Developing a Growth Mindset


Sam Maniar, Ph.D.

By now, most people have heard the term “growth mindset.” It has become rather popular in schools, businesses and even sports. But what exactly is a growth mindset?

How do you react when you are faced with a challenge or competitive situation? If you try to avoid them, get overly anxious or are devastated by a mistake, you may have what is called a fixed mindset. On the other hand, if you get excited by challenges, enjoy learning new skills and view mistakes as ways to get better, you probably have a growth mindset.

According to psychologist Carol Dweck, those with a fixed mindset believe we are born with our abilities (e.g., math skill, strength, driving ability, free throw shooting, etc.). Therefore, a mistake, setback or loss is seen as a blow to our ability. As a result, they become overly concerned with mistakes and failures. People with a fixed mindset will avoid situations where they may not perform well. In other words, they play it safe.

Those with a growth mindset, though, seek out challenges because they realize they will help them grow and develop. Mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities, and they seek out challenges—even if they know they cannot succeed. As a result, competition isn’t nearly as stressful for them and they are much more likely to reach their full potential.

The good news is that mindsets can be changed, and this is why we spend time at SPIRE Institute & Academy (IA) teaching our athletes how to foster a growth mindset. So what are some of these techniques?

  1. Focus on the process — not on the outcome. When setting goals, steer toward process-oriented goals, such as acquiring knowledge or improving technique. Focus on things over which you have complete control.
  2. Use a cue. For years, I used to write one letter on my kids’ left hand and another on their right. Depending on what they were working on, it could have been “A” for attitude, “E” for Effort, or “L” for Learning. When I needed to remind them during a game, all I needed to do was point to my hand or hold it up in the air. It was like our little secret with each other (until now). You can do something similar
  3. Focus on self-assessment and improvement. At the end of a practice or game, rate your effort (or attitude, commitment, etc.) on a scale of 1-10. What made you choose that number? What did you do well? What could you have done better? What is their plan for the next time?
  4. Make a list of mistakes, learnings, and adjustments. At the end of every practice and game, draw three columns on a piece of paper. In the first column, write out all the mistakes you made. For every mistake, write down what you learned in the second column. And in the third column, write down what adjustment you will make as a result of each learning. If you can get in the habit of doing this, you will eventually start to do it automatically. When this happens, mistakes won’t sting nearly as much because you will start to see them as feedback or as learning opportunities.
  5. Add the word “yet” at the end of negative self-talk. When you catch yourself saying something negative about your abilities, try adding the word “yet” to the end. For example, instead of saying, “I am not good at free throws,” try saying, “I am not good at free throws YET.
  6. Want to learn more? Attend one of SPIRE’s camps and get exposed to our mental training coaches and curriculum!

Dr. Maniar is the Director of Mental Skills Training at SPIRE Institute & Academy and the Founder of the Center for Peak Performance, LLC—a sport psychology and business consulting firm. More information about Dr. Maniar and his work, including his social media handles, can be found on his Linktree.

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