Your Mindset Would Benefit From Movement


A lot of heed is paid these days to growth versus fixed mindset. Most agree it’s a good idea. In case you’re getting up to speed with the lingo, fixed mindset could be explained as a belief “that your qualities are carved in stone - the fixed mindset - creates urgency to prove yourself over and over.”(1) A fixed mindset can lead to obsessing over discovery of what you’re “good at” which insidiously keeps us from learning new things we fear may not let us be the best, proving our failure. Along the journey of fixed mindset is placing a higher value of outcome than process, ignoring feedback, feeling inferior, and threatened by others’ success.

Per Dweck, growth mindset, by contrast, is “based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way - in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments - everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”(2) If you’ve spent any time in the startup space you’ve heard the phrase “fail fast” and I think this typifies their view on growth mindset: learning is both possible and ideally is done as expediently as possible. “The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”(3)

As children we receive innumerable messages about our abilities that create imprinting (aka family of origin issues), forming and reinforcing systems of belief about ourselves that come into play each time we face a task, test, or opportunity. Many of us had fixed mindset reinforcement as children by our well-meaning parents, teachers and coaches, either purposefully or inadvertently. While fixed or growth mindset might determine whether or not we say yes to trying, mindset is about more than the mind. What’s often left out of the conversation is the importance of movement (our body in motion) and the role it plays in shaping mindset. Cathy Madden, a world-renowned performance coach based in in Seattle, WA explains, “It is neither true nor possible to ‘get out of your head’ or only ‘get in your body’. We are whole. We are whole. WE ARE WHOLE!”(4) Similarly, Amy Cuddy gave a TED talk on body language several years ago and said, “we tend to forget though the other audience that’s influenced by our non-verbals [body language] and that’s ourselves. We are also influenced by our non-verbals, our thoughts and our feelings and our physiology.”(5) We are psychophysical and psychosocial - simultaneously and inextricably mental, physical, social. We’re always one - it’s all us. And since mindset’s measure is performance, it’s necessarily a whole body, full person, endeavor.

Since the ability to succeed at growth mindset is based on being “whole” and cooperating with “our thoughts and our feelings and our physiology,” it is a non-linear pursuit. One can’t just decide to have a growth mindset. It needs to be practiced. In college I was a conducting student and had a chance to lead a large rehearsal of orchestra and choir one evening. Standing on the podium in front of almost 200 people with a baton in hand and score in front of me, my downbeat started the music. I’d studied the piece intimately could hear the instrumental and vocal lines. I led an arguably productive rehearsal, both thrilling and intimidating to stand in front of my peers. On one reading of a section it changed. I stopped focusing on the individual lines because I suddenly heard them simultaneously, the music was alive and multi-dimensional. What I now think of as “omnisensing” in my bodywork and coaching - listening in all directions - I first experienced in those 10-30 seconds of conducting. It was a whole person experience, awash in sound. I’d broken through my own highest learning wall and gained new skills. It was glorious growth.

Reflecting, I think that break-through happened first because I said yes. Beyond yes, I prepared the piece in ways that crossed learning styles [sitting, standing, singing the parts, playing as best I could on the keyboard, conducting while walking around campus] and I extended a thank you and invitation to everyone in the rehearsal - what I would now frame as inviting them to be with me while I’m with them. It could have been any level of disaster and it turns out, in saying yes, preparing the music holistically, and engaging the musicians as co-collaborators, I learned I have something to offer on the podium and that I can truly hear the music.

Most of my walks with leaders involve mindset conversations such as how they’re looking at a situation or how they can get the best out of themselves given their current situation. While we’re walking and talking, I’m listening to their words and observing their whole person. Do they tighten as they talk? Scrunch their neck or brow? Look down or away? More than listening, my aim is to omnisense and listen for the music, their personal symphony; it’s all part of their story and journey.

A few suggestions should you want to practice growth mindset and listening omnidirectionally:

  • Say yes.
    From Carol Dweck’s Mindset; Embrace challenges; persist in the face of setbacks; see effort as the path to mastery; and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.

  • Choose supportive words.
    What happens when you use language that acknowledges you as a whole person rather than as separate parts or as someone to be criticized?

  • Invite your body to move along with your process.
    “Exercise improves the performance of most human functions… All of the evidence points in one direction: Physical activity is cognitive candy.”(6)

  • Listen for more than words.
    How much can you take in? Ask a question when you want clarification rather than making a statement about what you heard or saw. Be willing to be surprised at what you might learn.

Send me a note and tell me how it goes!



  1. Dweck, C. S. (2006) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. NY, NY: Ballentine Books.

  2. Dweck, C. S. (2006) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. NY, NY: Ballentine Books.

  3. Dweck, C. S. (2006) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. NY, NY: Ballentine Books.

  4. Madden, C. (2014) Integrative Alexander Technique Practice for Performing Artists: Onstage Synergy. Chicago, IL: Intellect.


  6. Medina, J. (2014) Brain Rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.