Set your mind for success

Mindset. It's becoming quite a trendy word, but what does it actually mean?

As a secondary teacher for 15 years, I experienced the importance (and power) of mindset first hand many times. Students who were able to take control of their mindset, think positively and push forwards, despite fear would progress in leaps and bounds; over-taking their own expectations and achieving results they thought they could only dream of.

Coaching is as much a part of a teacher's role as imparting knowledge and developing skill; we all fear failure to some degree, it's manifested in the little voices inside our heads, the ones which tell us 'you're not good enough/ slim enough/ smart enough to do that', 'why are you always so stupid', 'it never works so don't even try' and leaves us feeling 'I can't do it'...


Yet is a powerful word for our mindset and one that's worth saying when we're feeling this way.

'I can't run... yet'
'I can't lift that much... yet'
'I don't feel as good as I used to... yet'

Starting out can be difficult. Understandably, we want things to happen as quickly as possible. The reality is that it takes time. Berating ourselves for not sticking to something overly prescriptive or restrictive is not helping us get any closer to our goals.

Embrace who you are now...

If your friend started saying nasty things to you every time you saw her, would you stay friends with her? Of course not, you've more respect for yourself than that and you don't deserve that kind of treatment. So why do we do it to ourselves?


We so easily trap ourselves in a negative mindset. We're our own worst critic and we need to start treating ourselves the way we expect others to.

Take a look at who you are and what your body can do. Whether you think it's too fat, too thin, too whatever... stop criticising her for a moment and focus on what she can do. Our bodies are amazing, no matter what we do to them, how much abuse we throw at them, they adapt and carry on. Imagine what position we'd be in if we loved what we have AND THEN started the journey to something better.


A journey...

We'd be on a journey where exercise is no longer a punishment but an enjoyment, where food is no longer something to feel guilty about or used as a reward and instead something that fuels us to achieve bigger and better things. Imagine waking up in the morning and feeling that you're making progress, that you're feeling fitter, stronger, healthier, more energised, focused, confident... imagine what you could achieve when you haven't given up because you're not worth it, because you have no willpower, because you've tried and it's not working.

Where to begin...

Let's begin by accepting who we are now and loving ourselves. I know, it sounds a little cheesy but if you're beating yourself up daily, berating yourself for not getting there quick enough, your fitness journey is going to feel more like a punishment than fun. Just because you want to improve, doesn't mean there aren't a million and one things that are already amazing about you. Find out what they are, write them down. If you need help, ask a friend, ask your son/daughter, ask your husband... all of these people think you're awesome, and for good reason!

Growth mindset

The best way we can approach any challenge is to accept that we are on a journey and it won't be easy. By doing so, we can prepare ourselves with strategies, acquire the knowledge necessary, and practice the skills required.

It's what Dr Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset[^1] and this way of thinking can impact every area of your life where you're faced with challenge. Briefly, Dweck believes there are two mindsets we can approach things with - a fixed or a growth. If you approach your goals with a fixed mindset you'll either win or fail. She gives the example of Nathan who believes that dieting requires discipline and willpower so, when that inevitably fails and he orders desert, he's failed. He beats himself up, gives up and 'tries harder next time' because clearly what he needs is more willpower, not a different strategy; his approach is ultimately unsuccessful.

However, if you adopt a growth mindset, you'll recognise that it's not a matter of failure or success but of planning a journey that will have both ups and downs along the way. Because you recognise that life has these ups and downs, you'll put a plan in place to deal with these and practice strategies for dealing with the unexpected as they arise. Notice the difference? Practice strategies for dealing with that unexpected late night at work that caused you to miss your gym class, rather than giving up because you've failed. Those with a growth mindset know that 'setbacks will happen So instead of beating themselves up, they ask: "What can I learn from this? What will I do next time I'm in this situation?" It's a learning process - not a battle between the bad you and the good you.'[^2]

What next?

Keep at it. Your mindset isn't going to change overnight and neither will you reach your long term goals this way. Keep reminding yourself it's a journey and it doesn't require perfection!

[^1]Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential, Dr Carol S Dwek
[^2]From Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential, Dr Carol S Dwek, Robinson, 2012, Pages 239-246.