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Fixed vs Growth Mindset: How to Overcome the Fear of Failure

What is a famous example of fixed mindset?

John McEnroe reached the top in world tennis winning 7 grand slams and was renowned for his animated outbursts.

While you can’t deny his achievements you can certainly ask, ‘could he have done more?’.

The answer would be yes, both with his on-court tantrums and his tennis performances. 

While he was renowned for his outbursts, he was a way off the top spot which must go to Marat Safin who smashed his racket 48 times in 1999 alone.

Over his 12-year career, he broke some 700 rackets.

However, even Safin had his limits... He insisted “You can’t destroy a racket and a chair in the same match – there has to be a limit − otherwise this is the tennis of a sick person.”

So how could McEnroe have done more? And how can we apply this to our lives?

What is  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

American Psychologist Carol Dweck’s 2007 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success introduces the concept of fixed and growth mindsets.

Using McEnroe as an example Dweck highlights the limit a ‘fixed mindset’ can have on performance.

By McEnroe’s own admission, he didn’t live up to his full potential.

While his natural talent was so great that he was still able to reach great heights, he could have done much more.

‘He did not love to learn. He did not thrive on challenges; when the going got rough, he often folded.’ Explains Dweck. ‘In the fixed mindset, setbacks label you,’ she says. His complete inability to deal with failure ultimately held him back and stopped him from improving.

It is hard to learn from your mistakes when you think everything and everyone else is to blame.

During his time on court McEnroe blamed everything from umpiring decisions to his racquets, in his mind it could never be his fault as this would question his innate talent.

Without the resilience to fail, you can expect to see limited growth.

There are strategies you can adopt to help overcome the fear of failure and we use a 'Fear Setting' exercise in the onboarding course of the Evolve Journal to help you do just that. 

What is the difference between fixed and growth mindsets?

These are the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence.

In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that's that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset, students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don't necessarily think everyone's the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.—Carol Dweck, Stanford University

One person that encapsulates the growth mindset is Michael Jordan. We highly recommend checking out The Last Dance series on Netflix, this will give you an insight into the mindset that drove one of the GOAT in basketball and sport as a whole.

This quote from Michael shows his mindset - "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."

His success can be attributed more to his drive and his work ethic more than his natural talent.

Michael wasn’t so egotistical that he couldn't fail, he used failure as fuel to learn and adapt which led to his many successes.

Adopting a growth mindset

Learn to recognise your ‘fixed voice’ and learn when to ignore it. 

A certain amount of doubt is healthy, necessary even, yet not an excuse. 

Not trying because something probably won't work is fixed mindset mentality. 

Trying something and failing and then asking what you can learn is a growth mindset mentality. 

People who've had success in their lives, however you measure that, are the people that have failed the most. 

Your achievements will always be more about your hard work than your innate talent. 

Record your failures and record your successes.

Without one, you can't have the other. 

Learn to love failure and you will learn to grow. 

Love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy the effort and keep on learning - Carol Dweck


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