Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mindset Chapter 4: The Mindset Of A Champion 
I am not a natural born athlete. It would describe my sister, brother, son, niece and nephew..but somehow, not me.  Did that stop me from trying? No. I enjoy the feeling of standing in the backfield defense challenging the offence to come and kick a  soccer ball my way and then kicking it hard back to our team or at least out of the way . I fell in love with broom ball my freshman year of college and even didn't mind putting on 39032 layers of clothing including the hat, scarf, mittens and boots as we battled it out during J-Term in the late evenings on the ice rinks. I roller skate but I am not a derby girl. I ice skate, but I am not graceful. Is sledding a sport if it is not a bobsled team? I am good at that and I am good and natural at so many other things. 

So, as you can see, this is can't be natural born athlete wisdom I will be dispelling here. Instead it comes from a mindset of not giving up as well as a mindset that sometimes, a girl just wants to have fun and fun isn't always about winning. 
A great question  to ponder over is whether good athletes are born or, are they made? I think it is a bit of both. This is my son's last year of basketball. He is graduating. He started out on the JV squad for two years. His junior year, he started JV and played Varsity. This year it is just starting Varsity.  He doesn't often complain about waking up and leaving  by 5:30 AM for four months in a row driven by his mother and his sister. He doesn't complain at all because he loves it. He runs hard doing drills, he trains to do well for games. It is his natural passion. He is a good example of a natural born athlete.  If you look at my son, Mr. 17, you will see amazing agility and strength and speed. You see nothing of that when it comes to me. I have to work for it. 

If we push this question are good students born or made, you will see Mr. 17 have to work very hard at school, where as for me, school / learning was my "thing." In both cases, whether I needed an open mindset to play sports  and work hard, or Mr. 17 needs an open mindset for working hard at school, we must both push ourselves to the limit. Just past the pain of it all is the place where we move past the ordinary into the extraordinary.
If you work hard enough, if you are patient with yourself and with others, you will find the place of becoming. That is called character building.  Character building in sports, school or in life is more valuable and such a great teacher! Character is what a person is really like. You take their values, their personality as well as their integrity and as life comes and goes with ebbs and flows, character is made. It is who they are on field or off the field and even in the field of life. Those who are working on cultivating a growth mindset believe that character building is a result of time and deliberate practice. Character building involves resiliency and seeing problems not as a challenge, but as a great opportunity to learn. When you are shaping the character of your children or a student or looking at  yourself, you want to say don't give up! Character building is just like learning and learning is messy. It is not for those who are protecting their self image. It is about failing forward, falling hard, and coming up again. 

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Carol Dweck hosted by Education World.

EW: What can teachers do to help develop mastery-oriented students -- students who will face a challenge rather than be overwhelmed by it?

Dweck: Students who are mastery-oriented think about learning, not about proving how smart they are. When they experience a setback, they focus on effort and strategies instead of worrying that they are incompetent.

This leads directly to what teachers can do to help students become more master-oriented: Teachers should focus on students' efforts and not on their abilities. When students succeed, teachers should praise their efforts or their strategies, not their intelligence. (Contrary to popular opinion, praising intelligence backfires by making students overly concerned with how smart they are and overly vulnerable to failure.)
When students fail, teachers should also give feedback about effort or strategies -- what the student did wrong and what he or she could do now. We have shown that this is a key ingredient in creating mastery-oriented students.

In other words, teachers should help students value effort. Too many students think effort is only for the inept. Yet sustained effort over time is the key to outstanding achievement.

In a related vein, teachers should teach students to relish a challenge. Rather than praising students for doing well on easy tasks, they should convey that doing easy tasks is a waste of time. They should transmit the joy of confronting a challenge and of struggling to find strategies that work.

Finally, teachers can help students focus on and value learning. Too many students are hung up on grades and on proving their worth through grades. Grades are important, but learning is more important. (Emphais is mine, KAHH)  (

Dweck writes, "Character grows out of mindset." Even if you are a natural born athlete like my son, it is still important to cultivate the character. Look at Terrell Owens. He is without a team, without money, without the earthly things that he thought mattered. He was a natural born athlete who let the glitter and the fame go to his head. What is he left with? Nothing, except now, to go back, undo it all and start again. Cultivate the character. 

There are three findings that Dweck points out when it comes to character and mindset.  
  1. Those with growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving.
  2. They found setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wake up call. 
  3. Took charge of the processes that bring success and that sustain it.” 
This will work for my son, it will work for Terrell Owens, it will work for me and it will work for you. Beyond that, it will work for every student in the classroom. 

I will close with this quote from Dweck, "Great athletes have a team--coaches, trainers, caddies, managers, mentors." They do. That is absolutely true. I call that accountability partners. People who speak into your life and push you to grow to your fullest potential and who speak into your life the truth, not just what you want to hear.  We all need them in sports, in marriages, in friendships, at work and in every aspect of life. 

Here are some questions to ponder:

  1. How would you define character?
  2. Do you have the mindset of a champion? 
  3. How can you work on improving your game, your marriage, your family, your health and your profession? 
  4. Do you do your best when things are going for you or against you? 
  5. How can you use a growth mindset to raise your game and your game of life when it counts most?
  6. Does your joy in sports (life) come from playing (or doing) your hardest or from winning? 
  7. Do you take losses really hard? Why? 
  8. What do losses say about you, your sports ability, or your image of yourself?
  9. What can you do this week to encourage your students and those you come in contact with to have a growth mindset? 

This post was created for my book study group #mindset13 on Twitter. I was responsible for chapter four.