Alan O’ Mara.

What is a growth mindset?

Alan O’Mara is the founder of Real Talks.

A mindset is a mental attitude that determines how we understand and respond to situations. In a growth mindset, people believe that what they are capable of can be developed by putting in time and effort. People with a growth mindset are more likely to embrace challenges, accept feedback and learn from failures.

Growth mindset empowers us to move through setbacks, develop resilience and improve our capabilities, rather than dwell on mistakes or be consumed by negative self-talk and self-doubt.

Growth mindset is not to be confused with a ‘good vibes only’ mentality. Whether we like it or not, we are all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. Fixed mindset can be triggered by receiving criticism or by comparing ourselves to others in ways that bring out insecurities or defensiveness.

It is important to remember that we all make mistakes and experience failure. We live in a society where many people feel the need to hide shortcomings and failures too often due to the fear of being judged or seen as an incapable, imperfect or weak person.


As a performance and well-being coach with sports and business leaders, one of my key functions is to help people to develop a growth mindset so that they can better prepare, perform and reflect.

Repeating the process of preparing, performing and reflecting again and again helps to build self-belief and confidence.

We work together to care less about being right as an individual and more about getting it right as a leader. A huge part of that is creating a safe and non-judgemental space to be open and honest about performance.

We commit to this process because we want to learn how to get more favourable outcomes more often. Too often in sport and life, we let success be defined by only the result or the outcome. Doing that means that so much good information and performance clues go to waste. There are usually lots of small wins along the way that need to be celebrated and understood.

Proper reflection

Looking in the mirror with a growth mindset helps to unlock proactive thinking and behaviour, like the sharing of information, admitting mistakes, collaboration, resetting after setbacks, problem solving and exchanging feedback. Proper reflection helps find clues from the past that can help inform the present and future.

At this time of year, there will be lots of talk about setting goals and New Year’s resolutions. There is merit in doing that but don’t forget to look back on 2022 before you look forward to 2023.

Think of a time you failed. Now ask yourself these three questions. What are three things you did well that you are proud of? What are two things you did well but could have done better? And finally, what is the one thing you would do differently if you could go back in time to do it all again?

After finishing that exercise, repeat it, but this time reflect on a time you succeeded or achieved something you are proud of. There are helpful clues in both success and failure.

Tough situations

I am grateful to have been part of many conversations about growth mindset over the years. In a recent conversation with Ireland and Liverpool footballer Leanne Kiernan for the Real Talks with SOSAD Ireland well-being series, she said, “The best way to grow is to be put through a hard situation. I feel like I’ve grown over the past few years through tough situations.”

Developing authenticity

Try something new! Challenge yourself to try something that you’re not already good at. Sometimes this is a thing that we have been meaning to do for a while, but never quite got around to - like reading a book, doing a puzzle or going to a new place. The goal isn’t to be brilliant, just to do something you’ve been wanting to do and to commit to doing it more than once.

Commit to giving it time and effort. Fear of failure often holds us back but getting out of the comfort zone in small and manageable ways consistently can help develop a growth mindset.

About the author

Alan O’Mara is the founder of Real Talks, a former Cavan GAA player, an author and a performance and well-being coach with sports and business leaders around the world. This column is part of the Real Talks with SOSAD Ireland well-being series. Check out to learn more.