The Life-Changing Magic of Growth Mindset

Dancers Growth Mindset

Dancers Growth Mindset – What if I told you there is something you can do, that could improve your enjoyment and performance of West Coast Swing, almost instantly? (With a little practice)

Something so powerful that once you have truly mastered it, it will not only improve your dance, dramatically, but have knock on effects in your life, career and relationships, if you let it.


The key, is mindset. Growth Mindset to be specific.

World class dancers, top performing athletes, even Olympians all use growth mindset to improve their performance every single day.

First documented by psychologist Carole Dweck almost 30 years ago (1988), when studing the predictors of high performance in her students, Growth Mindset is in essence, the idea that we can grow and learn.

Dr Dweck discovered that if a students focus was on performance they were more likely to fear failure and challenge, but if the students focus was on learning then failure and challenge seemed to encourage them and the student was more likely to achieve their full potential.

The discovery was revolutionary and changed the way we view and understand the human brain significantly.

Until recently, scientists believe that our brains grew to a certain point and then simply ceased to duplicate or grow new cells. But recent advances in neurosciences confirm the opposite. Not only do our brains continue to grow our whole lives, but that we can actively change the pathways in them. We can literally re-wire our brains to think feel and react differently. This is known as neuro plasticity.


Carole Dweck’s work describes two primary mindsets, Fixed and Growth with a mixed mindset to describe the process of switching from one to the other.

So what are they?

Essentially a fixed mindset is the belief that you cannot improve. Things are the way they are and there is nothing you can do. It’s in your DNA, your age, your experience. There is no changing you.

A growth mindset is the belief that our basic abilities can be developed and improved through dedication and hard work. It is the belief that with effort, time and resourcefulness all things can be learnt, overcome or worked around.


Fixed Mindset


Intelligence is fixed

Avoids Challenges

Gives up Easily

Critical of Self

Criticism is personal

Resents other Success

Critical of others

Problem Focused

Intelligence is fluid

Embraces challenges – learns from them

Keeps trying

Hard work is part of the journey

Encourages feedback

Inspired by others success

Encourages growth in self and others

Solutions focused

For example if you are learning something new you can identify your mindset by listening to your thoughts on it.


Fixed mindset:

I can’t learn this. I’m useless. Everyone else is better than me. I keep getting it wrong. There’s no point. I look stupid.


Growth Mindset:

This is new. What am I missing? That was better than last time. What can I learn from people who are finding this easier? I’m learning a lot. Let’s keep practicing. This is fun!

If you still aren’t sure which mindset you are currently in you can take the mindset quiz here.


So if our mindset predicts our behaviours and thus our performance, how do we switch from a fixed  to a growth mindset?



You can help your students.

Stop praising achievement! This creates a bar, a standard to live up to. It can make the student you are praising fear not maintaining the standard and can make others fear they will never achieve the same standard.

Instead praise the behaviour of the student. Praise hard work, persistence and attitude. IF they are struggling yet keep going praise their determination. If they are a natural and yet help others when they are struggling, praise the empathy and encouragement they are giving.


For example:

Fixed mindset praise:

Congratulations on making finals! You were dancing so well!


Growth Mindset praise:

Congratulations, your hard work is paying off. Your dancing has really improved and it’s showing.



It’s really a matter of practice and I’m going to admit now that whilst the concepts are simple enough, putting them into practice is far more difficult. But keep going and don’t let the slip ups stop you. That’s step one!


Here are a few steps to adopting a growth mindset;

  1. Embrace the imperfections.

Repeat after me, I am not supposed to be perfect. Not after practice, let alone on the first try! If you were perfect the first time, every time, there would be nothing to learn and the dance would never change. Allow yourself to enjoy, even seek out your mistakes. That is where the learning is. That is where the play is.

  1. Know your WHY

Dr. Dwecks research showed if you know the WHY behind your goals, the purpose, you are more likely to adopt a growth mindset naturally.

  1. Love the journey not the destination

I know but really! Enjoy the process of learning. It will be boring when there is nothing left to learn. If you enjoy learning and discovering how to understand your body, self, movement and dance on a new level then the result is a by product.

  1. Change your internal language.

Notice your internal monologue, and listen to the language you are using with yourself. If it is not kind, change it. Imagine you are encouraging a loved one or friend. Be kind to yourself, encourage yourself.

  1. Add a ‘YET’

If you are struggling to change your internal language and do the above, add the word ‘yet’ to your internal monologue. Instead of “I can’t do this.” Say “I can’t do this yet.” It allows you to keep going.

  1. Accept and encourage feedback

Seek feedback and most importantly, don’t use it to beat yourself up! Use it to improve, learn and focus on key areas to work on.

  1. Celebrate success of others

Celebrating the success of others and acknowledging the work they have taken to get there is important. It helps us realise that we are only ever in competition with ourselves, no one else. Someone else’s success if not detrimental to you. Their success shows you can do it too, there is more to learn and they may even be the one to help you do it.

  1. Celebrate Learning!

Acknowledge how far you have come and the work you have put in to get here. All too often we achieve a milestone and the celebration and sense of achievement is short lived. But is we acknowledge where we were yesterday and what we have experienced to get to today we can see all of the learnings and growth we have gained.

  1. Accept it is ok to be where you are at now and still have goals.

Too often we believe if we accept how we are now, then we will not improve. Fixed mindset means we criticise ourselves horrendously. It doesn’t help. You need to accept where you are at. Embrace it, love it. And know that loving the you right here right now, will help you develop into who/ how you want to be.


And remember, we all slip up. But when you notice you have shifted to a mixed or even fixed mindset, don’t stay stuck and beat yourself up, remember you can and will change it.



By Natalie Lockyer


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