G is for Growth

        G is for Growth.  More specifically, G is for Growth Mindset.  The concept of a Growth Mindset is something I have stumbled across within the last year or so.  Tami Lenker, the Learning and Technology Coach at the high school where I teach, told me about a book I needed to read called Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck.  Tami is one of the greatest people I have had the pleasure of working with in education so I immediately got the book and started reading.  The basic premise of Dr. Dweck's research is that there are two types of mindsets people have: Fixed and Growth.  Fixed mindsets see human qualities as static.  You are the way you are.  Growth mindsets see qualities as things that can change over time.  Most of us are some sort of combination of the two.  We see some traits as fixed and others as developmental.  Throughout the book Dr. Dweck gives examples of applications of mindset in different areas of life from education, to relationships, to business, and sports.  It can get a bit redundant at times, but the expansive number of studies and applications help create the theory.  I skipped over the business section because I know I will just suck at business no matter what (bad fixed mindset joke)!

        One of the major areas of interest in sports is the view of talent.  Those with a growth mindset see talent as something that can change over time with hard work and repetition.  "Great hitters aren't born.  They are made."  Fixed mindsets tend to see talent as static.  No matter what you do, either you have it or you don't.  "Some people can just hit."  Attribution of success and failure has a lot to do with mindset as well.  With a fixed mindset, failure is seen as a reflection of deficiencies as an athlete and sometimes even as a person.  "Why did we lose?  Because we suck." With a growth mindset, failure is an opportunity to get better.  "We will work on this, and we will do better next time."  With a growth mindset, success is a product of hard work, effort, and execution.  It's repeatable.  A fixed mindset's view of success is that success is a product of just being good at something.  To me, this is a slap in the face of the players and how hard they work to be good.  They take part in countless drills, hours of sweat in the weight room, in the classroom, etc. so they have the best chance of being successful.  To then attribute success to "just being good" completely nullifies the value of all of the work that led up to a performance.  That's without even mentioning the question of the purpose of coaches and educators if athletes are just good and students are just smart.

        So what are a couple of simple ways you can take this concept of Growth Mindset and make it useful moving forward?  If you are coach, praise effort.  Praise SPECIFIC effort.  Stress the importance of work, and celebrate the successes of improvements.  Most of the coaches reading this are working with players at the high school and/or college level.  What a dynamic time to be working with athletes!  If you are a player, understand that an individual performance is not a valuation of your ability.  It is simply a performance.  If you do well, be proud of the preparation that led to the performance.  If you do poorly, understand there are ways to go about improving...or growing.

        Like with feedback, there is really so much more that could be written about growth mindset.  It's becoming more and more popular in the sport psyc world and with great reason.  I have heard Josh Lifrak, the Director of Mental Skills with the Chicago Cubs, refer to growth mindset multiple times.  At the AASP Conference in October,  IMG Academy's Mental Conditioning Coaches gave an outstanding presentation on working with parents.  They are "all in" with growth mindset.  I think the concept will only continue to expand in popularity in the future, and I hope it helps you along the way.

The G is for Growth Song of the Day: Rather than a song for today, here is a 4 minute video I show my students about Growth Mindset.  It does a really good job of simplifying the concept with the comparison to the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare,


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