The growth mindset and reflections on the Chevy Chase
by teammarchant athlete Gillian Belcher
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
30 years ago Dr Carol Dweck coined the term “growth mindset” to describe beliefs people have based around learning and intelligence but often confused with personality.
“Fixed mindset” is all to do with our character, intelligence and creative ability being static.
A growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure as a way of stretching our existing abilities.
As a teacher this is something we are doing a lot in school at the moment – how can we get our students to be smarter and understand their efforts make them stronger and in turn put in extra effort and time to achieve more – creating an environment in which our students can safely ‘fail’ and feel secure in doing so in order to springboard to the next level because they have asked questions, learnt and challenged themselves.
These mindsets can manifest from an early age and is something I’m very conscious of instilling in my students and my own little girl; the power of yet – “I can’t do it yet” these simple words have a big impact.
Dweck writes “For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”
There’s a whole host of neuroscience research out there on plasticity of the brain, how we can increase neural growth using questions, sleep and good nutrition. So as a school we have set out to apply interventions to improve mindset from fixed to growth.
There are a variety of different studies out there that show a different types of praise can encourage a fixed mindset – instead we must praise hard work and effort to cultivate growth mindset. When we do this our students will take on challenges, learn from them and therefore increase their chances of achievement.
Dweck goes on to say:
“When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world — the world of fixed traits — success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other — the world of changing qualities — it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.
In one world, failure is about having a setback. Getting a bad grade. Losing a tournament. Getting fired. Getting rejected. It means you’re not smart or talented. In the other world, failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you’re not fulfilling your potential.”
So what does growth mindset look like in the real world? My race report from the Chevy Chase fell race may help to explain.
On Saturday, 7th July 2018, I stood on the start line of the Chevy Chase, I set off and felt strong. The start is essentially straight up a hill and off you go and I felt good! We passed through Wooler Common and up the farmers field.
Something started to feel wrong and boom that was it I was sick. 3km in to a 20mile race and I was wondering what was going on! Felt better for it and there’s a short downhill section so knew I could get a bit of time back there.
4km sick again. I could see the check point ahead and knew I just had time to make it so pushed on and arrived only a few minutes behind schedule and I knew I had a buffer.
7km sick again and a phonecall to the husband for some wise words of advice. Would it be game over at Cheviot Knee – it very nearly was! At this point I knew I wouldn’t be getting round 20 miles within the cut offs and immediately set myself a new target of Hedgehope.
There were several points that could have gone differently and in my mind I must remember how I was on the day not how I think I was now the race is over. When I started my training I said to myself I must have no regrets, this was to be the furthest and biggest race I had ever done and I left the race on Saturday at Hedgehope knowing exactly that.
I had plenty of time to come to terms with it on my mammoth climb to the top of Hedgehope and the ultimate question ‘are you ready to retire from the race’. Walking off Hedgehope to bump in to a friend and fellow teammarchant runner was a welcome surprise along with the lift back to the start.
At present I won’t be taking on the Chevy next year, I don’t feel I have unfinished business there – I don’t, circumstance didn’t allow on the day. It wasn’t my day and that’s ok because I have been given a safety net in which I can ‘fail’. One where I am confident and comfortable with my decisions, one where I have been praised for my effort on route and on the day.
Everyone experiences failure at some stage in their life. But can you fail better? This doesn’t mean failing more often. It means learning as much as possible from the failure experience.
I have challenged myself, failed and learned and now I am off to find a new challenge!