After a weekend of fantastic sporting achievements, with England winning the cricket World Cup, Djokovic beating Federer and Lewis Hamilton winning the Grand Prix, my thoughts turn to what it takes to win. What do these winners have in common that the rest of us can learn from?

Fixed mindset Vs Growth mindset

According to Carol Dweck, Professor at Stanford University and author of bestselling book ‘Mindset’, the way that people interpret failure is critical to their success. People with a fixed mindset are more likely to give up when they make a mistake, avoid taking on challenges in case they fail, and tend to be defensive when they’re given critical feedback. They believe that their capabilities are static and readily label themselves by referencing their lack of ability.

By contrast, people with a growth mindset recognise that failing is an inevitable part the change process. They accept feedback as an opportunity to improve, they willingly take on challenges and they recognise that they can grow their capabilities rather than be defined by them. They learn from mistakes and see them as a stepping stone to success, rather than as a milestone around their neck. They keep chasing their dreams, even when they suffer from setbacks. They consistently behave in line with one of the fundamental principles of Neuro Linguistic Programming  – that ‘there is no failure, only feedback’.

The mindset of champions

According to  Dr. Bob Rotella, a sports psychologist and author of ‘How Champions Think: In Sports and Life’, champions tend to have the following traits and behaviours:

  1. A mindset of optimism and confidence. There is a saying that ‘You achieve what you believe’. This belief is central to the mindset of champions, who constantly focus on the positives in their performance, mentally reliving their achievements, believing that they will be successful in future, feeding their subconscious mind positive messages on a regular basis. They take time to learn from their mistakes, but they don’t dwell on these or let these hold them back.
  2. A positive self-image. Self belief and self-image are one of the most important drivers of success. Many of us are plagued by our inner critic, but champions big themselves up. They praise themselves and reinforce their own achievements, because they recognise that seeing themselves positively is the key to success. If they allow themselves to succumb to self-doubt, their opponents will sense this and take advantage.
  3. They break big goals down into bite-size chunks. Champions recognised that, to stay motivated, they need to be constantly achieving and winning. Setting attainable, intermediate goals on a daily or weekly basis, helps them to stay motivated, reinforcing their self-belief and moving them towards their significant, longer-term goal.
  4. They form habits that breed success. Being a champion takes huge amounts of perseverance and commitment. So they form daily habits and rituals that keep them focussed, positive and resilient. These habits tend to involve physical and mental activities that nudge them closer to their goal every single day. Whether it’s starting the day by being grateful for three things, replaying the achievements of the day before or doing 100 push ups, they embed habits that make their success more likely and that add up to big, positive changes over time.
  5. They surround themselves with winners. Champions recognise that the people they spend time have an influence over their success. All of us can learn from this – are you surrounded by people who have your best interests at heart and support you in growing and developing?

The mind is like a muscle – make sure you work it

So if you want to improve your mental fitness and develop a winning, growth mindset, remember that the brain is like a muscle that develops with exercise. To develop your mental strength and flexibility, you will need to ‘work out’ mentally on a regular basis. And the good news is that you don’t need to pay for a gym membership to do this! Just pay attention to your thinking and catch your thought processes whenever you’re feeling defeated, on the brink of giving up or criticising yourself. Then think like a champion – whether it’s reframing failure as a natural part of growing, setting yourself a more achievable goal, or boosting your confidence with positive self-talk – these are all things you can practise every day at home or at work.