“The only thing that is constant is change.” – Heraclitus

Motion is constant.  Change is inevitable.  And you, your body, your mind, are no exception.  You are constantly getting better, or worse, every day.

You are a rough draft.

There will be moments where you present this draft to the world, like a competition or a wedding, but the next day you are back to work.  Move forward or slide back.

Let’s talk about this in terms of your body.  Every 30 days or so you have new skin, every 6 or 7 years you have a brand new skeleton.  How your hair, your skeleton etc refurbish is determined by your habits.

Wherever you are you can get better (or worse).  Good nutrition gives your body the building blocks to create better hair, skin, nails, skeleton.  Exercise will give you stronger muscles and an improved circulatory system.

And all these good habits sharpen your brain, your focus, your critical thinking.

Sounds simple, right?  Just take good care of yourself and become a champion.  Who wouldn’t want to live a life of non stop improvement?

Very few people it turns out.

We all know what it takes to improve just about any aspect of our lives… someone out there has done it.  They have showed the way to lose weight, run faster, make more money.  All we have to do is follow their lead and fail at it.

and fail.

and fail some more.

Most people give up at the first fail.  They move on.

And others continue to fail.

They fail so much that they finally ‘GET IT’.

And then they succeed.

Those who have committed to failure, without letting it affect their self image, have gone on to incredible things.

What is the difference between the two?

The key is their Mindset.

Are you in a fixed mindset?

Or a growth mindset?

So what is a fixed mindset?  It’s the view that your talent and ability are fixed – unchangeable. A mistake means that these attributes, and by extension you, are flawed. A fixed mindset Person goes through life avoiding failure, avoiding challenge. Errors are hidden or blamed on others and thus there is no learning experience.

A growth mindset Person sees themselves as a work in progress. They believe they are continually enhancing their intelligence, abilities and competence through effort and practice. They view challenges as learning opportunities. Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. Therefore people with a growth mindset actively seek challenges even at the risk of appearing less than perfect.

That’s the central question in Carol S Dweck’s book (Mindset: the new psychology of success).  She manages to pull 320 pages from this simple question.  She cites Athletes, Businesses, Teachers, students and Leaders with each mindset.

Spoiler alert– things never work out well for those with a fixed mindset.

She illustrates the mindsets like this: Children are given an easy test or puzzle.  Some are praised for how brilliant they are in completing the task.  They are made to feel special, elite, brilliant.

Others are praised not for their smarts but for their willingness to learn, their tenacity and problem solving.

The two groups are then given a harder puzzle.  When this puzzle stops the ‘brilliant’ kids they check out.  This puzzle doesn’t validate who they think they are supposed to be, so they quit.

The ‘Problem solvers’ double down and enjoy the ritual of solving the puzzle.

So which are you?

If you’re like me then it depends on the day and what you’re doing at the time.  Certain things I willingly accept I’m no good at.  I’m willing to be bad.  I have no ego invested in my performance and I will do what it takes to learn.

But there are certain areas where I’m emotionally attached to my performance, and other’s perception of the performance.  If I’m not seen as good, if I’m not the best then my identity suffers and I get down on myself.

I accepted that I wasn’t very good at Yoga when I studied/trained to become a teacher.  I made mistakes, enjoyed the process, learned, doubled down when poses and concepts became difficult.  If I can’t do a pose I approach it without ego.  I think I’ve become a decent yoga practitioner and teacher fairly quickly.

Now don’t let me sit here and tell you that I’m in this perfect blissful growth mindset all the time, Cause I’m not.  Certain things I am very FIXED about.  And I know it hurts me.

In several areas I am fixed.  Failure sends me into a critical mindset:

  • I’m too slow
  • I’m stupid
  • I’ve failed enough at … it’s time to move on
  • I’ll never find a mentor
  • I’m not cut out for …
  • I’ll never be good at …
  • I gave it my best and it just didn’t work out

and on and on and on.

Reading the book I came to a realization: the areas I most want to be good at are the same areas I am hardest on myself.  If my efforts aren’t validated by success then I am crippled by self doubt and frustration.  This has hurt my writing, running, photography, business, relationships etc.

It is so hard to let go of seeing myself as ‘good’ at certain things.  The failure becomes personal.  It hurts.

If i’m not good then I’m bad.  if I’m bad then my value as a person diminishes.  Cue the pity party.

via GIPHY

I know some of you are shaking your heads in agreement.  I can’t be the only one.

How do we disrupt this pattern?  The book suggests taking a growth mindset and things will change.

Be willing to suck.

Be willing to finish last.

Be willing to lose money.

Be willing to have your feelings hurt.

Don’t just fail for failures sake.  Fail with purpose.

KNOW, absolutely KNOW where you are headed.  What are you failing for?

And then accept that you’re just a rough draft… you can always change things later.

One thought on “I’m a Rough Draft: ‘Mindset’ and how your outlook determines success

  1. Hi, Stephen!

    Athlete or not, I agree that a growth mindset is very important. The moment that we stop believing that we are capable of our mistakes is when we quit improving. Even the greatest of players have weaknesses to work on!

    You said it perfectly: fail with purpose. More than embracing our mistakes, we should be raring to correct them.

    Mind conditioning is as important as physical preparation!

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