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The Growth Mindset Framework: Preparing for the 2% Adventure

Throughout my 20 years of coaching in college, I've always been fixed on transferable skills; what works in life that also works on the field? What are the best players doing in the NBA or MLB? What are the most successful people doing in other industries, and how do we use those skills in our day-to-day lives? We are always chasing excellence, so we need to understand what professionals in all fields are doing to succeed.

Three Types of College Freshmen

Throughout my career, I have found there are three levels of college freshmen: 1) those who are admissible, 2) those who are able to survive, and 3) those who are able to thrive. From my experience, 33% of college freshmen are admissible; they passed their tests and got into college. The admissible students don't have the skills needed to execute once they get to school. 65% of students arrive with the skills that allow them to survive. Freshman year is new and difficult for everyone, but these students come with time management and communication skills. They also come with the ability to create a plan and schedule well. The last 2% of students arrive ready to thrive. Students that carry this mindset upon entering college have a rare and important ability. Those that are prepared should be confident and encouraged to shoot for the top. In order to reach the 2% level, students should take note of what others are doing to succeed and challenge themselves to be open to new ideas.

The Sevwins Growth Mindset Framework

The Sevwins Growth Mindset Framework helps students build mental skills that we know and understand from sport. It originated in the early 2000s as an in-class mental skills training program that I delivered to college student-athletes. In working with and learning from thousands of student-athletes across a 20-year period, the program turned into a daily routine designed to help students develop critical life skills needed to thrive in sports, college and beyond.

There are three Power Habits, enforced by eight words, that create the foundation of the growth mindset framework: Read, Train, Give, Lock, Block, Talk, Build and Work. What are these words? They are words and ideas that allow us to break down and understand performance skills. By engaging in the eight words daily, we learn to define goals, assess mental skills, and reflect on weekly experiences. Let's take a deeper look at the three power habits and eight words:

Power Habit 1 – Set Goals

  • Read - How will I sharpen my mind?

  • Train - How will I train my body?

  • Give - How will I elevate others?

Power Habit 2 – Assess Mental Skills

  • Lock - How well am I concentrating?

  • Block - How well am I living in the moment?

  • Talk - How well am I communicating?

Power Habit 3 – Reflect on Experiences

  • Build On - What were my successes? What did I learn?

  • Work On - What were my challenges? How will I approach them next time?

Using the growth mindset framework, students use a seven-day cadence to capture the week and set goals. These goals are about things we want to apply to better ourselves. Daily checks on mental skills allow us to see how well we are concentrating, separating tasks and thoughts, and communicating. Reflecting on experiences allows us to make mental notes of what worked and did not work during the week. From there, we can decide how to get more successes and approach challenges differently in the future.

How to Attack Challenges on your Way to College

The framework challenges us to connect ideas and prepare for tough situations. One of the challenges students encounter on the way to college is taking the SAT test. Think about a guy like Steph Curry. In each basketball shot he takes, there are four parts: a decision, clearing the mind, taking a deep breath, and an attack. Similarly, there are four parts to taking the test. First, students need to decide that they are going to take the exam. When they arrive at the exam, the best thing to do is to clear the mind of any distractions. As the exam is about to start, take in a deep breath to balance the mind, body, and spirit. Finally, commit and attack the exam. Break big ideas and questions on the exam into simple things. Instead of trying to tame the chaos of preparing for the exam, set goals. When goals are set, students gain control which results in successful execution and happiness.

Reflecting on experiences allows students to build on what they do well by recognizing strengths and applying them to other areas. From there, students can reflect on the things they don't do well and assess different ways to improve. Read Danielle Martin's blog on Using Vulnerability as a Superpower for more information on the power of reflection.

Students can accelerate the development of a growth mindset by being open to exploring personal experiences and gaining feedback from people they trust. Previous coaches and teachers are a great source of understanding opportunities for growth. Encourage students to reconnect with life leaders and ask them if there was anything that held them back as a player or student.

Preparing for college is not something that can be achieved overnight – it's a journey. Encourage student-athletes to create a roadmap, determine goals and set out to reach them as they adventure into the next phase of their lives. Teach them to use the Growth Mindset Framework to develop focus for each week, gain more personal awareness and reflect on experiences. By following these simple steps, students build an unshakeable confidence in their ability to achieve anything they set their sights on.

The Sevwins app is built on these principles. See how the three power habits and eight words come to life in the app that automates the process.


Thrive in sports, college and life.

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