As a high school teacher, (often fueled by the demands of students, tight reporting deadlines, helicopter parents, or even simply by a strong coffee and the thought of the weekend) the largest obstacles I tend to encounter are not physical, but abstract obstacles that hinder both my own and my students’ learning.
These obstacles usually are referred to as mindset. Our mindset is sometimes our own greatest obstacle in learning. Our mindset is that running narrative in our head that tells us when to push harder or slow down, to press on or give up; that is often our greatest motivator and, at times, our greatest Un-motivator.
One theory in Educational Psychology suggests that there are two mindsets that we tend to dwell in: The Fixed Mindset and The Growth Mindset. One thing to bear in mind, these mindsets are not mutually exclusive, they ebb and flow, we can be developing some Growth Mindset Habits whilst still clinging to Fixed Mindset habits at the same time.
I will outline these below and then discuss the more crucial component; how these two mindsets can impact on our experience of winning and losing.
The Fixed Mindset
The Fixed Mindset is not our friend. It’s the antagonist, if you will. The Fixed mindset can set us up for some serious failure throughout our lives, let alone within sports or martial arts.
When a person has a Fixed Mindset, they believe intelligence to be static. That leads a person to a desire to look smart (as they may not believe themselves to actually be smart), this leads to tendencies towards the following behaviors:
- Avoiding challenges
- Giving up easily in the face of obstacles
- See physical effort as futile or a waste of time
- Ignore useful or constructive feedback or are offended in the face of criticism
- Feel threatened by the success of others
A person can dwell in a Fixed Mindset for a number of reasons, many are psychological and come from a place of insecurity or a desire to preserve reputation or a wrongly perceived self identity.
The consequences for a person who dwells in a Fixed Mindset are not good: They achieve less, fail to reach their full potential, often adopt unhealthy habits and make decisions that cause them to reinforce their Fixed Mindset further. Think Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
The Growth Mindset
The Fixed Mindset is the protagonist in our tale. The Growth Mindset; when developed, can form the foundations for strong mental resilience, accelerate learning and essentially help you to become a more well rounded athlete, martial artist and person.
When a person has a Growth Mindset, they acknowledge that intelligence can be developed. This leads to a person being more open to learning (because they understand they don’t know everything) and leads to tendencies towards the following behaviors:
- Embracing challenges rather than avoiding them
- Persisting in the face of setbacks rather than giving up easily
- Seeing physical effort as the path to mastery rather than a waste of time
- Learning from criticism rather than getting butt hurt or salty
- Find lessons and inspiration in others’ success rather than feeling threatened by it
A Growth Mindset takes time to develop, not everyone naturally displays these traits and we have to practice thinking in this way if we are to create healthy Growth Mindset Habits.
The consequences for developing a Growth Mindset? Attaining higher levels of success in your art, higher levels of work satisfaction, healthy relationships with friends and family, the list goes on.
Now that we understand Growth and Fixed Mindset a little better, it becomes pretty clear which mindset we will need to develop if we are to learn from our wins and losses. Win or lose, with a Growth Mindset we will never fail to take lessons away from our performance. We will be able to look objectively at ourselves, without excuses and learn from our errors, or indeed our successes.
These understandings of our Mindset resounded heavily with me when I read about them for the first time as a teacher in training. It took me a while to understand that this is not only true for teaching as a profession, but for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu too.
Personally, I have developed more as a human being, teacher and martial artist in simply understanding this than any other piece of formal learning has ever taught me.