We’ve all heard you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The reality is that this couldn’t be further from the truth. The human brain has an incredible capacity to learn and adapt. So, what does this have to do with health goals? Well, it doesn’t matter if you are trying to lose weight, run a marathon or win a gold medal in the Olympics. Your mindset strategy might be the biggest factor that determines your success. In other words, it’s all in your head.
In this article, we’ll learn about what a mindset strategy is and how this can help you achieve nearly any goal in regard to health and fitness. First, we’ll discuss the theory behind some strategies, then we’ll give you some actual tips to implement them. Believe it or not, with a new mindset, failure suddenly becomes an advantage. Let’s find out why.
How the Brain Learns Best
The mindset strategy for better school learning has been shaking up how teachers teach. This approach can also be applied to any purpose, including pro-level workouts and weight loss. The key is to understand the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset tells you there’s not much you can do about the way you are. If you don’t get good grades, you never will. For health issues you might think, “I’ve never been in the shape that I want, so I never will.” The fixed mindset tells you that it’s impossible to change. So, what happens? You stay stuck in a rut.
The growth mindset is entirely different. It thrives on the belief that one can grow, learn and succeed. This goes far beyond just cheerleading. Instead, it transforms how you learn and see yourself. Within that new perspective comes a real possibility for permanent change.
Now you might be wanting some practical strategies, but the information presented here first is crucial to develop a growth mindset. Why? Because, like the body, the brain likes to be active. Many studies have shown that your brain retains an incredible ability to adapt and change at any age. Scientists call this characteristic brain “plasticity.” Everyone’s brain has plasticity built-in and gaining this knowledge alone already helps you achieve your goals.
Understanding how your brain works lets you guide it toward your health goals. Just knowing that every brain is capable of renewal sets the stage for success. As you read this and as you learn, your brain cells (neurons) reach out and make new connections with other brain cells. This process of increased interconnection makes your brain ready to process and handle new tasks.
When researchers look at brain waves, those with fixed mindsets only react when told they are right or wrong. But when given a correct answer or learning tip, fixed minds shut down. Growth mindset scans reveal activity when solutions are presented.
Learning about how your brain works equips you to grow better at any task ― including getting into shape.
The Beauty of Failure
What do people with a growth mindset think about failure? That it’s the best way to learn. Getting in shape is as much about learning as it is about doing. If it was so easy, everybody would be in great shape, right?
In the fixed mindset, if you make a mistake or fail, it’s destructive. Why? Because it establishes in your mind that trying to make a change is wrong. So, let’s say you started a new workout plan to get in shape. You started out fine, but then stopped. The fixed mindset reinforces the fact that starting a new workout is wrong. It can even become ingrained in your self-identity. This makes you believe that it’s impossible for you to get in shape or reach that next goal.
Remember, doing things you already know how to do isn’t learning. If you already know how to fry an egg, you don’t relearn each time you grab for the skillet. What if you began to think, “Every time I fail, I’m learning exactly what it takes to get better”? Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra speaks about how critical it is to “survive the lows.” The result? His team eventually won back-to-back NBA Championships in large part by implementing growth mindset strategies.
As Coach Spoelstra says, this new mindset helps you develop ways to overcome the distractions, noise and blame that come along with failure.
Forward-thinking educators are abandoning traditional grading system to help students achieve a higher potential. The reason is that failing grade labels students as a human failure. The students then believe that they are failures. Instead of failing, insightful educators give their kids a “Not Yet” grade. This tells kids that instead of doing something wrong, they’re undergoing a process. Just like learning to walk, cook or drive a car the process is what counts ― not just ability. So, if you’ve had trouble reaching your health goals, don’t think, “I failed.” Instead, think, “I’m not there … yet.”
We’ve dedicated over half of this article to the reasoning and proof behind the benefits of the growth mindset. The reason is that a profound change in perspective must occur first. Gain confidence, knowing that your brain can learn new skills in an incredible way. Understand how this works. Believe that all your shortcomings in the past are building blocks for your future success. Then the strategies that follow will produce wonderful results.
Set Goals That Make Sense
If your goal is to lose weight or win a race, you’re setting up a fixed mindset. Instead, break it down into something reachable. For example, you might say, “I’m going to walk for 15 minutes, just today.” Alternatively, for the competitive athlete, “I’m going to lower my time by 1 second by the end of the month.” Setting a goal that you succeed at, thanks to the effort, makes you want to reach for more.
Listen to Positive Voices
Try to surround yourself with people that encourage you. This doesn’t mean telling you that you are great, but instead, praising you for the effort and the process. It might even be worth considering a personal trainer. The fixed mindset might reject this idea saying things like, “I’m embarrassed to ask for help” or “I already know what to do, I just need to do it.” The real motive behind these statements is a fear to explore something new. Instead, think, “A trainer certainly can give me a new perspective and motivation.”
Don’t Pay Attention to the Date
Now, this might be tough for those who have a strict timeline, like while preparing for a competition. Still, freeing your mind from calendar dates can boost performance. Why? Because a single day has a ton of potential to move forward. So, take each day’s challenges for what they are.
For those seeking to lose weight, the worst thing you can say is “I have to lose 20 pounds by the end of spring.” Instead think, “Today, I’m not eating anything at all between meals. I have not reached the body weight I’m comfortable with … yet.” By winning these small victories it makes you hungry to take on bigger challenges.
Set Yourself Up to Fail
This might sound counterintuitive but take on a big challenge that you probably won’t achieve. Then, try your best anyways. If you succeed, great. If not, reflect on valuing the process of trying and keeping up the good fight. This technique gives you permission to fail at a goal but not give up the entire process.
Everybody is in a hurry these days. Before you begin a new workout or weight-loss program, get mentally ready. Push your mind to change before you push your body. Tell yourself that it’s OK to stumble as long as you get back up and keep going.
See the Pattern?
If you notice in the above tips, there’s nothing that says run so many miles, eat certain foods or buy the latest fitness gadget. It’s not because those things aren’t important, but your mindset strategy must come first. When generals go to battle, they don’t just send out the troops. They plan carefully and think things through first. Do the same, and your efforts will be rewarded.
Things to Remember
- The human brain has incredible plasticity. You can learn all your life.
- Mistakes and failure are the best fuel for growth.
- You can change your mindset any day and at any time. Practice this.
- Sustained growth is based on your ability to keep up efforts and self-reflect.
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5 Growth Mindset Strategies for Your Classroom. http://thelearningmind.com/growth-mindset
Into the Mind of a World Champion: Erik Spoelstra on his secret – The Growth Mindset. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD70k91E_iU
RSA ANIMATE: How To Help Every Child Fulfil Their Potential. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yl9TVbAal5s