Are you approaching your overall fitness with a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? If you’re not sure, then this week’s episode of the GMB Show is just for you.
Andy Fossett and Jarlo Ilano talk candidly about applying a growth mindset that ensures constant improvement and overall success in both fitness and life.
Most of us tend to lean toward a goal-focused training regimen. But what does it say about you when you didn’t meet that goal in the time frame you desired? Are you a failure? Are you lazy? Should you just dig in and work harder?
If you’ve been racking your brain wondering why you’re not accomplishing your goals, then this episode is going to shed some serious light on your approach and reveal how you can move past those plateaus with ease and confidence.
Like anything worth obtaining, this mindset takes conditioning and training, just like your first strict muscle-up.
Oh, and did you know this growth mindset is an integral part of the GMB Method? We practice what we preach.
Carol Dweck’s Book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”
Get strong without weights with your free strength training course.
Be sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the GMB Show:
Reprograming Fitness Using The Growth Mindset
Andy: All right, welcome to the GMB show, next 20 minutes plus or minus. Mr. Jarlo Ilano and I, Andy, we’ll be talking about all kinds of good stuff, not boats. We were joking earlier that we would talk about boats.
Jarlo: But it turns out that we don’t know anything about boats. That would be either a really quick podcast or a really crappy podcast.
Andy: It would be one of the two and I don’t think anybody’s-
Jarlo: Probably both.
Andy: Probably both and nobody’s interested in that. Lucky you guys, we’re not going to talk about boats today.
Jarlo: Or unlucky, if you really like boats.
Jarlo: Perhaps we can put a link in a description to a podcast about boats for experts.
Andy: Right. Right. I wouldn’t know where to look for experts about boats. Instead, we’re going to talk about something that we both know a little bit about and that is how to develop a good mindset for training, but also in life. Something that we’ve talked about a lot of times, but is a running theme in GMB that is known as the growth mindset.
Jarlo: Yes. The growth mindset. There is a psychological researcher and her names is Carol Dweck. A few years ago, she came out with a pop science book called Mindset. That Mindset book was based on her research and it’s a great book. It’s kind of repetitive. She brought it down to the general audience. It was great.
The big thing out of growth mindset is to realize that everything in your life is changeable. You don’t have a fixed ability, whether that’s intelligence. In terms of fitness, whether it’s your strength levels, your endurance capacity. It’s not saying that you can go on and improve forever, but the rate of improvement and how much you improve is actually so much more than you can think.
Andy: Yeah. The basic idea is that growth mindset in Dweck’s work as opposed to fixed mindset. Fixed would be that we are born with these characteristics, they are unchanging and we’re on a track that will just go until death, I guess. But the growth mindset shows that or posits that we can adapt and change and choose the directions that we want to grow in and improve. We can put in effort and we can look for strategies and we can find ways to change in important ways that allow us to get better results in the things that are important to us.
That comes in in a lot of different ways and practicable application, but some of the really well known applications from Dweck’s work that really get a lot of attention tend to be around … Maybe the most famous examples are about education and what kinds of praise is good for children. This is something that Jarlo and Ryan and I’ve talked a lot about since we’re parents. Do you want to discuss that?
Jarlo: That’s another important thing, too. The really interesting part of her work shows that there’s this period of time, this window in your development, where you will develop these mindsets and it can carry with you for the rest of your life. It’s like that old thing like parents messing their kids up.
Andy: Right. You can screw up and give your kid a bad mindset and then they’re done. They’re done.
Jarlo: Then, they’re done, right? That’s a fixed mindset itself.
Jarlo: But remember, these are all changeable. Okay. Praise. Specifically, that counterpoint to everybody’s a winner. The participation trophies. Everybody gets a medal. It’s a little bit more subtle and a little bit more complex than that. Your praise to your child, if it’s so general and if it’s always good or you’re so smart, that it’s praising the effect. It’s praising the outcome.
Andy: Right. What that sets up is an identity that I am a smart person. I have to be a smart person. When I’m a smart person, I get praise. That’s fragile, because then if you do something that isn’t smart, you’re afraid that you won’t get the praise.
Jarlo: That’s right.
Andy: What the research showed is that children who were given this oh, you’re so smart, you’re so smart, eventually they become afraid of making mistakes.
Jarlo: That’s right.
Andy: They don’t want to take risks and they don’t want to speak out about things that they haven’t studied before, because are afraid that they won’t be smart anymore.
Jarlo: Their identity as a spark person is vulnerable.
