Blog post by George Mitchell, MFL PGCE student; School of Education, and Sport Psychologist

The mindset is our beliefs and how we can make sense of what goes on around us. This mindset plays a part in shaping a lot of our behaviours and the way we handle situations. When developing our mindset, we can intentionally evaluate, modify, and refine these beliefs, and therefore move it along the continuum from fixed towards growth mastery.

Research by Dweck and others have revealed that such beliefs can affect performance and behaviour across a number of different fields. From results on standardised tests in schools, to elite athlete’s ability to use coping strategies when winning or losing.

The strength of this research suggests that it is one of the most beneficial steps an individual can take for developing and maintaining a growth mindset fit for sporting performance and improved mental health. Parents, coaches, and team members all influence the development of our beliefs, but you can also work on them independently.

The view that you have of yourself can determine everything. If we look at the belief that your basic qualities are unchangeable then you are likely to take more of a fixed mindset approach to challenges and opportunities. Or it could be viewed that current highly skilled abilities are because we are talented and that they cannot be improved.

However, in contrast, the growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things that you can develop through effort. Changing your beliefs and values to this growth mindset approach can have an influential impact and can generate a passion for learning and improving. “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better” (Dweck, 2017).

Michael Phelps: “There will be obstacles, there will be doubters, there will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits.”

Cristiano Ronaldo: “I feel an endless need to learn, to improve, to evolve, not only to please the coach and the fans, but also feel satisfied with myself.”

To figure out how kids cope with challenge, Dweck (2007) gave ten-year olds some problems that were a little too difficult for them. Some of them reacted in a shockingly positive way. They said things like, “I love a challenge!” or “I was hoping this would be informative!” They understood that their abilities could grow through their hard work. They had adopted a growth mindset.

Although for other children it was catastrophic.  Their more fixed mindset perspective and their core intelligence had been tested and devastated. So, what did they did the fixed mindset children do next?

In one study, after a failure on a test, they said they’d cheat next time instead of study more. In another study, they found someone who did worse than they did so they could feel better. And in many studies, they found they would try various means to escape from difficulty.

 Research in youth sport has shown that individuals have developed fixed mindsets when they have been praised for their ‘talent’ or results and outcomes. Children who have these experiences of praise often for their talent tend to find themselves in situations where they chose easier options and give up earlier than children who were praised for their effort (Dweck, 2017).

Praise can have a massive impact on an individual’s mindset, in motivational terms. Praising winning might make a young athlete happy and proud in the short term, but when they lose, their confidence may spiral as they don’t receive the same level of approval from their coach or parent.

From a fixed mindset perspective, the individual may see losing as an indication that they lack talent and therefore cannot overcome this challenge or similar challenges in the future (Vealey, Chase and Cooley, 2018).

While young athletes should be recognised for their accomplishments, excessive praise and focus on outcomes should be avoided as it can often lead to pressure to keep repeating the outcomes (as well as the fixed mindset outlined above). Think about this, instead of saying:

“Way to be a winner.” You could say: “your practice on…really showed today – great job” (Knight, Harwood and Gould, 2018).

On an individual level, there are some ways which you can develop your mindset into more of a growth one or gain mastery over some of your beliefs.

One way would be to set yourself short-term goals (process goals) to help you reach your overall goal. For example, you can intentionally set daily or weekly (smaller) targets that you can realistically accomplish which will lead you on your chosen path to success. Perhaps now would be a good time to set or evaluate your goals.

Additionally, you can track your progress through logging your data (diary/notepad) and then you will get a better insight into how far you have come and be able to see how far your effort and hard work has taken you.

When you don’t meet your own standards, it is going to be difficult to deal with this failure. The first thing you’ll need to do is to review and reflect on the event and pick out the relevant information and think about how you could reframe the setback as an opportunity for learning and moving forwards. Then when you are faced with a similar situation you will view it as an opportunity and not a threat.

When receiving feedback, someone with a growth mindset would view this as an opportunity for learning whereas someone with a fixed mindset would view this as a threat to themselves and their ability.

Next time, when receiving feedback have a think about how this makes you feel and how could you use this feedback to learn and improve.

Ultimately, it is all down to us with our development. Our mindsets are what is going to help us improve. Whether it be in academia or sport, how we choose to make use of feedback, learn from situations and choose an approach to a situation is going to make a massive difference in our behaviours and performance.


 Dweck, C. S. (2007). The secret to raising smart kids. Scientific American Mind18(6), 36-43.

 Dweck, C. (2017). Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential, 82-108.

 Knight, C. J., Harwood, C. G., & Gould, D. (2017). An introduction to sport psychology for young athletes. In Sport psychology for young athletes (pp. 1-6). Routledge, 102.

 Vealey, R. S., Chase, M. A., Block, C., & Cooley, R. (2018). Confidence. In Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology (pp. 302-324). Routledge.

This article is republished by kind permission of George Mitchell from his blog : Mindset — FocusPerform

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