Growth Mindset Now – Career Success Later

Here at Coeus Creative Group, our mission is to empower people by improving behaviors. While much of our work targets organizations and adults, we also work with athletes on a variety of issues. Today we want to focus on an essential concept to the success of top-performing athletes; developing a growth mindset. While we are offering advice to athletes, their parents, and coaches, this concept is also beneficial to business leaders and professionals alike.

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s theory of growth mindset has impacted how many coaches and parents approach speaking to their athletes. A “fixed mindset” is such that skills and abilities are set, finite, and unchangeable. Whereas a person with a growth mindset has an outlook that practice and learning can lead to improvement.

Most importantly, a growth mindset is beneficial to all areas of life for young athletes, including school, sports, relationships, and careers. At its core, the concept notes that actions can change outcomes; intelligence, behavior, and abilities are not fixed or unalterable.

Fixed mindset: “I’m not good at face-offs.”
Growth mindset: “I’m not good at face-offs yet.”

A growth mindset is developed over time. Parents and coaches need to be aware of this to help young athletes discover it, and reinforce it over time. Teaching self-reflection is an integral part of that process.


There is no way to see change without knowing where the starting line is. Some coaches do this through skills assessments at the beginning of the season. If your coach is not, suggest they start. But then evaluate your athlete (with their input) yourself. You have been watching them grow and educating yourself on the game. You can assemble a baseline for measurement.

It is essential to look at these assessments as opportunities for improvement, not talent evaluation. Parents and coaches need to avoid glorifying players for “natural” talent. These declarations promote a fixed mindset that an athlete is either talented or not. This can impact the growth of not only the athlete who is told they are talented, but also show their teammates that talent alone is what matters.


Individual improvement is the best way to increase a team’s chance of winning, so it’s necessary to identify the skills and abilities they want to develop. In doing this, athletes can also achieve success regardless of wins and losses.

Many of these goals will be focused on sport-specific skills and physical fitness; but athletes should also be encouraged to set goals around communication, teamwork, support for teammates, and conflict resolution.


Don’t skip letting the season end without a purposeful reflection on the skills and abilities gained. It is vital to close the loop so athletes clearly see they’ve established goals, worked to create change, and achieved an outcome. Even if some goals did not get met, they still were able to learn and grow.

A great way to facilitate this reflection is to try starting a conversation using open-ended questions:

  • What are you proud of this season?
  • What should have been done another way?
  • At difficult moments, how did you use the tools available to you?
  • What skill do you want to work on before next season?

Journaling is another way for athletes to establish a thoughtful routine because they regularly learn to review activities and key moments. It also creates a record that athletes can utilize to reflect on their long-term progress.


Youth sports are great for teaching new skills, and reflection helps them connect the work they do and the progress they continue to make. This self-reflection is what will carry them into their future careers.

While most people define success as avoiding failure, truly successful people will tell you their success is determined by their response to it. They would argue that you must experience failure to learn the lessons that bring success.

An important reminder is no matter what your athlete thinks about their current abilities, they are good enough to do their best right now. No matter how hard they try, your athlete can’t be better than they are in that moment. Embracing and honing current abilities creates a firm platform. I know this looks like a circular argument, but what should be understood is that our culture, obsessed with better, is also an anxious culture.

Some studies show 25% of Americans have an identifiable mental disorder, and 80% of those, or 20% of us, have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is related to the uncertainty and fear of a future event or occurrence. When our minds focus solely on the end results, we quit concentrating on the “now” and do not perform at our best.

What we know about human beings at their best is they are not constantly jumping into the future. They don’t dwell in the past. They stay present, focused, and function to the best of their ability right now. The problem with better is it keeps pulling you to the future. If you pay close attention to the people that succeed at a high level, they are not hyper-focused on winning. They simply believe they are going to do well.

Parents, coaches, and (behaviorally intelligent) business leaders should be saying, “Give it your all, do the best that you can, and learn from the experience to be better tomorrow.” If you’re leading an organization, whether it’s a family, a team, or a business, if you can get people to perform at their best right now, then you’re empowering people by improving behaviors at the highest level.

Interested in hiring Coeus Creative Group to train your teams on this topic or behavioral intelligence? Contact us today

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