easier than ever to access their secrets.
I’m talking basketball, business, crocheting, and anything in between. The core principle of the growth mindset is a belief that you can improve. You can, through focused effort, make strides in your ability to do anything.
I’m not saying that I’m hoping to emulate Michael’s dunking skills, but I strive to be known as someone who works harder and is more passionate about my goals than anyone in the room.
Figure out your thing and find that person from whom you can learn the secrets of success.
5. Growth Mindset Secret: Recognize Your Mindset
“Mindsets frame the running account that’s taking place in people’s heads. They guide the whole interpretation process. The fixed mindset creates an internal monologue that is focused on judging. People with the growth mindset … are attuned to implications for learning and constructive action.”Carol Dweck
The last growth mindset secret is the most important of all. It’s vital because you must recognize the difference between the two mindsets in yourself; otherwise, improvement is nearly impossible.
In the very last chapter of the book, Dweck describes practical exercises for determining whether you’re in a fixed or growth mindset. She even advises naming your fixed mindset and giving it a persona to make recognition easier.
When I feel vulnerable and “judged,” I’ve found that it means I’m in a fixed rather than growth mindset. When I center myself on keeping the above 4 growth mindset secrets in mind, I find converting back to growth simple.
Take a minute to think about your own life. Are there specific situations that trigger the need to prove yourself to others? How do those situations make you feel? And what would you rather be feeling in those moments?
Recognition goes a long way towards improvement, and I truly hope you have found this post helpful in your journey toward a more peaceful and positive life.
Until next time, make sure you check out Mindset by Carol Dweck and if you’re looking for more positive inspiration, make sure you check out one of the following posts!