Getting In The Zone: Embracing The Right Mindset


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Doc Ali’s Tight Mind Monday 4-17-17: The Right Mindset

Sometimes it’s not the actual event that impacts the way we think and feel about ourselves, it’s the story or mindset we take to that event that effects us on a deep level. That directly effects performance. Lately, there has been a lot of buzz about mindset – specifically, whether an athlete has a Fixed Mindset or a Growth Mindset. A Fixed Mindset is seeing qualities and situations as permanent and unchangeable. A Growth Mindset is viewing qualities as malleable – with effort, determination, and motivation we can change a situation in our lives. Studies have shown that people with a Growth Mindset tend to be happier, more positive, and more motivated in their sport.

With this in mind, let’s look at the difference between Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset as it pertains to three situations in the gym.

Raw Talent vs. Effort

A gymnast with a Fixed Mindset will view people’s accomplishments as based on raw talent. They may say things to themselves like, “I’ll never be as good as they are”, or “I just don’t have what it takes to do that skill”.  A Growth Mindset will consider talent, but also look at the impact of effort.  Their self-talk might be more along the lines of, “If I work hard, I know i can get this.” or “I can over-come this bad habit through lots of repetitions and drills.”

View of Others' Success

When an athlete has a Fixed Mindset, the success of others feels threatening. They are jealous when a teammate learns a new skill or qualifies to a big competition. On the other hand, an athlete with a Growth Mindset views others' success as their success. They use the accomplishments of their teammates as motivation to make them push harder and be better. They might say to themselves, “I’m so proud of her for making Nationals, now I know what it takes for me to get there too.”

Reaction to Adversity

To a Fixed Mindset athlete, any adversity is a catastrophe. Obstacles begin a loose mind avalanche leading to negative thoughts such as, “This is too hard, I should just quit.”  or “I give up”. A Growth Mindset athlete sees all adversity as opportunity and rises up to the challenge. Their thought process might be similar to “This will make me stronger. Keep pushing through.”

I recently watched a video of a color blind man putting on glasses that helped him see the colors of the world for the first time. When you have a Fixed Mindset everything you see is black and white, good or horrible. You can’t see all the options that are available to you. A Growth Mindset opens your mind to the endless options that effort and hard work make available to you. This week, put on your Growth Mindset glasses and watch all the possibilities emerge in your gymnastics and life.   

Alison Arnold Ph.D. has been a mental toughness consultant to USA Gymnastics since 1997. If you have questions or want more information about her work go to