Since the Paralympics has finished and I am still awash with feelings (team GB’s most successful ever), of inspiration, motivation and euphoria at having witnessed event after event full of athletes pushing the boundaries of what mind and body can do.
Day after day I heard incredible stories of individuals who either through illness, accidents, or birth had battled through the obstacles that life had dealt them and had shown courage, resilience and effort, experienced both success and failure and had through sport found a lifeline. They had a vision and passion to push themselves to find their element, to accomplish great things.
This is the very embodiment of a growth mindset (a term first coined by Carol Dweck).
Someone who possesses a growth mindset is always looking to improve; will bounce back quickly from setbacks; seeks opportunities to change and evolve; will embrace feedback as a development tool and is not afraid to work hard, they are in essence lifelong learners.
On the contrary, someone who possesses a fixed mindset will in terms of their potential, plateau as they will tend to avoid opportunities for fear it will reveal a lack of skill, they will take feedback personally seeing it as an attack and thus will become defensive. If anything requires effort, they will tend to give up quickly and call it ineffective. People of a fixed mindset will wish to appear smart and anything that unsettles that image will quickly be discarded or ignored.
As a laughologist I am always quick to whip out my ‘Cycle of Change’ to explain to anyone who’ll listen to the benefits of a growth mindset.
If we take an opportunity we have an experience, if we have an experience then we will learn something, the learning may be good bad or indifferent but learning will take place. If we take the same opportunities then we will have the same experience and our learning and capacity to be brilliant will stifled and our world will remain quite small.
In order to take an opportunity we need to be courageous, the more courageous we are the more experiences we will have, the more experiences we have the more confident we become. The more confident we become the more we will learn, as a relaxed happy and confident brain will learn more effectively than a stressed out anxious tired brain. The plasticity of our brains allows us to make new connections until the day we die. Learning is quite simply the anatomical and physiological sculpting of minds.
So my question to you dear reader is what sort of mind do you want?
The answer is: You can have any mind at all.
The cycle above gives us a simple yet effective framework and approach to life, and it’s many adventures. It allows us to refine, refresh and re-think our relationships, skills and habits enabling us to evolve as the world evolves around us. We can’t change anyone else but if we change we give permission for the people around us to do the same and that is the power of change for an individual or organisation.
Epictetus the Greek philosopher once said that we only have influence over two things in our lives, Our thoughts and actions, everything else is out of our control.
So what are you thinking and what are you doing?
Are you thinking and displaying the actions of someone with a growth mindset or are you already poised to punch your computer screen and walk off to continue doing what you’ve always done, to simply get what you always got.
We are psychophysical beings, our mind affects our body and our body affects our mind. If our body can’t be bothered then our brain will eventually catch up and do the same and vice versa.
That’s why The Para Olympians or Superhumans (as Channel 4 described them in the pre-Olympic build up ) are, and continue to be such an inspiration. These athletes represent the epitome of what a growth mindset is. They have overcome massive set backs, looked for opportunities to develop, improve and change their lives, have taken on feedback, bounced back from failure, pushed the boundaries of what the human body is capable of. ( for more information check out this ping pong player https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qo9Fp3DNc7Q)
All of this underpinned with commitment, drive and a huge amount of hard work and dedication. This resulted in 147 medals, 64 of them gold, 39 silver and 44 bronze. Makes my coca cola gymnastics badge 4 aged 7 look quite paltry by comparison. Might need to dust off my spandex and get in training.
Over the last few weeks the Paralympics has taught me many things but one thing in particular.
To become Superhuman and have something you have never had, you must do something you have never done.
Now grab your cape and fly!