The warmth of our current September evenings has brought back memories of the summer and in particular the success of Team GB at the Olympics.
For me, the enjoyment of the Olympics comes from hearing the stories the athletes tell – when interviewed they highlight the work, the dedication and their training but perhaps the one thing that stands out in their stories is the resilience they show in the face of adversity. The athletes talk about the failures they have encountered, their disappointments in being rejected from teams, the injuries they had overcome yet through it all they had a self-belief – a mindset that through hard work, continued effort and determination they would succeed. They did not give up, they did not see their failures as a failure of themselves, instead they took each set-back as an opportunity to learn, to develop and to use their failure to succeed next time.
There is a tradition in psychology that shows the power of our beliefs – they affect what we want and whether we succeed in getting what we want. I think is perfectly summed up by a quote from Henry Ford who said “If you think you can and if you think you can’t, you are right”. It is your mindset that helps you to succeed.
This week at our staff INSET we have been discussing mindsets, looking closely at Carol Dweck’s work and trying to instil in our pupils a “growth mindset”. This is a belief that the basic qualities you were born with are only a starting point, they are not fixed and different attributes can be cultivated through hard work and effort.
A growth mindset is not discouraged by failing, they don’t see themselves as failures or having reached a ceiling in their ability, instead they see failure as an opportunity to grow and develop. The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it even (or perhaps especially) when it is not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.
It is this mindset that allows people to thrive during the most challenging times in their lives. It is the mindset of our Olympians and I hope it will become the mindset of our pupils.
Jo MacKenzie, Headmistress, Bedford Girls’ School