Taking responsibility is an important mindset shift in mental training. It’s about understanding that you are responsible for your climbing experiences.
There are some things outside the realm of your control and some things that are within the realm of your control. Your experience, which is largely dependent on your internal response to external factors, is within your sphere of control. Something happening that's outside your sphere of control could ruin your day or it could be a fun obstacle to overcome. Taking responsibility is about understanding that it's your job to make it the latter. We might not always succeed in doing this, but we can try, and in doing so learn and grow. Taking responsibility is difficult, but we should give ourselves credit for trying.
This mindset shift is about adopting a belief that will serve you well. You'll get more out of climbing if you take responsibility for how you climb, what you climb, when you climb and how you feel doing it. If you aren't the author of your climbing journey, you'll struggle to change it for the better and you'll blame others when things don't work out. This is why taking responsibility is such an important step in mental training.
A learner’s mindset
It's easy to put achievement first in climbing – achievement of routes and grades. A learner’s mindset is where we prioritise learning, and value experiences for the learning they offer, instead of only valuing achievements and outcomes.
An example of a learner’s mindset would be to try a route that has a lower grade but isn’t your style: it may not be an inspiring grade for you, but you’re choosing to work on your weaknesses and learn, instead of getting an easy tick.
If we always prioritise achievement we won't learn or grow as quickly as we could otherwise as we avoid good challenges and learning opportunities in favour of easy wins. This means that in the long run, even if we value achievement more than learning, a learner’s mindset will still serve us better than an achievement mindset. Prioritising learning can also help offload fear of failure, which is a common challenge we encounter in mental training that affects both our performance and enjoyment in climbing.
A learner’s mindset is very similar to a mastery mindset, where we acknowledge that learning is open-ended: we never 'arrive' and we can always learn, grow and continue to master our task or sport – learning itself is the goal. This can be a very interesting mindset to explore; many great athletes, musicians, performers, leaders and highly accomplished people recognise mastery as an effective, fulfilling mindset/philosophy.
We can better adopt a learner’s or a mastery mindset by developing intrinsic motivation for challenge; masters enjoy practice for the sake of practice, not for the result. This is easier to do when you know how to get the challenge level right. People can become fearful of challenge altogether because of bad experiences. We need to learn how to have exciting and somewhat challenging experiences that don't overwhelm us, then we want to come back for more.
This is an interesting read on mastery.
Positivity is about recognising positives no matter what the outcome. Positivity is not about wishing/hoping/expecting to get the outcome you want. Positivity can help us learn, perform and of course enjoy our climbing, whilst also making us better climbing partners to be around.
Positivity is different to optimism, where we might expect or hope for a good outcome. A positive mindset allows us to see value in what happens, whatever shape it might take. It does not mean ignoring bad things; we can acknowledge negatives, accentuate positives and make the most out of a situation.
Once again, this is about recognising that there is more than one valid perspective we could have, and adopting the one that will serve us well. Just like taking responsibility, this can be hard to do, but the efforts we make here will pay off.
Gratitude can be an effective tool for positivity. It’s well researched that gratitude can boost people’s happiness and well-being, and it can help us snap out of unhelpful thinking patterns. Positivity can help us recognise progress gains when we see them, which helps us to adhere to a learning process without expecting quick, easy outcomes.
Take a look at this post to see how positive reframing can help us deal with a stressful moment such as being scared on lead.
Growth mindset refers to the belief that our traits are not fixed – unlike fixed mindset where we believe our traits to be set in stone. There have been significant studies by Carol Dweck showing that children with a growth mindset excel more in school and enjoy school more.
Having a growth mindset is incredibly important for climbing, especially the psychological side of climbing. To take an example, many people say that they are a ‘scared climber’ and that they always will be. This is an example of having a fixed mindset about the psychological trait of being brave. If you think in this way, it will be very difficult for you to develop in this area of climbing.
People with fixed mindsets tend to suffer more from fear of failure because they value the end results more than the process. For example, kids at school value the test more than the process of learning. If they fail the test then it was all a waste, or worse, it reveals a fixed, low level of ability. What people often don’t realise is that people can have a fixed mindset about things they are good at. For example, ‘wonder children’ who have a lot of talent and consider themselves to already be good, so why work at it? This breeds the mindset that working hard is for people who aren’t already good.
A growth mindset can allow learners to be more positive, take on challenges willingly and enjoy challenges more. If we don’t believe we can ‘grow’, we are unlikely to apply ourselves to challenges and of course we are unlikely to improve.
Some extra resources on growth mindset:
This 10 minute TED Talk is a fantastic introduction to growth mindset
Further reading - a blog post on growth mindset
Mindset, Carol Dweck - a link to Carol Dweck's book