Developing a Winning Mind-Set

January 2018


When we are learning anything it is fundamentally important to develop a winning mind-set. While it is often assumed that “superior ability” is a key to success, over thirty years of research has indicated that an overemphasis on “talent” or “intellect”, along with the implication that these are fixed, innate traits, leave students feeling fearful of challenges, vulnerable to failure and unmotivated to learn. All of the research indicates that our abilities are not fixed and can be developed and improved upon throughout our lives. Even geniuses and the most talented people have to work hard and persevere to accomplish their goals. What we endeavor to teach students at the Dojo, is the “growth mind-set” that asserts that abilities are developed, intelligence is malleable and that, with persistent hard work, skills will improve and problems can be solved. In short, students of Mudokai learn how to learn, and develop the learning skills that will enable them to use this mind-set to utilize hard work and their love of learning to work towards success in all of their endeavors.


When people have a “fixed mind-set”, they get upset every time that they make an error. They “feel dumb” perhaps because they could not perform the move the Sensei showed them. This attitude leads to a lowering of self-esteem and will likely be reflected in their job, at home, or at school in the case of young students. One of the benefits of training in Mudokai is that we can address this issue directly. All students are encouraged to see the acquisition of skills and techniques as something everyone can learn. Our curriculum is designed so that all new beginners will be able to learn the blocks strikes and kicks through the process of instruction, practice, correction and improved practice. As students achieve higher ranks and learn more advanced skills they realize more and more that, just as they can improve their balance, flexibility, strength, agility and fitness through persistent effort, that same effort applied to their job or their schoolwork will allow them to improve their skills in those areas.  A major consequence of the development of a “growth mind-set” is improved confidence. When we realize that we can learn anything we set our mind to, and achieve results by virtue of hard work and effort, we see any errors we make as useful feedback that will allow us to hone our skills. We see the development of new skills as a challenge, to meet with energy and enthusiasm. Because Mudokai training is so technically specific, the Sensei can offer praise for the students accomplishments at every stage of the development of each new skill. By focusing students on the actions that lead to success we can foster motivation and confidence.


One of the challenges that we face as we grow older is the maintenance of our “growth mind-set”. Sometimes a major setback in any area of our life can lead us to become discouraged and depressed. It is not hard to notice when this has happened to a person because they will demonstrate the symptoms of the “fixed mind-set”. They will ruminate about failures and denigrate their skills with statements like “I’ve never had good balance” or “I can’t do this, I give up”. To meet this challenge the Sensei will address the mind-set by breaking down a technique into the steps that will lead to success, while reassuring the student that struggling with the challenges posed by learning a new skill are an important part of the fun we can have as we practice that skill. Learning stimulates neural connectivity in the brain at all ages.

© Shihan Robert H. Mason 2018