Jarlo: Rather than saying to your child after they do a test or anything, you say, “Oh, you’re so smart. I knew you could do it. You were born smart.” It’s much better to praise the work they put into it.
Jarlo: Praise the process is another thing.
Jarlo: In terms of our GMB language.
Andy: Sure. For a child with a test, you could, at a very simple level say, “You really studied hard, so you got a good grade.” But you might even take it deeper and say, “I could tell that you really took excellent notes and that you were reviewing them very systematically and methodically and that, obviously, helped you to really understand the material which is part of why you did so well in this test.”
You can take it at a very thin level, but you can also take it deeper. Test taking is not really what we’re about. Maybe some more specific examples of how this would work with training. We’re not your parents, but for some people listening, we are kind of your teachers, coaching in some degrees, but ultimately, I think we all, to a degree, also coach ourselves.
Maybe some of the things that we can talk about would be maybe not necessarily strictly self taught, but just ways to think of your own performance. To think of ways that you can review your own performance and look at and train yourself to think about your training that would be more productive than now I am strong or I’m not strong enough to do this or I’m not flexible enough to do this.
Jarlo: Right. It’s in terms of a self reflection. Is it during or after your training session? This is where we always apply critical thinking. We always encourage that. What do you want to encourage within yourself in your training program? Say, you’re working on the rings and your goal’s a muscle up. Everybody wants to get a muscle up and a nice one. A nice, strict muscle up, no kipping, all of that stuff.
If your goal is that and you don’t get it in one session, is that a failure? It is if you think it is. It is if your goal is to get that within one session and you’re not even close to it. Right there, that gives you a clue as to setting your expectations and setting what the success mean to you. Success to me doesn’t mean attaining something in the shortest amount of time.
Andy: Right. You can see how this may be an unrealistic expectation, an unrealistic definition of success. I’ve never done a muscle up and I should be able to do it easily on my first attempt. That’s unrealistic, but then why is it unrealistic? Is it because it is something that’s impossible? The muscle up is clearly possible. What makes it unrealistic is that it’s assuming a lack of process. It’s assuming that I am a person who should be able to do this thing. There’s a self judgement attached to the ability to get the skill. That’s the part that can be destructive and that makes it unrealistic.
Jarlo: Right. It doesn’t mean that we don’t advocate getting the skill as soon as you can.
Jarlo: What it means is that in order to get a skill, especially a complicated skill that’s a stretch goal for you. If you have trouble doing a couple of pull ups on the rings, you’re definitely not going to get the muscle up within a couple of weeks. But what can you do within that period of time, within, say 2 weeks, that you feel you’re making progress at each session? Another thing to think about is we don’t want to measure strength just in terms of numbers. I did one pull up today, I’ll do two pull ups tomorrow, that’s success.
We’re not just talking about decreasing the increments of your goal and making that your mindset. What we want to think about is what can you do and how can you think about your workout, so that that progress is meaningful to you, but also meaningful towards your goal?
Andy: Right. There again, we could do it at the shallow level which is just I made effort today or I worked hard today, I tried, but then ultimately I still couldn’t get it. That doesn’t really tell you very much about your performance in any trainable or any applicable way.
You’d need to then look deeper and say, “I wasn’t able to do any more pull ups today than I was yesterday, but this time I really felt like I had a handle on the activation that I need to start the motion,” or, “this time I really felt like I got closer to getting the right false grip position,” or something. If it’s some small detail of the form, you can say, “I might not have been able to do the technique properly, but I really was focusing on elbow lockout in this position which is going to over time contribute to getting my goal.
Jarlo: That’s right. It’s something that you can go into your session with a specific thing in mind. Say, “I’m going to really think about getting that false grip locked in the whole time on these baby muscle ups.” It could be something, after the fact, you have your regular workout and you’re thinking how did I do today? Don’t think about how many wraps you did. Don’t think about I felt so tired. Go into the nuances. Pick something that you can actually … It’s not making some things up. It’s not like-
Andy: No, no.
Jarlo: You’re still being honest with yourself.
Andy: You’re not looking for something to give yourself a medal for.
Jarlo: That’s right. There’s no participation trophies in GMB method, but you do get credit for showing up.
Andy: You shouldn’t have to be looking for something you did well because, ideally, you go into it with an idea of what you’re going to focus on. Then, after the fact in your reflection, you can say, “I was focusing on this thing. I was able to focus on this.” Or if not, you notice that you lost focus on it. Then, you know that’s something you need to continue to work on.
