Nine days before the start of the 2021 PGA Championship, after struggling with his mind and game the past year, Phil Mickelson posted the following Tweet:
Statements like this, from one of the best players in the history of a sport, are not surprising. Expert performance requires this mindset. In order to develop to elite levels, your relationship to failure has to be one of inspiration. In fact, how a person deals with failure is one of the most critical determinants of their potential. Those who see failure like Mickelson, as an opportunity to learn, will thrive while those who see failure as a time to languish, will decay or stagnate. American psychologist and Stanford University professor, Carol Dweck, wrote about the importance of learning from our failures in her best-selling book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In her book, Dweck makes the distinction between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset: “In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail—or if you’re not the best—it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome.”
Mickelson most definitely has a growth mindset and has not decayed or stagnated. At 50 years, 11 months, and 340 days, Mickelson is working harder than ever and became the oldest man to win a Major this past weekend at the PGA Championship. His commitment to his physical health has been well documented of late, losing nearly 30 pounds, getting stronger in the gym, and clearly working hard on his mental game. Mickelson’s hard work and effort in the face of failure are clearly paying off.
The next time you face failure, I encourage you to see it as a gift; an opportunity to challenge yourself to do difficult things. Importantly, Dweck writes, “no matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”