Updated: Oct 13, 2020
Remember Fenati's move....... A fixed mindset can affect anyone at any time.
There a lot of Fixed Mindsets in the paddock and in sport in general; We actually create them if we are not careful by heaping praise on a young rider being "a natural" or "they are just so talented: that sends the message to the rider that they don't have to work at it, it just comes naturally. But is that true?
In 2007 Stanford University carried out a season-long study on the mindset of racers, Carol Dweck who completed the study wanted to understand what mentality the winning racers had. There are two mindsets a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. The fixed mindset believes that they are a product of their talent and that they are either good at what they do " a natural " so to speak or they are not good at something and if they are not then they will avoid doing it. On the other hand, the growth mindset will persevere to become better at the task and can recognise that a skill can be learned and with more effort, they can accomplish more.
The Fixed Mindset is common in many sports and within the paddock in motor racing. The fixed mindset racer has been quick all of his life, they have found it easy and has not had to question their ability to win but there is a flaw in this mindset though, as talent alone will plateau and sooner or later you get to a class where everyone around you is quick, when it does the fixed mindset racer starts to struggle with the reasoning behind it. The lack of performance must be down to the machine, the team, the mechanics, the weather or conditions. They all become the reasons for lower performance rather than looking inward, "after all I have always been quick right?" The fixed mindset can also increase the inner mind chatter as everything is being evaluated and debated in your own head over a race weekend and even during the race. This is where Fenati's mind could well have gone, with status-related statements and internal mind chatter asking "why am i even racing with Manzi? I am miles better than him, I am a Grand Prix winner" causing frustration and dropping him into the blame game. No one can condone his behaviour at Misano that day but if it can happen to him it can happen to anyone. You only have to look at a certain Mr Rossi & Marquez at Sepang in 2015, and they had 12 world championships between them at that point.
The Growth Mindset racer sees the same situations in a different way and they are looking at what can be done to bridge gap, where they are in reality to where they want to be. In the university study, Dweck discovered that the majority of winners over the season had a growth mindset. As over a race weekend, it is easy to lose focus and get distracted causing an error and the growth mindset racers recovered from the mistakes faster and were able to regain focus to end up winning the race. The growth mindset racers were able to learn from their mistakes and accept it is all part of the process of getting better.
Marc Marquez working to save, to what is for everyone else on the planet a crash at Brno 2014. In an interview with Red Bull when asked where or what is your limit? Marquez replied "I hope I never find it and always have room for improvement" A great example of a growth mindset. The Honda has not been the best bike on the grid in Marquez's MotoGP era but he has worked to be able to be the best on it developing the now-famous save of a low side when the Honda characteristically tucks the front.
Speaking to some racers who are feeling there are doing quite well in their championship, i sometimes hear, " I have a good team around me and feel good at the moment so there is no need to work on anything extra."
This clearly demonstrates a fixed mindset and the truth is, if you are standing still you are going backwards. even if you won the last race or the last championship, there is work to do, ask Shakey Byrne, Marc Marquez, Lewis Hamiton or Roger Federer they have only achieved the championship crowns in their sport through the work they put in. The trick is to put the work in before the wheels fall off and you are at the back of the grid, sharpen your already good skills and make yourself even harder to beat, that's what the greats do.
Take it from Albert Einstein, if you approach this year the same as any other year very little will change, oh you could get some good results because you know how to ride a bike but if your mentality stays the same, your limitations stay the same, your feeling about specific competitors stays the same, the way you feel about a change in the weather stays the same, how unlucky you feel you are, stays the same, and the feeling that you don't like this track and never go well here, stays the same too and unfortunately so do the results. It's like a cake if the ingredients are wrong there is no way it is going to taste right.
So no matter how shiny the bike is and how clean the garage, or how fit you think you feel when you roll out with the same mentality nothing will change and that's your responsibility, not the teams.
Take the mindset quiz here and see which mindset you currently have
The good news is that mindsets can change, through awareness the growth mindset can be adopted moving a rider a victim mentality into a creator working on achieving more.
As part of my training with riders at all levels, we start with mindset because, without it, all is lost.
Want to know more, check out the Masterclass below and see how the training can help you improve your focus, confidence and performance.