How your mindset is holding your skating back & how to overcome it
We’ve all heard the cliche that skating is mostly mental, and well, it’s true. But no one’s talking about why it’s true or what you can do to take control of your mental power.
So in this article/video, I’m going to go over how your mindset affects literally everything, especially your skating, and how you can unleash the power of your mind to skate better and get what you want.
WTF is mindset?!
The definition of mindset is “the accumulation of your attitudes and beliefs”.
Your attitudes and beliefs influence everything you think and feel, how you perceive the world, but most importantly - your behaviour and what you do.
For example, if you believe you'll never learn hardflips, maybe you won't try. If you think you’re not good enough to skate the local park, maybe you won’t go and you won't progress.
Two important types of mindset we’re gunna talk about are:
Fixed vs Growth mindset.
A fixed mindset is the belief that your skills and abilities can’t be developed. That you’re born with whatever skills you have there's not much you can do to improve.
Someone with a fixed mindset might think people who are good at skating were just born with their ability to skate, and that they could never reach their level or get much better than they are.
They might believe that they’ll never be able to do certain tricks, or that they’re just too old to improve.
They ultimately believe they don’t have much control over what happens in their life or their abilities.
On the other hand, a growth mindset is the belief that you can get better at anything as long as you put in the effort.
Someone with a growth mindset might think they’re not where they want to be “yet”, but with enough practice they can get there, they might accept they don’t have good nollie flips right now, but with enough practice they can learn them.
They ultimately believe they're in control over what happens in their life and their abilities.
1000 mindsets in one.
It’s important to mention that you don’t have either a growth or a fixed mindset, most people have a combination of the two, and they can change based on many things like the people you’re with, the environment or how you're feeling.
For example, maybe you believe you can get better at one trick, but not another. Maybe as you got older you started to believe you won’t ever learn a trick you’ve tried for years. Maybe when you’re around certain people your mindset changes because you care about how people perceive you
E.g. the classic "Ah I just can’t skate today brah.”, “I haven’t skated in like 2 weeks, I’m probably not going to get this trick.” Things that you might not say if you were skating alone.
Fixed mindsets can be sneaky too. On the surface level I always believed that I could get better at skating, but at the same time, I didn’t fully believe that all my effort and practice was actually helping. (And sometimes it wasn’t which we’ll get to in the video/article on enhancing learning dropping soon).
"I'm just being realistic".
Now you might be thinking a fixed mindset is just a more “realistic view” of the world. "I’ve tried nollie flips for 10 years and I just can’t do them."
Well first off, no.
If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s that with consistent action, you can get better at anything. No matter where you’re at right now, or what it is, you can get better. Even the hard shit or the stuff that scares you the most. Even those nollie flips.
But don’t just take my word for it, this is heavily backed up by science.
Not too long ago, science thought the brain was unchangeable, that after you hit a certain age you were basically stuck or fixed with what you’ve got. But then, something called neuroplasticity was discovered, which showed your brain actually continues to rewire and change for your entire life, even when you’re old and saggy.
Your brain is this huge network of billions of cells called neurons, and for each habit, action or trick you have a mini map of neurons that tell you how to do it. The more ingrained a habit, or action - aka a trick, the bigger and more accurate this map will be, and the more locked in that habit or trick will be.
Through experience, trying and failing, you can rewire and solidify these maps, making them stronger and more detailed, literally changing the actual structure of your brain.
The goal is to fail.
This is potentially gunna suck to hear, but one irreplaceable aspect of neuroplasticity is failure. You have to fail, a lot.
Why? Because it’s the failure that triggers your brain to realise that it needs, to learn and get better. It’s the mismatch between what you’re doing and what you want to do that creates learning.
When you’re learning a trick, every bail is teaching your brain how to not do it as you figure out the right way to do it. So in reality, the actual land of the trick is just a tiny part of learning, a much bigger part is all those failures.
The fact that there’s often a delay between all the effort and the land, makes progression not so obvious, and that's one of the reasons so many people give up on tricks or building new skills and habits.
It often seems like you’re making no progress at all.
But this is why I think understanding how your brain works can be so helpful, because it helps you realise and believe, that your efforts do actually build on top of eachother and even if you don’t seem close for 10 days, maybe on that 11th you figure it out.
So don’t give up because you never know when you’ll make it!
(Now for the people who are thinking "I’ve been trying this one trick for years and haven’t figured it out", you might have been missing some of the key ingredients to take advantage of neuroplasticity, which we’ll get to in the article on learning dropping soon...)
Thoughts to action.
In the same way you can build muscle with consistent effort, you can build your brain with consistent effort too.
But if you don’t believe that - aka you’ve got a fixed mindset, you won’t allow yourself to open up to the experiences that will lead to change.
If you believe you can do it, you’re right, and if you believe you can’t, you’re right too mate.
Remember your beliefs influence what you think, feel, perceive and do.
