Developing a Growth Mindset

How Changing Your Mind Can Change Your Results

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTUpdated: March 13, 2024

As a professional Fitness Coach, I’m particularly interested in the psychology of motivation. My research and experience have taught me that a growth mindset can help you succeed in fitness and life.

In this article, I’ll explore the concept of a growth mindset and how it can help you achieve your goals. I’ll also provide examples and practical tips for cultivating a growth mindset and overcoming common obstacles.

  • This new way of thinking focuses on the idea that your abilities and talents can be developed through hard work and dedication.
  • Whether you’re a bodybuilder, business owner, or just striving to be your best, this mindset can help you reach new heights.
How to Develop a Growth Mindset

What Is a Growth Mindset?

The growth mindset is a belief that you can improve your abilities and intelligence through hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn from failure. Recent research has shown that people with a growth mindset are more successful in various areas of life, including academics, sports, careers, and fitness.

The concept of brain plasticity supports the idea of a growth mindset1. Our brains can change and adapt throughout our lives, meaning we can develop new skills and abilities with practice and dedication.

Practicing a growth mindset includes embracing challenges, getting out of your comfort zone, positive self-talk, persisting through obstacles, and learning from criticism. It’s important to note that having a growth mindset doesn’t mean that you will never fail or make mistakes. It simply means you believe your abilities can improve with effort and time.

Why Is It Important?

By adopting a growth mindset, you can change your perspective on failure. Instead of seeing it as a sign of inadequacy, you can view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. This mindset can lead to increased motivation, resilience, and a willingness to take on challenges.

Fostering a growth mindset can set you up for success in all areas of life. You can achieve your goals and reach your full potential with consistency and hard work.

growth mindset: new mindset, new results

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

The difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset is a person’s belief about their natural talent and abilities.

A fixed mindset assumes that skills and success are predetermined and cannot be changed. On the other hand, a growth mindset believes that skills and success can be developed.

People with a fixed mindset tend to give up easily when faced with challenges or setbacks. They believe that failure reflects their lack of ability, and they may feel judged based on their initial performance.

In contrast, those with a growth mindset see challenges as opportunities to learn and develop new skills. They understand that failure is a natural part of the learning process and takes time and effort to improve.

Understanding how our mindset can affect our reaction to different situations is essential. Imagine playing poker for the first time. After a few hands, you’ve had only bad cards, and you still don’t fully understand the rules. How would you respond in this situation? 

If you have a fixed mindset, you might think, “Poker is too hard… I’m not good at it, so I might as well quit.” This person believes their bad luck proves they’re not good enough to win. For them, success means not failing, and they may feel judged based on their lack of ability at the start. Additionally, they may think it’s not meant to be if something doesn’t come easy right away. It’s hard for them to see that they can learn how to win.

On the other hand, if you have a growth mindset, you might think, “Poker is challenging… I can’t wait to play more and get better!” You know your bad luck isn’t tied to your skill or chances of winning. You believe that with practice, you can learn how to win. For you, success means learning.

If you relate to the fixed mindset person, don’t worry. It’s important to realize that your mindset is flexible, and you can change it if you want to. With some small adjustments, you can adopt a growth mindset and change your results.

Research has shown that individuals with a growth mindset tend to achieve greater success than those with a fixed mindset. This is because they are more willing to take risks, persist in the face of challenges, and embrace new experiences.

Here are some key differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset:

Fixed Mindset Growth Mindset
Believes skills and success are predetermined Believes skills and success can be developed
Gives up easily when faced with challenges Sees challenges as opportunities to learn
Views failure as a reflection of personality Understands failure is part of the learning process
Feels judged based on initial performance Seeks feedback and constructive criticism
Avoids challenges to protect self-esteem Embraces new experiences and takes risks

Overall, adopting a growth mindset can lead to greater success and satisfaction in life. You can overcome obstacles and achieve your goals by believing in your ability to learn and improve.

Growth Mindset Examples

From a young age, we are taught to believe that certain abilities are innate, and either you have them or you don’t. We are often evaluated based on metrics and scores that measure our performance at a particular point in time. These judgments can have a significant impact on our future success.

However, it’s important to remember that our abilities are not set in stone. We don’t have to let past judgments define our future potential. When we maintain a growth mindset and believe that we are capable of improving, we increase our chances of achieving success.

Academic Achievement

It has been discovered that intelligence can also be improved, just like physical abilities. In a study designed by Dr. Carol Dweck, mindset workshops were held in a school experiencing a decline in grades.

The researchers taught 7th-grade students that their brains are similar to muscles and can be strengthened through training and learning new things. The mindset training improved the math grades of the students who received it2. Conversely, the control group’s grades continued to decline.

Dweck’s research suggests that students’ mindsets have positive effects on their academic performance, resulting in higher grades. Even if you’re not in school anymore, the realization that different mindsets produce different results is empowering.

growth mindset math grades

Adapted from Blackwell, et al., 2007

Career Success

The growth mindset can also be applied to your job. Our mindset and how that affects performance goals sometimes determines our career path. In other words, if you don’t envision yourself climbing the ladder, you never will.

I understand there is a certain apprehension about rising above your comfort level. In my previous engineering career, I was often stressed after taking new positions. The cause of the anxiety was feeling like I wasn’t qualified for the job and that I should have stayed where I was.

​This negative self-talk is normal, and even the most successful people hear it in their heads. However, the key is to persevere anyway and “fake it till you make it,” so to speak. After applying myself for a few months, I felt more than qualified for my new role and career path.

