Conor McGregor - one of the best Mixed Martial Arts fighters - is known for his unbelievable self-confidence and his unrestrained will to always give the best and accept any challenge and succeed to most. But how does he do it? What is the Mindset of a Champion? We'll tell you in this article. πŸ‘‹


TL;DR What is the Mindset of a Champion: Growth Mindset

Have you ever heard of the term Growth Mindset? Growth Mindset – also known as growth thinking – is a way of thinking that not only gives you a healthy self-confidence, determination and more strength.

It is a way of thinking that makes you more powerful both mentally and physically. It makes you grow beyond yourself and dreams come true.

Growth Mindset can be illustrated with the example of Conor McGregor – one of the best MMA fighters of his time, who is known for his eccentric advertising appearances.

Admittedly, his strong self-confidence and extroverted nature aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but he manages, again and again, to cast a spell over people and literally infect them with his self-confidence.

  • But what is his secret?
  • How does he manage to be mentally strong and focused?
  • What power drives him to be the best in one of the toughest sports in the world, where you have to be incredibly strong not only physically but mentally as well?
  • What is the Mindset of a Champion?

In an interview, he once said:

There's no talent here, this is hard work. This is an obsession. Talent does not exist, we are all equal as human beings. You could be anyone if you put in the time. You will reach the top, and that (is) that. I am not talented, I am obsessed.Click To Tweet

For Conor McGregor, there is, therefore, no talent, only hard work. It wasn’t talent that got him out of unemployment. It didn’t help him fight a million-dollar fight against Floyd Mayweather.

In his opinion, it was iron discipline, mental strength, and stamina that made him a self-confident, strong-willed and successful person. Success begins in the head – that is Growth Mindset.

What exactly is behind it and why and how growth thinking can also help you, you will experience now.

Where does the term Growth Mindset come from?

Did you know that Growth Mindset is not just a term, but a research-based model? It was discovered by the American psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, who is regarded as the “discoverer” of Growth Mindset.

She spent many years at Columbia University, Harvard and Illinois before moving to the famous Stanford University in 2004.

In 1988, Dr. Dweck first published a model to demonstrate the influence of different ways of thinking. Perhaps you have experienced this before, that you only achieved a certain goal because you believed in it. You left no doubt, you always had your goal before your eyes, until it finally became reality.

The fact is that every human being has a very specific way of thinking that shapes his self-image. This way of thinking can decide about success or failure and, more importantly, it determines how you deal with new challenges, tasks and problems.

In her model, Dr. Dweck clearly distinguishes between a static self-image (fixed mindset) and a dynamic self-image (growth mindset). In their opinion, the ways of thinking can be either performance-oriented (performance goals) or learning-oriented (learning goals).

With a fixed mindset, the result and the associated success play a major role. Success depends, for example, on good grades at school – another way of thinking is out of the question for these people. The result counts nothing else.

However, anyone who pursues a learning goal and thus has a dynamic self-image (Growth Mindset) will accept any challenge – no matter how much effort it takes. Not with the goal of getting good grades and achieving the best performance, but with the goal of becoming better, growing personally and mentally and acquiring more knowledge.1 You can certainly imagine who will end up ahead.

In later studies, Dr. Dweck found something interesting. How we think about ourselves can influence our actions immensely. Someone who believes, for example, that he is not good enough or not quite so clever will not believe in his success from the outset. However, those who are convinced of themselves and their ability and have a healthy self-confidence will accept any challenge and be able to deal better with failures.

How we think about ourselves and our mental performance thus seems to have a great influence on our motivation and how we deal with challenges and failures. To support her theory, Dr. Dweck enjoyed working with children. For example, she gave them tricky tasks that they had to solve, increasing the difficulty level each time until the tasks were unsolvable for the children.

Many children reacted with stress. They were annoyed, angry and demotivated, which is why they much preferred a simpler task to solving the difficult ones. Other children behaved very differently. They did not stick their heads in the sand. On the contrary, they even enjoyed the fact that they had to look for solutions. They were neither overwhelmed nor stressed or demotivated. They were also not afraid to ask for help because they wanted to learn something. The fact that they could not solve the difficult tasks on their own did not matter at that moment.

What had happened? Why were the reactions and approaches of the children so different? Dr. Dweck described these and more questions in her 2006 book “Mindset: The new psychology of success“. What mindsets Dr. Dweck wrote are now available to you.


Which mindsets are available after Dr. Dweck?

You have already learned that the American psychologist Dr. Dweck distinguishes between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. People with a fixed or growth mindset are fundamentally different. But in which points do they differ exactly?

The term “fixed mindset” refers to people who cannot be dissuaded from their way of thinking. They are firm in their beliefs and spend their time moving in an area they know and trust rather than trying something new. So they don’t make mistakes and don’t have to face problems or new challenges.

As a result, they are not able to fulfill their life’s dreams, precisely because they are afraid of new tasks and the fact that they make mistakes. People with a fixed mindset believe that talent and intelligence alone can bring the desired success. They are performance-oriented – they do not achieve their goal because they are not talented or intelligent enough.

As soon as they fail or face obstacles, they give up prematurely. They can’t deal with criticism or with the admission of having to accept help from others. Often out of fear of not appearing intelligent enough or even weak. They react just as intimidated when other people are more successful than themselves. And how are people with a Growth Mindset?

For people with a Growth Mindset, intelligence and talent are rather secondary. They believe that they can achieve their goals with dedication and hard work. They know that success depends on their staying power, which is why they don’t get discouraged – even if obstacles get in their way. Constructive criticism spurs them on, as does possible failure. Sentences like: “You can’t do that” don’t exist with them.

