Growth Mindset in Sport and Life: Part 2

Part 2: How to Identify Your Mindset

with ALLYSA SEELY, Liv Racing Paratriathlete 

In the first part of this three part series on mindset we explored the two types of mindsets— growth and fixed mindset. Each of us will have a different mindset because, just as we are all unique in the way we look and work, we all think in different ways. 

During the second part of this series, we will identify which mindset we lean towards during different aspects of training, racing, and sport. Our ability to identify our personal mindset allows us to make changes to the way we think and encourage our brains to work in conjunction with our bodies to identify our biggest goals. 

Growth Mindset

Fixed Mindset

Embrace Challenges

Avoid Challenges

Practice self-compassion

Highly self critical

Learn from criticism

Disregard Criticism

Believe effort makes progress

Believes ability is innate

Build others up

Resentful of others success, criticize and judge others

Never give up

Gives up easily


I became interested in mindset while studying for a degree in exercise psychology. While studying, I quickly identified that I naturally take on a growth mindset and, as an athlete, I have prided myself on that for quite some time. What I didn’t account for is that although we may lean to one mindset or another, our mindset will fluctuate over time based on activity. 

This year, I have struggled significantly in my working relationships with my performance team including my coach. I’ve been having trouble finding joy in the sport I love and want to excel at, which is creating roadblocks in my training. Upon writing the first piece of this series, I realized over time my mindset moved from that of a growth mindset to a fixed mindset due to struggles where I had very little control. I can now see how that has factored into many of the challenges I have faced and resulted in a lack of joy in sport. 

Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to analyze your own mindset. So, how can it be done?

Start by answering the following questions: 

  1. How often do you find yourself putting things off?
  2. How often do you catch yourself saying some variation of the following phrases?
    1. I’m not good at…
    2. can’t…
    3. I’ll never be…
    4. Now’s not the right time.
    5. I don’t have enough experience.
    6. I’m not qualified.
  3. How often do you find you are eager to take on new tasks and challenges. 
  4. How often do you catch yourself saying some variation of the following phrases?
    1. I am improving at…
    2. I am working hard to grow.
    3. How can I improve?

If you can’t recognize if and how often you use these phrases, I challenge you to be mindful of your conversations and internal dialogue over the next 48-72 hours and tally each time you do and in what circumstances. Ask your friends, coach, parents, and teammates to help! If you keep a journal, look back through your entries for evidence of these phrases. Remember our mindset can change based on what we are participating in. 

When I asked myself these same questions, I found I tended to use the phrases in question 4 when it came to running, my strength in triathlon. I believed I was improving, I tended to take on additional training, learned from critism, and challenged myself often. When it came to cycling, my weakest of the three disciplines in triathlon, I found myself saying, “I can’t,” often and procrastinating - aligning more with question 1 and 2. 

This means I have both a growth mindset (for running) and a fixed mindset (about cycling). Knowing that I tend toward a fixed mindset in some aspects of my sport is the first step to understanding and overcoming roadblocks in my training. What are some strategies to change your fixed mindset tendencies to a growth mindset that will allow you to improve and attack challenges that lie ahead? 

Stay tuned for Part 3!