Monday, August 31, 2015

Motivation Monday: What Not to Say, and the Growth Mindset Approach

Guys. Something happened to me on Saturday that had my blood boiling. It went something like this:

Me: [Leaves house in workout clothes on humid late summer day]

Man working on house next door: [Glances over, doesn't say anything]

Me: [Goes for 2 mile jog, slow but steady, arrives home feeling good about self]

Man: "Quittin' time already?"

Me: [Becomes enraged, but keeps it together] "Well, I'm five months pregnant, so, ya know, I think I'm doing pretty well."

Man: "Oh, better drink some water." [Runs inside house]

EXCUSE ME? What gives anyone the right to think they can comment on someone else's workout like that? What if:
  • I had just had a major surgery?
  • I had just made a decision to start working out?
  • I was getting overheated?
People just don't think about what they're saying. I know this all too well, so I got over it pretty quickly. But, after I stopped seeing red I got to thinking about the fine line between motivation and criticism. As fitness instructors, we're constantly encouraging our classes to push harder and perform at an optimal level appropriate for each person. That doesn't mean we want to put anyone down, compare students' effort levels, or discourage them from trying something difficult.

This isn't anything new to you. But, I did want to talk a little bit about growth mindset, which is an evidence-based construct from social psychology. Without getting too technical, it goes something like this: praise the process, not the person. This is worth repeating:


What does this mean? Well, in lots of research studies, psychologists found that when you say something like "You're really good at this" or "You're smart", people not only become complacent with their current ability, but they're reluctant to try harder things because they don't want to go from being perceived as good at something to being perceived as struggling. If you say something like "You clearly worked really hard on this" or "Let's take what you just learned and use it tomorrow" - or anything else where you're focusing on effort level and continued growth - people will become excited about taking on a bigger challenge and are more willing to take risks.

Here are some key take-aways about using a growth mindset over a fixed one:

In a group fitness class, this could mean saying things like:
  • Wow, you've really improved since we first started doing this move!
  • You guys are covered in sweat - you're clearly giving it your all.
  • Today's class was fantastic, and I can't wait to see what you do next time now that you've learned XYZ.
  • I know that routine was tough. Everyone is capable at getting better at anything. Let's keep working at it!
Bottom line: your words mean a lot to students, as you know - try a growth mindset approach and see what happens!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent perspective! This makes a lot of sense. Thanks for this post!