A growth mindset means that you believe your intelligence, abilities and talents can be developed over time. Having this mindset is associated with having the belief that your abilities and outcomes are influenced by hard work as opposed to mere natural talent. On the other hand, this mindset is known as a fixed mindset. Having a fixed mindset means that you think your intelligence is unchangeable. It is the idea that if you’re not good at something, you believe you never will be.

Fig. 1 – Examples of phrases you might say if you had a growth and fixed mindset

Science behind a growth mindset:

Researchers have found a link between a growth mindset and activation in two key areas of the brain; the anterior cingulate cortex which is involved in learning and control and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, involved in error-monitoring and behavioural adaption.

A growth mindset appears to be linked to higher motivation and error correction as well as being associated with lower activation in response to negative feedback. 

Furthermore, researchers have shown that in growth-minded people, the brain is most active when a person was told how they could improve — for example, tips on what to do better next time. Whilst, in those with a fixed mindset, the brain is active when a person is being given information about their performance – for example, the results of a test. This suggests that people with a growth mindset are more focused on the process, rather than the result.

Neuroscientists often use the term ‘neuroplasticity’ which can be defined as the tendency of the brain to change through growth and reorganisation. Even as adults the brain continues to develop and change as new neural pathways are formed. So, it is possible to change from having a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

Benefits of having a growth mindset:

Reduced levels of burnout

Fewer psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety

Fewer behavioural problems

Increase in motivation levels

Increase likelihood of achieving your goals

Increase in resiliency levels

Improves self-esteem

Able to handle change in more appropriate manner

Become more open-minded

How to develop a growth mindset:

Challenge yourself with new experiences

Remove the ‘fixed mindset’ inner voice

Reward the process

Try and seek feedback on your work and aim to improve

Get out of your comfort zone

Embrace new challenges

Accept failure as part of the process and learn to cope with such ‘failures’

As a sports coach or parent:

Educate yourself on different mindsets

Remind athletes to check in on their mindset and to encourage them to switch perspectives if they identify as having a fixed mindset.

Praise implementation of a growth mindset.

Add the word “yet” to your vocabulary. Remind them with time, effort and practice they will get there.

Encourage them to take on weekly challenges and to set goals to review regularly.

Pay attention to what you criticise.

Encourage self-reflection as this is essential for growth.

Develop process orientated athletes. Encourage them to focus on their actions and the effort they are putting in rather than the outcome.

Provide valuable feedback that encourages growth.

Share real life examples (see the video Michael Jordan video below).

Michael Jordan is one athlete who used growth mindset to overcome failure throughout his career. He was cut from his high school team, and never played for his top college team and was passes up during the first two draft picks in the NBA. Instead of seeing these ‘failures’ as reasons to give up, Jordan used them as motivators to succeed. Have a listen to what he says in the Nike Ad below.

To summarise, growth mindset can be adopted by all people, in all aspects of life not just within sport. It leads to great success and increase in overall performance.




Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. 1st ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 2006