Growth Mindset: A Key Factor for Success

Since the lockdown, I’ve been doing a lot more jogging; I can’t get into the gym and onto the elliptical. I’ve got a route mapped out that is 5.2km. When I started running this circuit in March, I was walking as much as I was running. I timed myself early on and came in at 45 minutes. I’ve never been one to get too worried about time. When I used to run a lot, I went for distance as my challenge. I don’t have the time for long runs, so I decided to challenge myself on how fast I could complete the circuit.

Little by little, I upped the running to walking ratio: two minutes running/one minute walking, three minutes running/one minute walking and so on. A few weeks ago, I got to the point of mainly running with a few slow jogs on the tough hills. My best time was 35:05. I hadn’t jogged in about a week until yesterday. Instead, I’d done a lot of walking, a bit of sprint work and one walk-and-jog. I could feel it yesterday. You just know everything is in synch physically and you can push yourself. I decided I was going to run the whole route. I ended up having one slow jog, for about ten seconds, up a steep hill. My time: 30:30. I had completely smashed my previous best by over four minutes.

Why do I bring this up? It’s a good way to segue into the Growth Mindset. This is a simple outlook that was made famous by Carol Dweck. In essence, we all have the capacity to improve in everything we do. It is simply a matter of putting in the time and effort. Now there are some advocates who take the Growth Mindset to ridiculous places. One colleague of mine tried to argue that anyone could run as fast as Usain Bolt if he tried hard enough. Now this is utter nonsense. We all come into this world with our genes in place and certain physical and mental attributes. No matter how hard I work at basketball, I would never be anywhere near as good as Michael Jordan. It simply isn’t possible. Regardless, Dweck’s thesis is correct. If I worked at it, I could improve enormously at basketball. I have been working at running and have improved a great deal. That’s because I have an open mindset in this area. I believe I can get better at this skill if I work at it. I have.

What’s the opposite of a Growth Mindset? The closed mindset is when someone believes that she cannot improve in an endeavour and therefore doesn’t try to. The mindset follows the belief that we are all born with certain attributes that are fixed. Therefore, trying to work at certain things where we do not have “natural ability” is a waste of time. I’m not good at mathematics or spelling so I won’t try. I think this is wrong at its foundation. We can all improve in everything we do. However, there is a kernel of truth in there that is worth exploring. Time is finite. From the moment we’re born, we’re running out of time. We don’t have the time to devote to ever thing we do in order to improve. I like playing golf, and at one time I had my handicap down to eleven. Now I’m around an eighteen handicap. If I worked really hard, I’m sure I could get that handicap down. However, I don’t want to put the time in there. I’ve got better things to do.

What is one of the better things I’ve got to do? Health and fitness and fighting my diabetes. That’s an area where I want to put in time and apply the Growth Mindset. I know that I can keep getting better here. I know I can keep pushing the needle. Keep working hard and improving. Writing this blog is a part of that Growth Mindset. By the way, I woke up with my blood glucose at 6.4mmol/L this morning. Here is some more gradual improvement.

Conclusion

The Growth Mindset is real. People tend to be a mix of both. Some areas they think they can improve and some they think they can’t. This is not true. We can improve in all areas of our lives. The big question is, where are you going to put your time? God, family, work, relationships, health, golf game, pick-up basketball, education, gambling, lying?

I recommend reading Dweck’s book. It opened my eyes, made me reflect on myself and has helped focus my efforts to the areas that really matter in my life.

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