Jarlo: One of the troubles with goal setting and having a goal focus is that what happens when you don’t get that goal?
Jarlo: Right? What does that failure mean to you? Along with training and moving and exercise and all of these things. Say you’ve gotten to a point in your program, so it’s 3 month program and you’re halfway through. You’re about 6 weeks into it and you’re feeling good. You’ve gone through it, you sustained yourself, you’ve been consistent.
Andy: You’re getting stronger.
Jarlo: You’re getting stronger, but you’re not hitting a particular goal that’s in the program or the one that you set for yourself. Is that a complete failure? I don’t think so. You’ve done 6 weeks of work. You’ve gotten stronger. There’s no way you’ve not gotten stronger.
Andy: Right. You can’t train consistently for 6 weeks and not be improving.
Jarlo: If you haven’t, then you’ve got a medical condition.
Jarlo: It becomes then was your goal unrealistic or there’s something along that 6 weeks that prevented you from progressing as much as you want? Most of the time in goal setting, the problems come when it’s your first period through it towards that goal. It seems realistic when you first set it, become apparent that it’s not. That doesn’t mean like you messed up and like oh, you over-thought it and you didn’t do well in picking the right goal. It just means that you’re going to have to do some adjustments. It doesn’t mean you wasted your time, it doesn’t mean you’ve go to scrap and start over.
Andy: This is where we get to maybe a little bit of lateral thinking sometimes. To even simplify it further, if you’re walking and you come up against a wall, you don’t just stop, you look to the size to figure out if there’s a way around it or over it. When you’re training, is the same thing that happens. Maybe you thought you would be getting the muscle up by this point, but you’re still not quite able to do it and you still need to work on the baby muscle up. It doesn’t mean that you should just keep throwing yourself against that wall and hoping that it moves, but what you really need to do is then look a little bit laterally at what things you can do to begin making progress again.
Sometimes that might be a slight change to your focus. It might mean that you need to maybe train one more day a week or one less day a week. It might mean that you need a little bit more preparation in something. It might mean that you need some more accessory training or it might just mean that you need to take a week off. It really depends on the situation for each person, but what it doesn’t mean is that you have failed.
Jarlo: That’s right.
Andy: What it means is that you need to look at what changes you can make in your approach that either are going to give you a different result or a change in the way that you’re looking at it that you can continue doing the same work as you improve a little bit more.
Jarlo: That’s the growth mindset, really. The growth mindset that, really, you might truly have physical limitations, but they’re at a level that is beyond what you think.
Jarlo: I think of it what way. It’s facetious to say you’ll get better every day or you can always improve, you’ve just got to work harder.
Andy: There will definitely be days that you don’t get better.
Jarlo: But the growth mindset doesn’t mean that you’ve got to keep pushing, just keep going, just keep going. The growth mindset means that you can take that step back, you can chill a little bit, but that doesn’t mean you failed, you can try again later. We’re not in a race. We’re not in a contest. Or maybe you are. Does that mean that you’re done? Your career is over? Your recreational activity, your choice, all of that is that over? Is it done? You’re too old?
Andy: Right. If you look at people who really are racing, if they get second or third or eighth, they keep training. Even if they get first, they still keep training.
Jarlo: That’s right.
Andy: Even if it is a race, that doesn’t mean that your entire life value is determined on one single outcome, especially, if you’re not in a race. Again, your life value is not determined on one single outcome.
Jarlo: It’s funny. Most of us, listening to this, all of us here are not professional athletes, but think about … and if you watch different sports. It doesn’t have to a particular one or a different … It could be playing golf or it could be MMA, it could be all of these things. Look at the successful athletes. Look at the successful people. Do they stop after they lost one game or one match? They didn’t. They kept going. The classic example is Michael Jordan in basketball. Cut from his GAB high school team, missing all of his shots, but he just kept going and kept going.
Andy: That’s the key to making progress in anything. That’s why the growth mindset is so valuable, because it gives you something to focus on that allows you to keep rising. Instead of every failure being something where you feel like, that’s it, I’m just not strong enough. It gives you something that you know that you can keep working at. If you’re trying to get more flexible and you try to stretch and you say, “I’m just too stiff to stretch.” That’s the fixed mindset coming up again. You are stiff. We’re not saying that that’s all in your head. We’re not saying that you’re wrong about that. You are stiff and you do need to practice and you need to be honest about that, but you’re not too stiff to improve. You’re stiff and that means that you need to start from where you’re at and begin taking whatever step you can take instead of trying to take a bigger step than you can.
