Blog Series 1.4

In our first blog series, we will discuss Angela Duckworth’s popular book Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success and how it may impact high performance.  Our intent is to provide useful information in each blog posting; however, the entire series of blogs devoted to the book will be the most helpful in terms of understanding how the book applies to college athletics.  While our hope is this blog series provides you with ideas to apply to your own performance, it will certainly not do the book justice, so we encourage you to read the book, and/or view her TED talk


You might have heard of Carol Dweck’s popular book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. If not, go to our course to see Drs. Tebbe Priebe and Fifer discuss the importance of a growth mindset in sport.  In short, individuals with a growth mindset tend to view adversity as an opportunity to learn and believe they can improve with effort. In contrast, individuals with a fixed mindset tend to think ability is set and nothing, not even effort, will change the outcome.  Thus, all challenges are viewed as obstacles instead of opportunities.  Duckworth provides examples of phrases that can both enhance or diminish a growth mindset and grit.


Phrases that undermine a growth mindset and grit include:
“You’re a natural, I love that”
“Great job, you’re so talented”
“Well, at least you tried”
“This is hard. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it."

Phrases that promote a growth mindset and grit include:
“You’re a learner. I love that”
“That didn’t work. Let’s talk about how you approached it and what might work better.”
“Great job. What’s one thing that could have been even better.”
“This is hard. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it yet.”
“I have high standards. I’m holding you to them because I know we can reach them together."


When discussing grit and a growth mindset, it’s easy to see that a growth mindset would lead to increased performance; however, most people believe in a growth mindset, yet behave with a fixed mindset.  In the heat of competition or even practice, it takes a very deliberate athlete and/or coach to think and communicate in a manner that is consistent with a growth mindset.  The stress of competition can lead us to default to thoughts and behaviors that are impatient, aggressive, and typically designed to protect our own ego.  These are the exact moments when grit and a growth mindset are critical.  During stress and adversity, we can choose to believe that the outcome is out of our control, or we can choose to focus on what is under our control and expect/hope for positive results.  While many factors are out of our control, such as weather, injury, and officials’ calls, our attitude and effort are always under our control.  We can choose to act in a certain way despite frustrating circumstances. 

Most athletes don’t regret thinking positively and being disappointed, but they do regret not giving it their all because they were afraid to be disappointed.  Positive self-coaching and supporting/encouraging others is one of the most important skills high performers need to learn.  Duckworth highlights that the best coaches and leaders know a performer’s comfort zone and create situations that are just past that edge.  It’s a combination of caring about the performer enough to push them to be better, while simultaneously creating a support structure to encourage them when it gets hard, because if you want to develop, it WILL get hard.  We are excited to announce that we will be devoting an entire lesson on building confidence in our full course launch! Be sure to watch out for future emails about our launch dates!


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