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“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.” A bold, compelling statement that sets the tone for the rest of the groundbreaking book, Mindset: The new psychology of success.

Dr. Dweck, one of the world’s leading researchers in the fields of personality, social psychology, and developmental psychology, posits that we should be living life with a growth-centered mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. In short:

 “The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies and help from others. Although people may differ in every which way – in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments-everyone can change and grow through application and experience … People with the growth mindset admire effort, for no matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”

Who do you want to be? Who do you want your children to be?

As parents, teachers, and coaches, how do we want our children to face challenges, trials, and failures?

It seems counter-intuitive, but the messages we send as adults to children about success can often cause them to fall into the fixed mindset as their success breeds a fear of failure. If success means they are smart/talented/brilliant/athletic etc., then failure means they are the opposite of all those things.

We don’t gift our children with confidence by praising their brains and talent indiscriminately. In fact, we increase their self-doubt when faced with challenges to both their intellect and abilities.

Nurturing a growth mindset

So what then? What language do we use to promote a growth-oriented mindset in our children, students, and athletes?

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, seek new strategies, and keep on learning. That way their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”

It’s not that we shouldn’t praise our children. It’s that we should praise them based on the growth processes used to perform – practice, study, effort, consistency, and persistence. “I like how hard you worked to correct your stroke” versus “You are really good at freestyle!” Or, for my artist girl, “You’ve really improved your shading techniques with all the practice you’ve done” versus “You’re a natural artist!” (And I can’t lie, this one is hard for me. It’s a natural path to follow and one that we must train ourselves to resist.) These are obvious examples, and often our messages are far more subliminal. The bottom line is, praising intelligence and talent promotes a fixed mindset, increasing self-doubt and a fear of failure.

As coaches and parents, we praise the process and connect it to the outcomes – the successes and the failures, always helping to tweak the process to, well, grow. We help our children develop new strategies when old ones aren’t working, continuing with our focus on their effort, application, and experience.

We here at One with the Water want you and your children to live life rising to meet ever more difficult challenges. Swim with us and you’ll see how hard work, practice and persistence can help you become one with the water.

Do you want to help empower others to nurture a growth mindset? To overcome their fears and be confident, safe and successful in the water? Partner with us today to teach economically disadvantaged families, special needs children, and Service-Disabled Veterans to become One with the Water! You can be a hero to those that lack traditional access to swimming and swimming lessons.


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