When I quit my job and started an online fitness business, I encountered plenty of obstacles. When mistakes happened, the “imposter syndrome” kicked in, and it made me feel like I didn’t belong. With a fixed mindset, I’d have given up long before my business succeeded.

On the other hand, a growth mindset allowed me to see myself and my business as flexible and able to change and grow. With this mindset, I made continuous improvements, even if most failed. This is because I learned from each failure and made course corrections until all those failures amounted to success.

Whatever your job, career path, or business, fostering a growth mindset allows you to repeatedly take on new challenges. Knowing that trying and failing doesn’t make you less qualified; it can make your resume more impressive.

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Athletic Performance

Sports are an excellent example of how a growth mindset can lead to success. Often, people assume that an athlete’s success is based solely on their physical abilities, implying a fixed mindset.

But if natural talent were the only requirement for athletic success, there would be no need for practice, and those who are less physically gifted would never be able to excel. However, time and again, we see examples of people who defy the odds and come out on top. 

Interestingly, some of the world’s greatest athletes didn’t start with the best natural talent. For example, NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers was barely recruited out of high school and almost gave up football. He went to play for a junior college, and when the Green Bay Packers eventually drafted him, he sat on the bench for three years.

Nonetheless, Rodgers maintained a growth mindset, learning from his coaches and veteran mentors. After becoming the starting quarterback, he achieved the highest passer rating and the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history. 

This shows that the most successful athletes don’t always have the most talent from the beginning. Instead, they have overcome setbacks and adversity, which has taught them that talent alone isn’t enough.

To succeed, you must be willing to work hard, regardless of your skill level. This requires a growth mindset.

Fitness Results

In the fitness world, some people with a fixed mindset tend to blame their genetics when they fail to lose weight or gain muscle. They start to believe that their physical fitness is predetermined and cannot be changed.

However, in my experience, your genetics are more like the make and model of a car. You may start with an unremarkable base model sedan, but with some investment and labor, you can transform it into an awe-inspiring vehicle.

Conversely, you could start with a high-performance sports car. But you won’t get very far if you put diesel fuel in the gas tank and don’t change the oil.

The point is that being fit does not entirely depend on good genetics. It requires consistent effort and a growth mindset. Success is about improving your personal best and not comparing yourself to others.

I started my fitness journey in high school when I weighed only 117 pounds and had a scrawny frame. However, I visualized myself as a bodybuilder and began lifting weights. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had adopted a growth mindset.

Of course, having a positive attitude alone doesn’t guarantee results. Nevertheless, this mindset helped me stay motivated and committed to my fitness goals. I went back to the gym every day, pushed myself harder, and continuously sought information that would help me achieve my goals.

After 20 years, I had made significant progress and pushed my physique near its genetic potential. Along the way, I learned to set fitness goals with realistic expectations. Instead of aiming to build a supercar or monster truck, I focused on upgrading from a Ford Fiesta to a Mustang.

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How to Develop a Growth Mindset

Training your brain to have a growth mindset is similar to training your muscles in the gym. With consistent activity, you can rewire your brain to think positively4.

It doesn’t mean that you can never have negative thoughts. Instead, it’s about acknowledging those thoughts and letting them go rather than dwelling on them.

Developing a growth mindset is closely linked with mindfulness and meditation. However, you don’t have to sit on a pillow and chant “om.” You can focus on a few basic qualities in your regular life to adjust your mindset for positive results.

For instance, start your day by spending 10 or 15 minutes doing something to reframe your mind and set yourself up for success. Here are five activities that you can do to begin your day on a positive note.

  1. Listen to a 15-minute motivational podcast
  2. Journal about the positive changes you want to make
  3. Read one chapter of a self-improvement book
  4. Write down three things you’re grateful for
  5. Exercise for 10 minutes

Combining two or more activities is a great way to improve your morning routine. For example, you can read a few pages from a self-improvement book and take notes about the changes you will implement.

To start my day, I prefer to listen to a productive podcast while going for a walk around the neighborhood. This helps me get my body moving and puts my mind in a positive state. After that, I write down a few key points I want to apply that day and then take action to make them happen.

Growth Mindset Quotes

If you’re looking for inspiration to develop a growth mindset, here are some quotes to help you get started:

  • “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela
  • “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
  • “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
  • “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt
  • “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs

Remember, developing a growth mindset takes time and effort. It’s about embracing challenges, learning from mistakes, and persisting through obstacles. Use these quotes as a reminder to keep pushing forward, embrace the learning process, and never give up on your goals.

Growth Mindset Book

There’s so much more to the growth mindset than I can cover here. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Standford University.

Dr. Dweck is a pioneer of growth mindset studies in psychology. I listened to the Growth Mindset audiobook while doing my cardio workouts, and it inspired this article.

growth mindset book

The growth mindset is like a key that unlocks a door you didn’t even know was locked. It can take you to places you never thought you could go, but it’s not something that can be changed overnight. You won’t achieve instant success even after adopting a growth mindset. 

Rather, the growth mindset is a commitment to an ongoing process of learning. It only works if you apply it to an area of your life where you genuinely want to reach your full potential.

More Mindset Guides

Mind Muscle Connection: 9 Tips to Train Your Brain for Gains

How to Set SMART Fitness Goals That Get Results

5 Easy Steps: How to Get Motivated to Workout & Win at Life

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