Achieving your fitness goals is not just about dietary discipline and hitting the gym every day; it's also about having a growth mindset. This small psychological change in the way you approach setbacks – because there will be setbacks – can help you keep your eyes on the prize.
What is a growth mindset?
A growth mindset is the belief that our baseline abilities are only a starting point. It’s the belief that we can grow and develop over time through dedication and hard work. What’s more, the challenges or setbacks you face in the gym are the very things that will ignite growth. This is where the science of psychology comes in.
It turns out our brains can create new neural connections, according to Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University who coined the term "growth mindset" in her 2007 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
At this point if you’re thinking to yourself, “Yeah, right. I’ll never be that strong or run that fast. I’m just not built that way.” Think again. This is not inspirational fluff. This is science backed by decades of research.
Here are three ways having a growth mindset can help you achieve your fitness goals.
Embracing challenges and persistence
One of the fundamental aspects of a growth mindset is the willingness to embrace challenges and view them as opportunities for growth. When it comes to fitness, this means recognizing that setbacks, plateaus, or difficulties in your exercise routine are not failures but rather chances to learn and improve.
Instead of giving up when you hit a wall, you see it as a sign that you're pushing your boundaries and working towards progress. With a growth mindset, flexibility and resilience is key. You’re more likely to continue trying different strategies, seeking guidance, and making adjustments to overcome challenges. Critically, this is how new neural pathways are formed. These are the moments we evolve; we become the person we know we can be.
Learning from setbacks
Injuries, work stress, and family responsibilities are inevitable. Instead of seeing these as immovable blockers, a growth mindset encourages you to view them as valuable learning experiences. Whether missing a workout, indulging in an unhealthy meal, or failing to achieve a specific fitness goal, a growth mindset prompts you to reflect on what went wrong and how to adapt to get the job done.
Setting adaptive goals. Or beware of the fixed mindset.
Instead of fixating on the end result, such as losing a certain amount of weight or gaining a specific amount of muscle, a growth mindset prompts you to concentrate on the process and the continuous improvement that comes with it. Within that process, it is essential to remain flexible.
A growth mindset embraces flexibility and the ability to adapt your goals as you progress. We all hit the wall. A growth mindset asks us to think about how we respond. Do you get discouraged and begin to believe you’ll never achieve your goals? Or do you adjust your strategies and know that tackling the challenge with enthusiasm and curiosity will actually change your mind? New neural pathways will begin to form and you will become a better you.
Having a growth mindset is powerful. This small change in how you approach challenges will dramatically affect your outcomes. Remember that achieving your fitness goals is not just about physical transformation; it's also about the mental transformation that occurs when you adopt a growth mindset.