What is a Fixed vs a Growth Mindset?

One of my favorite psychology-related books that I’ve read in recent years is Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Carol presents the idea that people with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed. Our mindset is the most powerful factor in achieving a number of outstanding accomplishments.

Ever since reading her book, I see practical applications everywhere I look in life. Understanding the impacts of having a fixed versus a growth mindset is super important in everything from relationships, education, raising kids, sports, and of course, starting your own digital business. 

Fixed vs Growth mindset. Image from techtello.com

What is a Fixed Mindset?

  • Avoid challenges
  • Shy away from things you don’t know 
  • See effort as fruitless (or worse)
  • Threatened by the success of others
  • Give up easily
  • Scared of being wrong
  • Unable to handle criticism or feedback
  • Intelligence and talent are static and do not grow post birth
  • Focused on proving yourself

A fixed mindset holds you back because you think who and what you are can’t change. 

Examples of a Fixed Mindsets in Different Areas of Life

  • A man or woman interprets their partner’s attempt at communicating areas of improvement in a relationship as a direct attack on who they are as a person (Unable to handle criticism or feedback)
  • A parent praises their child for being smart. Years later, that same child refuses to take on challenges for fear of getting it wrong and being ‘found out’ for not being as smart as they were told they are (Avoid challenges, Shy away from things you don’t know, Intelligence and talent are static and do not grow post birth)
  • A talented athlete slacks off in practice and games, preferring to be labeled ‘lazy’ rather than put in the hard work to improve. Why work hard, when you’re already as good as you’re going to get. And if it’s laziness, no one will suspect that you’re not really as skilled as they say (See effort as fruitless (or worse), gives up easily, avoid challenges)
  • A person attempts to start their own online business. However, after struggling to make progress within a few weeks (or months), they can’t stop comparing themselves to other, successful business owners. This isn’t for me. I’m not cut out for this. I can’t do this. They give up and go back to life as usual. (Avoid challenges, give up easily, scared of being wrong)

What is a Growth Mindset?

  • View challenges as opportunities
  • Learn to give and receive constructive criticism
  • Inspired by the success of others
  • Understand failure as an opportunity to grow
  • Intelligence and talent are dynamic and ever improving
  • Acknowledge and embrace your weaknesses
  • Think of learning as brain training
  • Persists in the face of setbacks

A growth mindset allows you to tackle anything you set your mind to because your focus is on improvement. Success is a result of effort and your willingness to learn, rather than a result of your fixed traits.

Examples of a Fixed Mindsets in Different Areas of Life

  • A man or woman communicates to their partner that they’re not pulling their weight in cleaning up around the house. Rather than phrase the critique as “You’re too messy,” they say, “Can you please put a little more effort into helping me clean the house?” In doing so, they aren’t saying their partner’s qualities are fixed, but rather encouraging growth and improvement. (Learn to give and receive constructive criticism)
  • A parent makes sure their child knows it’s okay (and even good) to mess up. They’re not a failure if they do so, but rather they will always be continuously learning at every stage of life. When their child fails an exam, they come home knowing they just need to try harder next time (Understand failure as an opportunity to grow, Intelligence and talent are dynamic and ever improving, Persists in the face of setbacks)
  • An athlete prioritizes effort and improvement over talent. He/she recognizes that talent does not determine your worth as an athlete. You may be a great athlete now, but with even more effort, you can become extraordinary. As a result, the athlete is always looking to improve his/her weaknesses. (Acknowledge and embrace your weaknesses, Intelligence and talent are dynamic and ever improving)
  • A person attempts to start their own online business but struggles to make a lot of progress within the first few weeks or months. Rather than get discouraged and quit, he/she looks for inspiration in the success of others, and commits to learning from what others have successfully accomplished. The task before them is challenging, but that is a motivator to push forward, rather than a reason to become disillusioned and quit. (Understand failure as an opportunity to grow, Inspired by the success of others, Persists in the face of setbacks, View challenges as opportunities)

Why It’s Important To Be Aware of What Defines Both Types of Mindsets

You may have read this article and thought to yourself, I value learning and challenges. I definitely have a growth mindset.

While this may be true–and the growth mindset is obviously the more desirable of the two–it’s easy to agree with the description on paper and harder to implement in every aspect of your life (like most things in life, huh?)

The more familiar you are with what the fixed mindset looks like in practice, the more you’re able to successfully catch yourself when you have thoughts or behaviors that align with that mindset.

It’s unrealistic for most of us to say we have never avoided challenges, been afraid to be wrong, or been jealous (even if just momentarily) of others’ achievements. We are human after all. 

But if everytime we do that, the first thought that comes to mind is ‘Hmm, that seemed like the fixed mindset’, then we’re much better prepared to improve our lives and continuously become a better person. A better friend, daughter, sister, brother, parent, spouse, citizen, employee, boss, whatever we may be to the world. 

Have you read Carol Dweck’s book? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s