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Adopt a Growth Mindset to Live Well and Perform Better

First, a thank you to KS from our Animal Flow class this morning.  After successfully completing a more intermediate level flow class today; “I really enjoyed this flow.  I struggled with the last one and was wondering if Animal Flow was just too difficult for me or I wasn’t suited to it, but having come this week, I’m glad I didn’t quit”. 

This immediately shifted my attention to the Growth Mindset.

What is Animal Flow?

In a world (and work performance management systems) that often prioritizes quick wins and praises talent/outcomes (often at the expense of learning), the concept of a growth mindset stands out as a transformative approach to personal and professional development.

Coined by psychologist Carol Dweck (Stanford), the growth mindset is the idea that our abilities, including intelligence and physical capacities, are not fixed. Instead, they can (and do) grow and improve through effort and persistence. This idea is backed by a myriad of peer reviewed studies in neuroplasticity, which demonstrate that our brains are capable of changing and adapting throughout our lives. The brain, of course, is essential to movement via the central nervous system!

Fixed Intelligence vs. Growth Mindset

The traditional view that intelligence/physical literacy is static can be limiting. People who believe that their abilities are fixed are less likely to engage in new or challenging tasks for fear of failing to live up to their own or others' expectations. This fixed mindset can severely limit growth and achievement.

Conversely, a Growth Mindset revolves around the belief that our abilities and intelligence can be developed through a modicum of dedication and hard work. This perspective doesn’t ignore talent but sees it as a starting point for development rather than a fixed endpoint. Individuals with a growth mindset embrace challenges, persevere through obstacles, learn from constructive criticism, and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. With this mindset, every situation is an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve, making the journey of personal and professional development a lifelong adventure of continuous discovery.  Oh, its also fun and intrinsically human as we are built to learn, move and adapt!

The Risks of Performance-Based Praise

Praising someone as inherently intelligent, athletic or talented ("You're so smart!"), may initially boost confidence, but it also limits long-term development. Interestingly, these individuals generally choose fewer challenging activities (or keep doing the same things) that assure continued praise and avoid situations where they might not immediately excel. This avoidance behavior can stunt their development and lead them to shy away from opportunities to try something new where they could learn and grow.

The Benefits of Emphasizing Effort

On the other hand, those who are acknowledged for their effort ("You worked really hard on this!", “I like how you persevered even though you found that tough!”) tend to seek out more challenging tasks going forward. They view these challenges as opportunities to grow and are more inclined to put in the time and effort necessary to master new skills. This approach not only builds skill but also character, fostering individuals who are resilient, persistent, and adaptable.

Consistent Practice Fosters Improvement – Period!

The simple truth is that persistence, consistent practice, and a willingness to try new or challenging things lead to higher performance. Whether in cognitive tasks or physical activities, those who engage regularly with challenges tend to outperform those who stick to their comfort zones.

Embrace the Effort Process

If you want to live well and perform better, shift your focus from being "the best" in your lane to improving through consistent and deliberate effort on new or more challenging tasks. Celebrate small progressions, understand the value of putting in the work, and allow yourself the space to grow. Encourage others to do the same by praising their effort, not just their outcomes. The path to true excellence, both mentally and physically, is through a commitment to continuous improvement.  To use a simple fitness cliché - you have to put in the reps!.

Call to Action

Are you ready to embrace a growth mindset and see where your effort can take you? Start by setting a small, challenging goal this week, perhaps trying something new that you believe might present a challenge. Heck, come engage in an Animal Flow, Handstand or Calisthenics class which, as brain and body (movement, strength and skill) development-based activities will compel you to adopt a growth mindset!  Let's cultivate a community that thrives on challenges and sees potential in every effort!

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