Many people view exercise as a great way to reduce stress, build confidence, increase stamina and mental toughness, and explore new physical challenges; however, there are also others who hold negative views of exercise for similar reasons. The fear of failing while trying something new, lack of self-confidence and perceived physical limitations can each add stress to the notion of being physically active, thereby stopping many people before they start. But…a change in mindset can help to overcome each of these potential obstacles, and play an integral role in maintaining a healthy active life in the long-term!
Several researchers have established a relationship between our attitude and feelings towards exercise and our physical activity habits. In general, a positive attitude typically equates to being more physically activity. For example, the work of Carol Dweck, a prominent professor of psychology, has shown that having a growth mindset (in contrast to a fixed mindset) may help to alleviate many of the psychological barriers that prevent us from being physically active.
In general, individuals with a growth mindset:
- Believe that skills can be improved
- Focus on the process of learning.
- View effort as useful and can lead to growth and development
- Embrace challenges and frame them as opportunities
- Consider mistakes as a vehicle to learn
- Encourage constructive feedback
In general, individuals with a fixed mindset:
- Believe that skills are born and can only be marginally improved with practice
- Focus on performance outcomes and try to avoid looking bad
- View as unnecessary for growth and development
- Consider challenges as threats
- Become frustrated by making mistakes
- Take constructive feedback personally (they get defensive).
Strategies to build a growth mindset include:
- Acknowledge and embrace imperfections. Hiding from weakness means you will never overcome them. Identify opportunities for growth (e.g. learn to dance, weightlift, throw a baseball, etc.).
- Replace the word “failing” with the word “learning”. When you make a mistake or fall short of a goal, you have learned. Learn from every opportunity, we all start somewhere. Those who succeed have “learned” many lessons along the way.
- Value the process over the end result. Enjoy the process and don’t’ worry if it takes longer than expected to achieve your ultimate goal. The effort made will contribute to growth and improvement.
- Celebrate growth with others. If you appreciate growth, you will want to share progress with others. Share your wins (and losses) with others so that everyone can learn from the experience.
- View criticism as positive. Believe in the concept of learning through constructive feedback. Feedback is critical to the process of learning and should not be taken personally – it is our path to be even better!
- Provide regular opportunities for reflection. Reflect on your own learning at least once a day. Taking the time to identify the things that have (not) worked well and why they have (not) worked will outline a path for improvement.
- Cultivate grit. Determined people are more likely to seek approval from themselves. Don’t give up the first time you are challenged, a little perseverance will go a long way.
- Learn from other people’s mistakes. Don’t compare yourself to others, but realize that we all make mistakes. The “failures” of others can also be excellent opportunities for us to learn.
- Take risks in the company of others. Allow yourself to mess up, it will make it easier to take risks in the future. In the company of friends, the risk will appear less scary (e.g. dance like nobody is watching!).
- Take ownership over your attitude. Develop a growth mindset, own it, and let it guide your actions. We can all improve our health, wellness and performance if we believe it’s possible.
Check out the Mindest Questionnaire at http://performanceredefined.ca/posters/ to see how growth minded you are!