This article is guest blogged by Lee Ness, a UKA qualified Event Group Coach for Sprints and Hurdles, the Head Coach/Sprint Coach at City of Salisbury Athletics, and Running Club and Track and Field Team Manager for Wiltshire Athletics Association.
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Mindset Part 1 – Fixed and Growth Mindset
Jimson set me an assignment to write about how an athlete should deal with a perceived poor performance and how a coach should deal with the same situation. I will do this in three parts. This first part will be a background to Carol Dweck’s Mindset model which I will base the other two articles on.
Carol Dweck Ph.D. is a world-renowned Stanford University psychologist who has written a number of articles and books. It is her study of a group of High School Fifth-Graders as she was studying what makes people successful that led to a breakthrough and resulted in the book Mindset.
In the study, the 400 students were given an easy IQ test. They were randomly selected into two groups, and each group were given simple but specific praise. Group 1 were told “Great score, well done you must be smart.” Group 2 were told “Great score, well done you must have worked hard.”
They were then offered another task but had two options.
1. They could take a harder test with the opportunity to learn and grow.
2. They could take a similar test, which plated to their strengths, and they were certain to do well.
From Group 1 (The “smart” group) 67% chose to take Option 2, an easy task. From Group 2 (workers), 97% chose the harder task.
Later, both groups were given a tough, almost impossible, test. Group 2 worked harder, for longer and enjoyed the test. Group 1 got frustrated and gave up early.
The third test was set at exactly the same difficulty (easy) as the very first one. Group 1 did worse than on their first one and reduced overall performance by 20%. Group 2 did better and improved performance by 30%. This is a 50% performance swing from a single sentence of praise! You can quickly see why this discovery led Dweck down the road of researching this model further. The model she settled on was that people have one of two ‘mindsets.’ (I apologize for the gross oversimplification of Dweck’s work. Read the book). They will either have a “fixed” or a “growth” mindset.
Characteristics of a Fixed Mindset
People are born ‘Gifted.’
People have ‘natural talents.’
Traits are set in stone
Intelligence is a fixed trait
They have a need to look smart at all costs,
Tasks should come naturally
They avoid challenging learning tasks
They hide mistakes and difficulties
In the face of failure they would reduce their effort or give up, become defensive, act up, act bored.
Characteristics of a Growth mindset
Success comes from effort
Success comes from hard work
Success comes from practice
Intelligence can be improved
Setbacks are a natural form of learning
Learn at all costs,
Work hard, effort is key
Capitalize on mistakes and confront deficiencies
In the face of a setback, they would work harder
They are resilient in the face of difficulties
Impact of fixed and growth mindsets
Labeling people as smart, clever or talented (or derivations of these) creates an expectation in them. Therefore, some types of praise trigger worse performance. People will do things to “prove” the label they have been given, creating a fixed mindset. This creates insecurity so, when something doesn’t come naturally, it means they are not capable and look wanting.
People then avoid the things that they need to get better in order to protect the ‘special’ label they have been given.
When the message is changed to rewarding effort, then people react differently and adopt a growth mindset. Credit needs to go to effort and time on task, but these messages have to be changed across the board both to the people, yourself and when discussing others. There is little use attempting to adopt a growth mindset if you consider others ‘naturally’ talented. Is Tiger Woods successful because of natural talent or because he has been working to improve his golf since he was 2 years old.?
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About the Author
My name is Lee Ness. I am a UKA qualified Event Group Coach for Sprints and Hurdles, the Head Coach/Sprint Coach at City of Salisbury Athletics and Running Club and Track and Field Team Manager for Wiltshire Athletics Association. I’ve been coaching track and filed for around 7 years. I coach all the sprints, from 60m to 400m plus the long and sprint hurdles. In my sprint group I have 36 sprinters and 10 hurdlers of various ages, starting from 13. In my group I have three athletes in the UK top 10 rankings for their event.
I write about sports performance in general and have written a book called The Sports Motivation Masterplan which will be released on September 1, 2014 by December House. The book is a support guide for athletes and parents, helping them with the role of mentor through their journey from young aspiring athlete, to elite performer.