Research shows that if you believe you can’t get better at something you likely aren’t going to go up against the necessary challenges to get better.
I mean why would you? In your mind effort doesn’t help you get where you want to go, so what’s the point?
You’ll see trying as essentially a waste of time and you’ll respond to failure, resistance and setbacks by giving up, … and ultimately use all these experiences to confirm your belief that you can’t get better.
Traumatising kids to believe they're shit.
In one study, some science bods wanted to test how your mindset influences your actions and confidence.
First, some kids were given an easy test and then either praised for their intelligence - e.g. “ah you did well, you must be smart”, or they were praised for their effort - “ah you did well, you must have tried hard.”
Then they were asked if they wanted to do either a hard test that would be an opportunity for them to learn or grow, or an easy one, which they were told they’d definitely do well on.
Almost 70% who were praised for their intelligence chose the easier test (basically to prove they were smart), whereas 90% that were praised for effort chose the harder one.
Finally, they were given an almost impossible test. The group praised for effort worked harder, longer and enjoyed it more, whereas the intelligence praise group got frustrated and gave up early.
In other studies people with a growth mindset showed more brain activity when they were told how they could improve at a test, as opposed to reduced brain activity in those with a fixed mindset.
Meaning people with a fixed mindset literally shut their mind off to potentially useful feedback - they didn’t want to hear how they could improve.
People with a growth mindset embrace challenge because they know it’s the effort and trying that leads to learning, they see failure, resistance and setbacks as a necessary part of the journey, they actively try to learn and apply feedback from others.
When you’re absolutely guaranteed to face failure, resistance, or setback in anything worth it in life, especially skateboarding, just imagine how much the different mindsets could change your entire life.
Reticular activating system.
There’s a part of your brain called the reticular activating system that's involved in processing what’s important and what’s not in your experience and environment.
Ok it's scientific experiment time. Take your pants off.
No, only joking, but take a moment to stop reading and look around you. Look at the screen, observe your environment, and take in what you see...
Ok now look again, but this time look for the colour blue...
Omg! There's blue everywhere! Argghhhhghhhhh!!
The crazy bit is that the blue was always there but you didn’t give a shit coz it wasn’t important and you weren't programmed to see it.
Now imagine if you believe you can’t do something or you can’t get better, you’ll constantly look for what supports that belief in your environment and what happens to you.
You’ll miss the colour blue.
On the other hand, if you flip it, you’ll start noticing things, opportunities and experiences that help you get where you want, that were ALWAYS THERE!
Breaking down overwhelming problems.
If you have a fixed mindset and you’re faced with a problem you might see it as a massive obstacle, you’ll compare where you’re at now with where you want to go and perceive it as an uncrossable gap.
E.g. if you want to go pro or just skate like the other people at your local park, but right now you can barely ollie, how do you solve that problem in one? You obviously can’t.
There are 100s of steps to take to solve these problems and reach these goals, and if you're constantly comparing where you're at now with the end goal, the huge gap will likely make you feel overwhelmed and quit. You'll focus on the problem and close your mind off to any potential solutions.
But with a growth mindset you accept you might have a long way to go, but you’ll start looking for solutions to get there. You'll be willing to put in the effort because you believe effort is valuable and it's what you need to reach your goal.
With nollie flips, maybe you need to get better nollies, maybe you need to compare your technique with someone with boss nollie flips, maybe you’ll start practising them everyday for 15 mins, there are always many things you can do.
There’s a lot of research showing a growth mindset increase grades, sports performance, and habit formation, and I think it would be almost impossible to go pro or get to the top of anything in life if you don’t develop a growth mindset, especially in skating where failure happens most the time.
How to develop a growth mindset.
Ok so how do we start developing a growth mindset? One way is:
1. Start paying attention across the week to how you think about different challenges, skate related or not, and analyse your mindset. Were you looking at them with a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
2. When you identify your fixed mindsets, break them down and challenge them. Ask yourself "Has anyone ever got better at this? Have I ever got better at this?"
3. Then start disproving the fixed mindset by taking small regular actions to move you where you want to go.
It might help to put where you’re at now and where you want to go on a continuum. Identify the blocks you might face along the way and the skills you'll need to get there, and think of some tiny actions you can repeat to move you just a little bit up that continuum.
E.g developing the skill of being consistent, or an action like trying a trick for 5 mins every time you go skate, or working out 1-2x per week.
4. Do your best to stay consistent, use what happens as feedback to update the plan as necessary. Reframe failure to feedback.
And last of all, realise that having a growth mindset is a skill, and like any skill it takes time to develop. So have a growth mindset about developing a growth mindset!
As you do all this, start actively trying to shift how you perceive failure. When you battle a trick or face a setback, remind yourself that the struggle is necessary.
By putting in the work you'll literally be changing your brain, so next time the trick, habit or whatever you try will be just a little bit easier.