Growth is the key to continued success

With less than a week to go until Professor Carol Dweck comes to Scotland to present a series of events with Winning Scotland Foundation, it is worth considering how an individual can benefit from her ‘growth mindset’ theory.

September 2014

A person with a growth mindset believes their abilities can always be improved and amended through effort and hard work.  Equally, a growth-focused individual views a setback as an opportunity to learn and improve.  It led me to consider some of the experiences that Scotland’s sportsmen and women went through this summer.  

Thinking back to the Commonwealth Games, which already seem a long time ago, our screens and newspapers were filled with smiling Scots, laden with their gold, silver and bronze medals. 

With another year of our Champions in Schools programme coming up, we were naturally excited and delighted for our athlete role models who performed to their peak at the Games – Euan Burton and his judo gang stand out in the memory, as do Adam Cox’s gymnastics team and Jen McIntosh’s historic shooting achievements.

Yet for every beaming champion on the podium, there were an equal or greater number of dejected faces in the background – including Patrick Dawson, a judo player we have come to respect hugely in a short space of time here at the Foundation.  He was visibly and understandably heartbroken to miss out on a medal while his teammates crowded the rostrum.

But what I admire most about athletes is their ability to park their disappointment and indeed view it as an opportunity to strive forward.  Having spoken to Patrick recently, he says he very quickly accepted his disappointment and moved on, using it as a springboard to move upwards in his sport and target success at the Rio Olympics in 2016.  And remember it was only two years ago when his triumphant colleague, Burton, endured a tearful and early exit at London 2012.  What a difference two years make. 

Therein lies the beauty of the growth mindset, that ability to bounce back and view a setback as a challenge rather than the endgame. 

Another high profile face of the medal rush was of course, Michael Jamieson.  But not in the way many of us expected, when he was spectacularly pipped to gold by the outstanding Ross Murdoch in his favoured breaststroke event. 

But beyond the obvious fact that many people missed – that the ‘poster boy’ swimmer still came away with a silver medal – the real story we should be inspired by is Jamieson’s graciousness in defeat to a fellow Scot, and his steely will to pick himself up and get back to his best.  His main disappointment wasn’t the defeat, but that he didn’t swim his best time.

Jamieson’s focus, as one would expect from anyone with a growth mindset, is to get back to being his personal best.  The medals will begin flowing soon enough, for him and Dawson. 

So, what was your outstanding moment of the Games away from the podium?  Who impressed you with their determination or left you in awe with their grace in defeat?


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