People with a Growth Mindset are always looking for ways and means to overcome obstacles and achieve the set goals. Thus they constantly develop further, which also leads to the fact that they become more flexible, stronger, smarter and more efficient. They develop into optimists and at the same time build up a positive self-image.

Effort, hard work and discipline are the essence of a Growth Mindsetter that sooner or later leads to success.

The success of other people is by no means seen critically or as a danger. On the contrary, they take advantage of other people’s intelligence to expand their awareness, be inspired and learn something new.

The way to the goal is for it a learning process, which is connected also quite with defeats or errors. But instead of calling themselves stupid or untalented, people with a Growth Mindset strive to acquire new knowledge and thus continue to develop.

Growth Mindset or Fixed Mindset: What do studies say?

'If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.' - MicelangeloClick To Tweet

So people with fixed or growth mindsets seem to react differently to feedback or constructive criticism. Studies in neuropsychology make this clear.

Using an imaging method, researchers tried to find out to what extent fixed and growth mindsets differ when they are confronted with the respective result after a previously performed test. How do people with fixed or growth mindsets deal with constructive criticism?

After evaluating the test with the participants, they were given feedback on their performance and solutions as to how they could do better (learning feedback).

With this learning feedback, they could have answered the questions correctly in the second attempt. After some time there was another unannounced surprise test.

In their study, the researchers first found that both groups, i.e. both fixed mindset participants and growth mindset participants, concentrated on the performance achieved.

What was surprising, however, was that the fixed mindset participants disregarded the learning feedback and failed again in the second test.

The growth mindset participants, on the other hand, knew how to use the learning feedback and were, therefore, able to improve in the second test.

Why the Growth Mindset participants paid more attention to learning feedback than the Fixed Mindset participants, the researchers tried to find out in another experiment by recording the electrical activity of the brain using electroencephalography (EEG).

With this method, they were able to identify a neural mechanism – a so-called pe amplitude – which signals conscious attention.

Since the pe amplitude was much more pronounced in the growth mindset participants, the researchers hypothesized that the growth mindset participants paid more attention to the learning feedback and were thus able to implement it better than the fixed mindset participants.

This would also explain why the growth mindset participants were able to complete the second test of the aforementioned study much better.

It is also interesting to note that you can use a Growth Mindset to compensate for negative emotions caused by failures, unexpected problems or criticism, for example. By the way, this is not the case for people with a fixed mindset.

A recent study shows this. Researchers, therefore, assume that the transformation into a Growth Mindset could have an effect on perfectionists in particular in order to be more satisfied and balanced.5

What does the Growth Mindset mean for sports?

In the meantime, the theory of different mindsets and the associated possibilities have even arrived in the sporting field, even though Conor McGregor is currently the best-known example of a growth mindset.

Although there are already many studies on this topic, there still seem to be many critics who question the theory of the Growth Mindset. Not completely unfounded – after all, scientists have not yet been able to prove exactly how a Growth Mindset is created.6

Perhaps growth thinking is only viewed somewhat critically because there are not yet so many studies on this topic that describe the origin of the Growth Mindset in detail and make it understandable and applicable to everyone. On the basis of the approaches and studies presented here (in particular the studies of Dr. Dweck), future research results could possibly provide a little more information.

If one looks at top athletes, the effect of the Growth Mindset becomes particularly clear. These people work hard to continuously improve and develop their sporting performance in order to become mentally and physically stronger, faster and fitter.

These athletes do not allow themselves to be held back by setbacks. Quite the opposite: with every defeat the motivation increases. They will then work even harder on themselves and look for solutions and new challenges to improve their performance and thus be better than other athletes or at least at their eye level.

Another example of a Growth Mindset is an exceptional athlete who has left a large footprint in basketball. We are talking about Michael Jordan, one of the best basketball players of all time. In his book “Relentless”, author and former coach Tim Grover reports on an exceptional talent who did not want to leave anything to chance.

In 1989 – just at the beginning of his career – Tim Grover applied to every Chicago Bulls player as a personal trainer with an application in every locker in the dressing room. But he didn’t send an application to Michael Jordan because he was already the best player on the basketball team and, Tim Grover suspected, might have had a personal trainer. Interestingly, only one athletics coach called him back on behalf of a single player. It was Michael Jordan he hadn’t even considered.

But what prompted Michael Jordan to contact Tim Grover? Probably the demand for more performance and better performance was so great that Michael Jordan wanted to use every opportunity to improve himself personally and athletically.

mindsetboosting growth mindset and sport

How can I use Growth Mindset and what can I learn from it?

Everybody can use the Growth Mindset for himself – even you! Even if it sounds easier than it is to pursue your goal consistently, to accept the help of others and to use constructive criticism as motivation, a different way of thinking can definitely help you. The path is the goal – not the result. Intelligence and talent are good – hard work and perseverance are better for outgrowing yourself.

When dealing with the Growth Mindset, you should always remember that setbacks and defeats don’t say anything about a person. On the contrary, they only make you stronger. You are neither stupid nor untalented if something doesn’t work out the way you want it to. So don’t be afraid to accept challenges that seem impossible.

Learn from your mistakes to make it better next time. Challenges help you to evolve, but you should not be discouraged by defeats and failures.

Conor McGregor and Michael Jordan are two good examples of athletes who have internalized the Growth Mindset. If you ever doubt yourself and your abilities, just stick with Tim Grover.

He once said:

The difference between criticism and feedback is how you take it.Click To Tweet
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