Career development

Your Most Important Asset: Mindset

You may think the difference between being a World Champion and not, comes down to experience, technique or knowledge. But from personal experience, seven-time World Champion surfer Layne Beachley, believes it comes down to one of the most overlooked elements for success: having a growth mindset. Read on to learn more.

In the first five years of my professional surfing career, I set the goal of becoming a World Champion. From 1990 to 1997, I ranked 17th, 12th, 10th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, 3rd and 2nd. I was doing all the right things with my training, equipment and diet, but kept falling short of that number one position. I had a fixed mindset.

What is a fixed mindset?

Stanford researcher Carol Dweck describes a fixed mindset as, “When somebody believes their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount, and that’s that, then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and ‘never look dumb’.”

Some common traits of a fixed mindset include:

My ‘fixed mindset’ made me see setbacks and losses as failure. And failure was the limit of my abilities. I viewed feedback as a personal attack and criticism. I was jealous of other people’s success and often blamed others for my shortcomings. My extrinsic focus prevented me from taking ownership of the results directly related to my choice of actions.

This changed when I started asking myself the following questions: “Why do I keep falling short?” and “Why can’t I achieve my goal of becoming a world champion surfer?”

I had to change my mindset from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

You see, the results we produce in our lives are a direct reflection of what we believe to be true. We don’t manifest what we want; we manifest what we believe. In other words, you cannot outperform your mindset.

Focusing on everything external to us suggests we have a fixed mindset because we’re waiting for all the things outside of us to change before we change. I realised that to reach my goal of becoming a world champion, I had to shift my mindset to produce a different result – I needed to adopt a growth mindset.

What is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. It’s an understanding that everyone has the ability to change and grow through experience, effort and deliberate practise.

Some common traits of a growth mindset include:

I became dissatisfied with finishing number two in the world, and I believe dissatisfaction is the precursor to change. I started taking ownership of my choices, thoughts and emotional responses, choosing to meditate and detach from external validation while embracing and adapting to external forces.

Things don’t always go to plan, and life can throw curveballs, so adopting a growth mindset ensured I rode the waves of change without being dictated by them or thrown off course. This allowed me to focus on the things required to get the job done. By embracing a growth mindset, I detached myself from the outcome and focused on the process. The process of learning, growing and improving as a surfer, a competitor and a human being.

With a growth mindset, we stop seeing failure as a failure, and we see it as a learning opportunity. All mistakes are learning opportunities unless you fail to learn from them.

As mentioned before, the results we produce in our lives are a direct reflection of what we believe to be true.

How to develop a growth mindset?

Step 1: Challenge your story

When you have a fixed mindset, your mind urges you to believe that your story is set in stone, that it’s nearly impossible to change who you are and what you can do. For me, the first step was to challenge my own story.

Many of the stories we carry about ourselves often don’t even belong to us. For example, when you achieve results that you’re disappointed in, or someone labels you as something, and you choose to believe it, then it becomes part of your story. You may start to think you’re a loser or a failure, but you’re not – you’re human. Challenge your story and choose where you place your energy and attention. You do not have to be defined by your setbacks, you can choose to be defined by how you view your capabilities, and from there, you can commit to doing things differently.

Step 2: Change your words

You can start developing a growth mindset by changing your internal dialogue.

Instead ofChoose to say
I’m a failureI will learn from this
I’ll never be able to do thisChallenges will help me grow
I’ll never be smartI will learn from this

Step 3: Don’t wait for everything to change, be the change

If we’re allowing or waiting for everything outside of us to change before we do, we will maintain a fixed mindset and never grow. Essentially, we’ll never become the world champions of our lives.

How can you transform your mindset today?

You have the power within you to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, and today is a great day to get started. By adopting a growth mindset, I was able to win my first world title in 1998, 16 years after declaring I was going to be a world champion. It was worth the wait!


Layne Beachley, AO

Seven-time world champion Layne Beachley is widely regarded as the most successful surfer in history. The only surfer to claim six consecutive world titles, Layne’s story is the testimony to the power of self-belief. Awake Academy is a centre for self-empowerment, cultivating connection, growth and happiness in humanity. Layne started Awake Academy with the desire to awaken people to detach from fear, take control and design a life they love.