I’m a big believer in the power of the mind to shape our reality. One of the things that keeps coming up in reading about the psychology of successful people is their ability to look at situations differently than the average person. Their ability to apply what is known as the “growth mindset” to their failures is the foundation of their success.

Here is a quick quiz to help you see the difference between the growth mindset and the fixed mindset:

– When you come across something on the trail that you can not ride do you…

A) say that the trail section is too tough

B) see an opportunity to push your limits and get better, even if it might involve failure (crashing)?

– When you failed the first time you tried something new (like riding a technical trail feature, jumping or riding skinnies) did you…

A) write it off as something you’re not naturally good at

B) try to figure out what the successful riders where doing and try to mimic it?

– When you aren’t on “your bike” do you…

A) feel like you’re not half the rider you usually are

B) feel that you can figure out how to ride any bike?

The A responses represent the fixed mindset where you think that your skills and traits are “fixed” and can’t be changed. It revolves around blaming things outside of your control (the trail or the bike) and in looking at initial success or failure as an indicator of how “good” you are and if you should even try. In fact, trying is seen as a weakness because if you do things like train and think about this stuff then that means you’re not really very good (the “just give ‘er and drink beer” crowd).

The growth mindset answers, on the other hand, revolve around recognizing that you can grow and shape your skills and that failure is simply part of the growth process. Trying hard is a hallmark of growth mindset riders because they know that practice and training will allow them to control their own destiny.

Obviously you have to keep this all in perspective – I don’t really think that I could be a Red Bull Rampage competitor no matter how much I worked at it. There is a fine line between a BHAG (Big, Hairy Audacious Goal) that gets you excited and not being realistic. But I don’t think that the problem with most riders is dreaming too big, I think that they need to start dreaming in the first place.

What is your BHAG? I’m going to go out on a limb here and admit that I want to learn to do some tricks. Yeah, I’m 34 years old but it’s really starting to bug the crap out of me that I can’t get a hand or foot to come off my bike and I’m going to go into this off season trying to figure out how to “train” for that.

Your goal may be a bit different but whether its learning a new trick, learning to jump in the first place or simply being able to ride your local loop faster and with more confidence the point is that you can do it if you bring the growth mindset to it. Figure out your BHAG, figure out how you’re going to get there and get after it. Every day you’re either getting better or worse and without an idea of what kind of rider you really want to be how will you know which direction you’re headed?

-James Wilson-

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