When you walk into your Zumba or yoga class or begin any workout, do you think “What will I learn today?” or “What will I look like today?” These two different thoughts exemplify two main motivations most of us bring to an exercise routine.
One point-of-view is primarily focused on learning and developing. You don’t just want to hit the tennis ball or finish the marathon, you want to learn about playing, running or any other activity. You want to develop strength, build skills and understand why specific practices help you improve. This is called “growth mindset” by Carol Dweck, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Stanford University and a leading expert on motivation.
The more you focus on how you have improved and what you have learned, the more you will feel positive and thrive.
The second point-of-view is about outperforming peers. You want to beat your tennis partner, set a new personal record in a race or swim faster than the person in the next lane. You tend to focus on how others perceive you and your accomplishments. The motivation stems from the belief that we have certain abilities that cannot be changed – what Dr. Dweck defines as a “fixed mindset.”
You can probably guess which approach leads to greater joy and satisfaction: the growth mindset. It turns out that the growth mindset also is more likely to help you improve, even when you are training for a competition. The more you focus on your own development, the more positive you feel and the more likely you are to continue improving. Focusing on how you appear or compare to others generates negative emotions (frustration and disappointment) that distract you from the growing and learning that lead to real improvement.
The questions you pose to yourself can make all the difference in what you gain from your active lifestyle. The next time you start and finish an exercise routine, ask “how have I grown today?” The answer will make you happy and better at whatever you do.
Share your secrets to staying motivated and improving in Comments so we can all learn together.