Jarlo: That’s right.
Andy: Trying to compare yourself against someone doing full split or something. You need to compare yourself to someone who’s just a little bit better than you. If you can’t get into a full squat, then practice getting into as much of a squat as you can and gradually go from there. That’s the growth mindset, is that you grow from where you’re at and you never stop. You never stop, is the thing. You’re never at a point where you’re incapable of improving, whether it’d be flexibility or strength or skill or any of these things. You’re going to have to, like Joe said earlier, take a little bit of a step back and look around to see what you need to do to move forward rather than just saying, “I’m stuck here and I can’t move.”
Jarlo: Yeah. That sensation of stuckness is probably normal. We’re also not saying that, “Okay, if you’re getting stuck, then what you need to do is totally change what you’re doing.”
Jarlo: Or go onto another program, but instead, that sensation of being stuck a lot of time it’s not a physical limitation. You have to change your expectation a little bit. That doesn’t mean settling for mediocrity. It doesn’t mean settling for anything. What it means is that you have to shift something a little bit. You need to shift your expectation a little bit. Maybe you go ahead and you try something else. Not a whole sale see change or I’m done. That’s it. That’s it for the muscle up, I’ll never get it. What good does that to you? It does you no good in your physical fitness levels and it does you no good psychologically.
Andy: Right. Instead of measuring yourself against that thing, what you need to do is start looking more at what was the last progress you felt you made? Where was that happening? Diving deeper into what part you don’t feel like you’re making progress on and really look, start to take that as an opportunity to assess more deeply. Is this a strength issue, a flexibility issue or a skill issue? Is this something where I’ve just been pushing too hard and I need to step back a little bit? Is this something where I need to get a coach to look at me and get me some more specific advice?
Jarlo: That’s what I was going to say. A lot of this is this self coaching, but it can also give you a really nice opportunity to do a one off with a coach that you know or your trainer. It doesn’t mean you have to be under them for so long. This is the great thing about the internet. You can go and you can do a one off. You can get a couple of sessions with someone because you’ve done your thing, you need a little bit of help. Also now, because you’ve done that introspection, you can have a really focused approach. You can get a lot out of advice from someone, because you’ve already gone through this process.
Andy: That’s really what the growth mindset is. We’ve talked around different aspects of it, I think, but really the key is to understand that where you are now is not a sentence. It’s not your identity. It’s not immutable. It’s not the end of the road. I think anyone that’s listening to this already believes that, at least rationally. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be training or anything. To even begin to try something like what we’re doing, it means that you believe progress is possible. That’s a great first step. Then, that’s very hard to sustain when we hit a plateau or when we feel like we’ve made a failure.
What what we’re trying to tell you is that when you do get to those, to understand, to hold onto that growth mindset and understand that you do still have that potential. Then, to look more deeply at what activities, what habits and what thought patterns you need to develop to continue to move forward, rather than letting yourself feel that you’re stuck.
Jarlo: This is hard. We can talk about this for a long time and have lots and lots of examples. Mostly, we want you to start approaching yourself when you’re training with a little bit more critical thinking, little less judgement, just know that progress is possible. Sustainable progress happens. It happens all the time. You just have to keep working at it. It doesn’t meant that you’re anything less, if you didn’t meet a particular goal. That’s not it at all.
Andy: In the meantime, continue to train yourself in this growth mindset, like we discussed earlier about how the kinds of praise that work well for children, you want to be able to, in reflection, give yourself the same kind of feedback that you know is positive. Not hey, I’m strong now. Hey, I can do this skill now. I’m great because of this thing I possess.
But instead, start really looking for something each time that you can say, “Hey, I really developed my false grip better today. I feel like I really got a better feel for what position my body should be in in this part of the movement.” Or whatever. Look for something specific in the process that you’ve learned, that you can reflect on and bring forward into your next session.
Jarlo: That’s right. Is the muscle up itself the great thing or is the work and effort and the time that you put to get to that muscle up, is that great? I think that that’s the great part.
Andy: Right. The value of training isn’t the result that you can do, a skill or a movement. The value of training is what you learn about yourself and what you develop in yourself through the practice.
Andy: All right. Thank you for listening in, stay tuned. Next time we’ll have Amber talking about boats. If you do have any request for topics that you’d like us to discuss on the show, sends us an email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll throw another shrimp on the barbie.
Jarlo: How about chicken?
Andy: Chicken, yes.
Jarlo: We’ll throw different chickens on the barbie.
Andy: All of them.
Jarlo: Thank you.
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