A few weeks back we looked at some research around mindsets – how success depends on whether you believe you can only achieve something if you were a “natural” at it, or if you believe that skill is something you can learn.

Last week I put this research to the ultimate practical test. I booked in for a fitness retreat with NuYu in Kingscliff. You have to understand how big this decision was. Until I attended the retreat, I was the ultimate overweight, middle-aged couch potato.

You see, when I was growing up, I carried a belief that you were only sporty if you were participating at representative level. If you weren’t a natural at sport – then you may as well pack up and go home. So I packed myself (and the entire luggage of a small plane) into my body and stayed home.

Trying On a New Mindset For Size

Last week I decided to try a different mindset. I decided to adopt the mindset that sport was something that you start out really badly at – and then build your skill as you go.

The week at the retreat put me through many hours of gruelling boxing, gym, circuit work, aqua aerobics, long distance walking and team sports each day. And true to the theory, at the beginning of each session, I was woefully (and laughably) bad. But by the end of each session, I could feel the tiny little shifts in competence.

I even discovered some sports that I deeply enjoyed and for which I found easy to learn – while others sports challenged me to the core.

Over the course of the week, my body surprised me with how much more I was capable of. I learned the benefits of a supportive team and enthusiastic qualified mentors in inspiring me to achieve things I had never considered as “being part of who I am”.

The right mindset with the right team changed my belief in who I was and who I could become

I now believe that everyone can learn anything that they choose to focus on, but there will be some things that will always be a better fit for their existing skill sets and interests. So my mindset adapted to match what I observed.

The New Challenge

This week I have a new challenge. In the very last session of the retreat (a version of netball), I managed to sever my ACL in my right knee. I had rediscovered a hidden competitive streak and exceeded my current skill level, causing the injury.

As I wait for knee reconstruction surgery, I have been learning how to use crutches and how to adjust my environment to match my current limitations.

And the biggest learning so far? Discovering how easy it is to slip into a disability mindset – what I can’t do compared to what I can do.

This week I have had more than my fair share of people willing to tell me to take it easy, not do too much and go back to the couch. I have also had many people tell me that I shouldn’t have tried to change last week, and the injury just goes to show that I am too old, not a natural and should stick to what I know. That I tried and failed, so I should just go back to what I did before.

But I also have found a few qualified mentors back here at home who are inspiring me to stretch that little bit more – to not fall back into the old ways – to focus on my ability and to build on that.

They have reminded me that change will stretch you. It will test you. And it will challenge you. The question is – are you going to give up or keep trying?

Personally, life isn’t all rosy and lollipops with a bung knee. This week I have had some seriously down days, but I also have had days when I can see the shift in my mindset.

Last week I learned I was capable of more than I dreamed – this week I am doing the same.

Yes, technically I may have tried and failed at one sport. But I also know that getting better takes more than the odd failure and falling down (literally).

It is the getting up again that matters.