Breaking Through: Conquering the Evil Fixed Mindset

It’s a question I’ve been asked many times:

“How come I play so well in my lesson, but I can’t do it in a tournament?”

Or, in another form:

“Why do I understand everything perfectly in a seminar, but I can’t do it when I go home?”

It’s a legitimate question and an interesting one.

Why is it easier to perform at a high level with your coach than it is when you’re alone?

There are two possible explanations.

One, you were never very good to begin with, and the success you were seeing with your coach was a mirage.

“Sorry, Billy, but that world-class forehand that you just showed off in your lesson is just an illusion. The reality is that your forehand shanks so much you’re a danger to anyone within thirty yards.”

“But I just made twenty in a row.”

“That was blind luck.”

“It was? 

“Yes. You’re terrible and you’ll always be terrible.”

That’s one possible explanation for why you fail when you leave your coach.

Of course, thinking that is ridiculous.

Billy did hit his forehand in, and you did learn the materials at your seminar.

The lie is that you can’t do it when you leave.

So where does this lie come from? Your mindset.

In her fantastic book, Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success, Carol Dweck talks about fixed mindsets and growth mindsets. Fixed mindsets mean you think everything fits in its own little space and it’s never going to change.

There are two major repercussions to thinking this way.

1) If you have a fixed mindset, you’re always going to be victim of self-sabotage because your skill level has already been capped (by you). When you learn something new, your mind rebels and you start hearing the voices:

I’m too old to learn new things.

People my age aren’t athletic.

I’m just not smart enough.

Learning a new skill is beyond someone like me.

When you’re with your coach, though, these judgments go away. Your coach believes in you, so you believe in you. And you learn stuff.

However, when your support is gone, the judgments come right back and your inner voice says:

Guess what? It’s all up to you now. You did it in practice, but can you do it now--when it counts?

And when you mess up just one time…

See, I knew you couldn’t do it.

Hard to improve in an environment like that.

2) A fixed mindset always makes you worry you’ll be revealed as a fraud.

Maybe you kind-of think you can be great. When you perform well with your coach around, you begrudgingly start to believe in yourself.  But, for years, people around you have seen you achieve at a certain level, so now you become worried you’ll look like an idiot trying to reach beyond your perceived ability.

It goes something like this.

Maybe you love tennis but aren’t very good. In fact, you’ve never won two rounds in a row in any tournament you’ve ever played.

But you want to get better so you take some lessons and completely remake your game. You start to feel pretty good about yourself.

And then you decide to enter a tournament.

As soon as the first point is over, you begin to worry.

Everyone is probably making fun of me because I took lessons and I’m still no good.

My parent/spouse/significant other probably thinks that I’m wasting my time and their money.

They’re all going to see how bad I really am. This is embarrassing.

So what happens next? You give up.

The judgments of others are completely overwhelming, and there’s only one way out: to quit.

You can’t judge me if I don’t try.

Maybe I can do it, maybe I can’t. But you’ll never know because I give up.

And all the progress you made with your coach goes right out the window.

What’s the solution? How do you break out of the prison you’ve made for yourself?

The solution is a growth mindset.

The growth mindset says, “I’m not very good right now, but watch how fast I learn.”

Look at what that mindset creates.

For one, it totally eliminates sabotage. With a growth mindset, you’re admitting that you don’t know anything…yet. How can anyone criticize that?

Yes, I know I’m terrible. I told you that already. Anything else?

When you confront judgmental sabotage with honest facts, the judgments become more speechless than Papa Doc.  

Once the sabotage is eliminated, you’re free to begin learning.

With a growth mindset, all you care about is how you can get better that day. It doesn’t matter if you win, and it doesn’t matter if you lose. It doesn’t matter if you’re not an expert right this second. All that matters is that you’re growing.

Somehow.

Furthermore, you can never be a fraud if you have a growth mindset. You’ve already admitted that you’re not great yet. How can you be a fraud when you’re telling the truth?

When your focus is on growing and not judging, your life becomes free. You find yourself working harder and worrying about results less. And what happens then?

One, you start improving at a rapid rate. And this time, the improvement will stick.

Two, the person you are with your coach becomes the person you are when you’re by yourself.

You don’t change when you leave because you’ve got nothing to prove, nothing to live up to.

You’re just yourself, and this is what you think:

I may not be good right now but watch me. Watch how good I am six months from now. And anyone who’s better than me right now, know one thing:

I’m coming for you.

 

My book is called The Inevitability of Becoming Rich, and you can find that here.