What Makes a Person Successful at Achieving Their Goals?

Jennifer Purdie
by Jennifer Purdie
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What Makes a Person Successful at Achieving Their Goals?

What makes someone successful?

In 2006, Carol S. Dweck, PhD, published 30 years of her research answering the question: What makes someone suc­cessful? She theorized people contain two mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. Choosing one over the other alters the success you find in life.

In my book “Growth Mindset for Athletes, Coaches and Trainers,” these two mindsets are discussed:

FIXED MINDSET

This is the belief we are born with a set of abilities and intel­ligences and we cannot move beyond what is inherent within us. People who choose the fixed mindset avoid taking risks, lose out on life’s adventures and look at failures as endings rather than opportunities to learn and try again.

GROWTH MINDSET

This is the belief hard work and determination can provide you with endless opportunities. No one ever reaches their full potential because you can always keep learning and growing. People who choose a growth mindset take risks and never mind making mistakes. Rather, they view mistakes as positives because those mistakes are a gateway to growth.

5 ACTION AREAS OF THE MINDSETS

To explain further, Dweck identified five action areas in which the two mindsets diverge: challenges, criticism, success, effort and obstacles.

Here are examples of each mindset. Think of what sounds most like you. Are you someone who thinks with a fixed or growth mindset? If you are in a fixed mindset, it is time to start switching your thought process.  

Challenges  
Fixed mindset – avoids failure: “I will not sign up for a full marathon because I don’t think I can do anything longer than a half-marathon.”
Growth mindset – sees failure as opportunity: “I did not finish the full marathon and had to stop. But I’ll try again because I love the idea of challenging my body and pushing it to its limits.”

Criticism      
Fixed mindset – rejects feedback: “My coach is wrong. I know what is best for me.”    
Growth mindset – learns from feedback: “I will ask my coach questions during and after our training sessions and take notes to remember what I am told.”

Success of Others   
Fixed mindset – gets insecure: “I am jealous of my friend who qualified for the Boston Marathon.”   
Growth mindset – gets motivated: “I need to spend time doing speed work to qualify for Boston like my friend did. To do this, I will hire coach who can help me get faster and stronger.”

Effort  
Fixed mindset – thinks trying means you are no good: “I am already a good cyclist. I don’t need anyone to help me get better.”      
Growth mindset – puts in the work: “I’m up at 6 a.m. to train. I can always get a little stronger.”

Obstacles    
Fixed mindset – gives up: “I could never run a marathon. I am not a runner.”    
Growth mindset – tries: “I think I could run a marathon. Today I will look up running groups in my area and join them for their next session.”

To better see a growth mindset in context, here are a couple of examples:

“Reflecting on past lifestyle changes or personal accomplishments that I previously believed were beyond my ability really helps me keep a growth mindset and trust that I’m capable of more than I think. Once you prove yourself wrong a couple of times, you learn that ‘I can’t’ is a lie, and the only way to ever really know your limits is to step out of your comfort zone.”

—Runner Jen Delucchi

“I spent most of 2017 rehabbing high hamstring tendonitis and not running nearly as much as I have in the past. When being a runner is part of your identity, it’s devastating to not be able to do the thing you love. After successfully rehabbing my legs … I gave myself permission to take the pressure I was putting on myself out of the equation and just have fun out there. By making running fun again, with minimal training miles, in the month of January alone, I’ve almost beat my half-marathon PR, and I’ve run 52 miles.”

—Runner Jenny Nakamura

“The most successful athletes train their mind to have a ‘champion’s growth mindset’ (as I call it) which applies to both trainers and athletes. [This] includes a positive, optimistic attitude,” says personal trainer Kira Stokes.


READ MORE > 5 TIPS FOR SQUASHING PROCRASTINATION


CONCLUSION

Fully switching from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset can take years, if not a lifetime. But you should practice training yourself to have a growth mindset every day, like you practice your sport every day — it will be worth it. You will view endurance sports not as something so data and results driven but instead as something in which you enjoy the journey.

About the Author

Jennifer Purdie
Jennifer Purdie
Jennifer is a Southern California-based freelance writer who covers topics such as health, fitness, lifestyle and travel for both national and regional publications. She runs marathons across the world and is an Ironman finisher. She is also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. You can follow her on Twitter @jenpurdie.

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