A Growth Mindset Journey
I was fortunate enough to join several other participants from around the world in the GamePlan A Growth Mindset Challenge. 30 days to learn something new. Having been a long-distance runner most of my life (marathons and half marathons) I thought it would be great to use my exercise time outdoors to embark on a new adventure, switch into a new kind of focus, and to record my fastest-ever mile.
This 30-day journey provided a brilliant, positive focus during these challenging times. It also proved to be an incredible time of finding supportive new friends, learning new skills and bringing other friends and family along for the ride. Here are the five key things I learnt from the Growth Mindset Challenge.
1. Become comfortable with discomfort
It’s important to harness tough conditions to grow and make progress. In order to move on significantly with anything in life we need to push out of our comfort zones, be willing to feel the strain and even feel like we’re risking it a little.
For the first couple of weeks of my training plan I was surprised at the new level of exertion required for short bursts of speed training. Whereas for any of my previous long-distance runs I had been primarily operating in a ‘green/amber’ state of discomfort, this one-mile challenge had me in ‘orange and red zones’ most of the time.
There is a wonderful Finnish word ‘sisu’ (the focus of Katja Pantzar’s recent book) that refers to the importance of “a unique type of fortitude, of resilience, of not giving up in the face of a challenge, big or small, that anyone can develop”.
For any of us to grow significantly – whether that is in our physical, mental or career aspirations – we need to be ready to embrace an appropriate level of discomfort in order to move onwards.
2. Remember to rest
When we have a target to hit (and we know people are watching us) it is all too easy to get our heads down and let our ambition slowly grind us into the ground. After the first 10 days of the Growth Mindset Challenge I was really struggling to keep up with the training schedule. Faced with unusual homeschooling circumstances, work commitments and the mental health challenges that come with our current social isolation, I was finding things really hard. Finally, it was my very wise wife that suggested I got a few early nights and eased things off for a short period.
Foolishly, I had ignored the importance of rest and sleep in my desire to grow. As sports psychologist Chris Shambrook rightly states: “There’s nothing more fundamental to our well-being than our sleep. The same is true for performance too.”
Stopping and resting wasn’t delaying my progress on this Growth Mindset Journey – it was actually helping to move it forward.
3. Tap into team power
Perhaps one of the most profound differences that enhances anyone’s performance is the team we have backing us. Without those well-chosen words of encouragement, personal accountability and pieces of insightful advice, it is all too easy to lose motivation and lower our own performance standards.
This team could be made up from family, friends, colleagues, team mates or mentors. Each plays its role in providing you with the motivation and encouragement you will need. If you’re embarking on any ambitious undertaking in your life, remember to surround yourself with a great support team. Both my family and the Growth Mindset Challenge team gave me exceptional support throughout these 30 days.
And as the old African proverb states: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
4. Not the way you planned it
At the start of the Growth Mindset Challenge, I recorded 6:11 as my fastest mile. By the end of the challenge I had recorded a PB of 5:48. My fastest-ever mile. Not exactly a world-beating time but a time I was pleased with nonetheless. My mission was complete. However, on the final day, for a moment, I felt devastated.
Throughout the whole of this challenge I had planned for my final, fastest timed run to be on day 30. The pinnacle of my training and all my preparations were going to be realised on that day. However, when that day came around it had been raining, the track was wet and I was tired from a bad night‘s sleep. So my time was bad. Really bad. In fact, nowhere near as good as the previous week when I recorded my PB.
We all have limited control and finite reserves. Sometimes we’re not able to achieve our goals or we have to do things in a way we hadn’t planned. But that’s okay. A fundamental element of the growth mindset is maintaining that elasticity of your approach.
5. Share your vision and invite others along
When we embark on an ambitious journey a wonderful side effect is that others can often get drawn into our vision. Whether that is a radical new workplace initiative, a local community project or in this case a fun physical challenge. My running challenge fascinated my family and got our three kids running their own sponsored ‘mini-marathon’ up and down our cul-de-sac. An impressive 346 laps to be precise!
Talking about your plans only goes so far. In the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Well done is better than well said”.
By sharing your journey you not only encourage others but also add another layer of accountability to motivate your progress.
This Growth Mindset Challenge has given me a great opportunity to connect with other participants, make new friends and gain new insights. The target was always to achieve a new one-mile PB, but in undertaking this challenge I have found that the greatest gain was not in the final destination but in what I learnt along the way.