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Growth Mindset and Performance

Lessons Learned on a Kayak! Mindset Made Simple Tip #52 Click HERE to watch or listen.

Each week I plan ahead for the next week’s Mindset Made Simple Tip topic. This week, like any good performer, I adjusted to take advantage of an unforeseen opportunity provided by my 9-year-old son!

Saturday was a beautiful day in Northeast Ohio, and we took advantage by kayaking down the Cuyahoga River.

It was peaceful, beautiful and inspiring…even to my 9-year-old who could not wait to use his new inflatable kayak (highly recommended and way lighter than our other two that almost kills me every time we transport them!).

As we gently paddled along and navigated the ebbs and flows of the river, my son, in his 500th “mom” of the trip (I wasn’t counting, but I am certain I am close), said “these rocks are like a fixed mindset.”

He immediately had my attention! Not only were we not talking about Minecraft, we were talking about mindset stuff! AWESOME!

He continued his thought saying, “and the water is like a growth mindset.”

This 500th “mom” of the trip was well worth this conversation!

He went on to explain that rocks cause damage, can hang you up and won’t move.

But the water flows and finds its way no matter how deep or shallow, or how many trees have fallen into it.

My heart swelled and my mind raced! I wanted him to keep talking and I didn’t want to let this teaching moment pass without impact (I think I was the object of the greatest impact!).

“YES”, I said! “Look at how the water has made its way, carving out the sides of the riverbank.”

We came upon so many examples in the of the fixed vs. growth mindset dichotomy in that river!

I am sure you are familiar with Stanford professor Carol Dweck’s growth mindset, presented in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Dweck contends that our success is heavily influenced by our mindset (and I agree, of course). (See where you fall on the fixed vs. growth mindset by taking her Growth vs. Fixed Mindset Assessment now!)

Those with a fixed mindset tend to shy away from challenges, choose situations they know they can win, avoid useful feedback, give up easily when obstacles arise and feel threatened by the success of others.

They believe their success is based on “fixed” characteristics. They succeed because they are smart. They do well – or don’t do well – because that is just how they are wired. Fixed mindset people think they have something to prove – “see, I won because I am smarter” one would say.

Conversely, those with a growth mindset embrace challenges, learn when they don’t win, use criticism to improve, believe they can get better through increased effort, persist in the face of adversity and learn from the success of others.

Growth mindset people worry less about proving others wrong and more on how they can get better – “I won because I figured out how I could do it better and I worked my tail off” one would say.

A person with a growth mindset believes that his/her qualities like intelligence, skills, creativity…even relational capacities like friendship and love… can be improved and cultivated by deliberate practice and effort.

Think back to the river and our watery growth mindset. My son’s river analogy is such a good one.

Here are a few other observations from our trip down the Cuyahoga (“crooked river)

More thoughts on the rocks (our fixed mindset):

· Rocks serve as barriers and change the flow of the water.

· The more rocks, the shallower the water.

· The rocks you can’t see trip you up more often than the rocks you can see, but all rocks are barriers.

· Rocks stop other stuff, too. Their positioning affects other things.

More thoughts about the water (our growth mindset):

· At points in the river, you can’t even tell it is flowing but I consistently moves until it reaches its destination miles and miles away…Lake Erie!

· No matter what obstacles the water faces, it finds a way to flow.

· Even the smallest movement, over time, makes an impact on the river’s environment.

· The constant flow of the water eventually overtakes everything in its path.

Here is the coolest thing about the whole rock/water thing!

The water WINS a lot! Look at the Grand Canyon! Eventually, the water wears down everything in its path and finds a way!

It is the same with our mindset. How we choose to look at our ability to improve, the challenges we face and those with whom we compete makes a HUGE difference in our thoughts, emotions, behavior and ultimately, our results.

If we want to be better, we must believe we can do something to get better. If we think we are successful because we are talented, eventually we will meet someone with more talent and be defeated.

If we think we are successful because we are better prepared or work harder, when we meet someone who is more talented than we are, we can devise a plan of attack to compete at a higher level.

Understanding our own mindset (take the assessment HERE) and the mindset of those we lead is the first step to addressing those rocks that weigh us down. Once we see which ones are “hanging us up” as my son says, we can decide to take a more flowing approach and consistently and steadily wear things down that are in our path to success.

Obviously, we like water, won’t always win. But if we are consistent, persistent and believe we can find a way, we give ourselves a fighting chance and put the odds in our favor!

Now, each time I begin to believe I can’t do something because of a quality I have set in my mind, I will think of our peaceful trip down the Cuyahoga and be reminded of the power of water and a the benefits of a growth mindset.

I hope you will, too!

I’d love to know what you thought of the results of the assessment. Reach out to chat and I’ll tell you where I fall on the scale 😉!

Have a great week!


P.S. Want your team to build tools to help your team’s mindset grow? I would love to design a program to fit your team’s needs. Let’s set up a time to talk about how we can build your team’s mental toughness. Give me a call or text at 234-206-0946 or send me an email at


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