Developing a Growth Mindset with Coach Suzanne

Developing a Growth Mindset

Hello everybody.  I’m Coach Suzanne and today I want to talk to about developing a growth mindset.  If you’re not familiar with what a growth mindset is, I like to think about it as your belief in yourself and in your ability to change, to grow, or to learn new things.  Obviously this is really important in sport and you might be thinking, “This is obvious.  Of course I have a growth mindset, otherwise I wouldn’t be going to practice all the time and working so hard,” but you may also be in a fixed mindset.

Fixed Mindset

A fixed mindset is essentially where you think you can’t change.  You may think to yourself, “My talent is what it is.  My ability is what it is and it’s not going to grow right now.”  I’ll give you some examples of that.  I’ve heard athletes tell me, “You know, I’m just not that flexible,” or, “I’ve never been the fastest on my team.  I’ve never been very good at this event,” and those are examples of a fixed mindset where you’re putting limits on your own capabilities and putting limits on yourself.

We want to change that.  We want to have a growth mindset where we believe in ourselves and we believe that with hard work and with effort, we can grow and we can change and we can get better.

Shifting from Fixed to Growth

Are you feeling stuck in that fixed mindset?  Well, you’re in luck!  I have some tips for you.

1. Identify Areas of Growth

The first thing that I would want you to do is to identify areas that where you need to grow?  What are some things that you want to learn?  This can be a specific skill, it might be at an event or it might be a psychological construct like motivation, or you want to grow in confidence.  Take some time, do some reflection, and figure out what the areas are that you want to grow in.

2. Honor the Mistakes

The next thing you need to realize is that mistakes happen.  It doesn’t matter what sport you’re in or what level you’re at, you’re going to make mistakes.  Now, you can look at those mistakes and say, “I failed.  I messed up,” or you can look at it and say, “This is an opportunity for me to learn.  This is an opportunity for me to grow.”  If you’re in that second one, then you have that growth mindset.  You’re not going to take every challenge and every mistake as “I’m a failure”.

3. “I can’t… yet!”

If you’re saying I can’t, remember to add on “yet”.  For example: instead of saying, “I can’t do that skill,” say, “I can’t do that yet,” or “I’m not ready to go to the high beam with this particular skill or routine yet, but maybe I will be next week or next month.”  Adding that yet or that not yet gives you that reassurance.  That tells your brain that, “Okay, but that doesn’t mean never.  It doesn’t mean I’m never going to do this skill on the high beam or I’m never going to compete with this routine or on this event.”  You’re just not ready right in this moment, and that’s okay.

4. Reflection

Take time to ask yourself, “What went well today?  What didn’t go well today?  What did I learn from the stuff that didn’t go well?”  Instead of just saying, “Oh, that was bad,” you can shift that to, “I didn’t do my best, but now I know what I can do differently.  Now I know what I need to work on, right?”  Mistakes happen.  They’re a part of our sport.

5. New Strategies

If you’ve been doing the same thing over and over again, and you’re getting the same results over and over again, it’s time to try something new.  If you are the kind of person who, before you do your tumbling, you say to yourself, “One, two, three, go!”  And sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but you just do it anyways.  Instead, maybe your coach says, “Just go when I say go,” or maybe your teammates say, “Go!”  If what you’re doing isn’t working for you, then you have to try something different, right?

If you’re always anxious before a game or before a competition, you probably need to change something in your pre-performance routine.  When you just do the same thing over and over again, you’re going to get the same result over and over again.  If you’re one of those people who feels like maybe you’re stuck in that same thing, talk to your coach.  Talk to your parents and say, “Hey, you know, this isn’t working for me.  I need to try something different.”  Have that conversation and they can probably help you come up with something else.

6. Ask for Feedback

Speaking of talking to your coaches, make sure you’re always asking for feedback.  Now, you might be getting feedback all the time, so it’s not only asking for it, but being receptive of it and making sure you’re willing to take that on.  Sometimes we get feedback and goes in one ear comes out the other.  You have to be able to say, “I’m going to take this piece of feedback or criticism and try to implement something with that.  I’m going to focus on that and try to change it.”

When it comes to criticism, whether the person giving the feedback is meaning to be constructive or if they’re meaning to tear us down, we can take it as constructive or we can take it as something that is just their opinion.  You can chose to think, “Maybe it’s feedback that’s not necessarily helpful to me.  That’s okay.  I’m just going to ignore it and focus on this feedback.  That was helpful.”  So be willing to take that feedback and sort out what is going to be constructive and beneficial to you.

7. Setting Goals

You might have your weekly or daily goals.  I’m a big fan of the daily goals, but every time you meet that goal, then you have to replace it with a new goal.  If you’re in a fixed mindset, you might have a goal, you might reach it and then you say, “Oh, I did it.  I’m done.  I got to where I want it to be.  That’s as far as I’m going.”  If you have a growth mindset, you’re going to say, “I’m here.  What’s the next step?  How do I get here?  How do I keep on pushing myself and keep on challenging myself so that I can get even better?”

You have to continue to set your goals and hold yourself accountable and responsible for those goals.  That means taking the time to reflect and ask, “Where am I at with those goals?”  Maybe you met with your coach a couple of weeks ago and set some goals, but have you really been working on them?  What progress have you made?  Have you made any progress?  Have you gone backwards in terms of trying to meet that goal?

No matter what the answer is, taking the time to reflect and then ask yourself why did you not meet that goal.  If your goal was to increase your beam score, how are you going to get there? T hat’s where you need those small goals.  Maybe you say, “If I have a backhand spring in my beam routine, I’m going to do that backhand spring 10 times today at practice with my toes pointed or with my legs straight,” or whatever that correction is that your coach has always given you.  You know the ones, right?  The correction they’re telling you over and over again, make that your daily goal.  Then, at the end of the day, at the end of the practice ask yourself, “Did I meet that goal?”  If so, yes, check it off.  If not, why?  Why are you not meeting that goal?

8. Accountability

The other thing you can do to keep yourself accountable is have some kind of accountability partner.  This could be a teammate, parent, your coach, or a friend.  Tell them your goals.  You can say, “Hey, this is what I’m working towards.  Maybe once a week you could ask me about it.”  By doing this, they know what you’re working towards and they know how to support you and how to keep you accountable.  They can say, “Hey, you said that you wanted to get more flexible.  Did you stretch today?  If not, maybe it’s time to go do that.”

Having those goals, having the accountability, and really reflecting on your progress towards those goals, that’s another great way to develop this growth mindset.

9. Patience

Last but not least – you have to be patient with yourself.  You have to be kind to yourself.  This is not going to happen overnight if you’ve been in that fixed mindset.  Take the time, do the reflection, and don’t be so hard on yourself.  I know, I know.  Easy to say, much harder to do.  I know a lot of perfectionist athletes.  They want to be perfect, so bad.  But remember going back to the beginning where I said everyone makes mistakes?  Being okay with, “This was a mistake I made.  I’m going to take that and make it into an opportunity to grow, to learn, to better my performance.”  Be kind to yourself, be patient with yourself, and try not to beat yourself up when you do make those mistakes.

All right everyone.  Those are my tips for developing that growth mindset.  This is such an important part of sport for athletes.  In order to reach that potential and to really perform at your best, you have to believe in yourself and believe in your ability to grow and to change.  That’s all I have for tonight.  I hope you are doing well and I’ll see you soon.  Bye.

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