Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset: Your Thoughts Change Everything

You might have heard these terms before, but they haven’t really been around that long. If you’re wondering what growth mindset is or what fixed mindset is then you’re not alone.

Where did fixed mindset and growth mindset come from?

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation and is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.

Carol is also the author of the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.”

This book has been an incredibly powerful tool for helping people to learn new ways of learning and achieving their goals.

Carol has given her unique perspective on mindset to the rest of us. She dives deep into the two mindsets that we are all born with. Growth mindset and fixed mindset.

These mindsets are inherent in all of us, but over time we have skewed the meanings of them and have become more at home with having a fixed mindset than we should.

One of the most helpful things for me when striving to become the best that I can at each of the 6 pillars of success has been to adopt a growth mindset in everything that I do.

In “Mindset” Carol writes:

I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves— in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?

This way of thinking has caused us to only focus on what people will think of us and what we will think of ourselves if we fail at something. She goes on to expand her thoughts and show us a different way of thinking:

There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.

This revolutionary way of thinking is meant to help us all with the way we approach new problems.

Fixed Mindset Definition

Think back to elementary school (that will be way way back for some of us!). Try to remember the kids who you thought were “smart.” Did you think they were smart because they got a lot of answers right during class?

Things come easier to some people than others. We’ve all witnessed it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you weren’t born with the natural ability to accomplish something, then there’s nothing you can do about it. Thinking that way is having a fixed mindset.

In a fixed mindset, we believe that we are born with natural abilities, and if we weren’t born with something then there’s nothing we can do about it. No amount of practice or struggle will change our ability.

It’s OK to have a fixed mindset about some things. Like humans cannot fly without assistance. If you jump off a cliff and expect yourself to sprout wings simply because you believe that you will, then you will be sadly mistaken (and flattened out like Wile E. Coyote).

When asking yourself if you have a fixed mindset, think about whether these questions and statements are something that you agree with or not:

  • Failure is the limit of my abilities.
  • I can either do it or I can’t.
  • I stick to what I know.
  • I hate challenges.
  • I give up when things are hard.
  • I don’t like doing the things that I don’t know how to do.
  • You get defensive if someone offers you feedback on your performance.
  • You get discouraged if you fail.

There’s a common theme with all of these fixed mindset statements. It’s self limiting belief. With a fixed mindset, you will believe that there’s nothing that you can do about the things that you aren’t good at.

By now, I think you understand the meaning behind a fixed mindset. Which brings us to our next section..

Growth Mindset Definition

A growth mindset is just the opposite of a fixed mindset. We believe that the abilities that we have can be improved upon with time and practice. We were born with certain strengths and weaknesses, but we can get better at everything by trial and error. Believing that your traits can be improved upon by putting forth time and effort means that you have a growth mindset.

Do you think you already have a growth mindset? Let’s check out a few statements to see if we are all on the same page.

  • Failure is just part of learning.
  • I can figure out how to do anything with practice and time.
  • I get outside of my comfort zone.
  • I embrace challenges.
  • I push through the hard times because I know that they will make me better.
  • I try new things.
  • You embrace feedback and criticism from others.
  • You are excited by failure.

Growth mindset means that you are the master of your own abilities. You understand that it doesn’t matter how many times you fail, how many setbacks you have, or what other people have to say about you. You will succeed with time and effort.

We are all born with strengths and weaknesses, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make the pendulum swing the other way. Your weaknesses can become strengths and your strengths can become even stronger. It’s only a matter of your mindset when you approach things that challenge you.

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

Advantages of a growth mindset

By now, I think you can see that a growth mindset is the way to go. A fixed mindset is going to hold you back while a growth mindset is going to help propel you to your next level of success.

With a positive mindset that fosters growth, you can achieve anything that you put your mind to. Pair that mindset with SMART goal setting, and nothing can stop you.

Having a growth mindset will not only help professionally, but personally as well. You can take this way of thinking and apply it to your relationships, mental health, fitness, and finances.

This new mindset will help you if you have a fear of trying new things as well as if you catch yourself with analysis paralysis (like I have).

Carol Dweck talks about this in her book.

Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.

We can’t allow our self worth and self esteem depend on success and failure. We can’t stop when things get hard because we are afraid to fail.

It’s so powerful.

Adopting a positive mindset towards growth means that you can literally achieve anything that you set your mind to. It will take time. Some things will take years, but you will get there eventually.

Understanding this way of thinking is one of the most important things you can do for your personal development.

I think that your mindset and your whys are the baseline to succeeding in anything in your life. I’ve found that my happiness and success has been predicated on a solid foundation of knowing why I want something and knowing that I can get what I want as long as I have the right mindset.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

How many times have you heard that phrase? I never truly grasped the meaning behind it until I understood that actually trying things is the best way to learn. You can read books, watch videos, and listen to podcasts all day long but never truly become a master at something until you try it for yourself.

Adopting a growth mindset

Adopting a growth mindset

Changing your mindset is one of the hardest things that you can do. Take it from someone who had a fixed mindset for a majority of their life. I struggled with trying new things because I was afraid of failure.

Start today.

Try something new today. Something that you have been wanting to try for a long time, but haven’t because you’ve been afraid of failing at it. It could be a martial art, running a 5k, or speaking in public.

You’re going to suck!

It’s going to be hard. You’re going to be bad. But being bad right now is OK because eventually with enough time and effort, you will be great!

Praise yourself and others for trying. Don’t even think about the outcome.

It doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail. It only matters if you trust yourself and your process. You should have the same line of thinking for the people around you.

Don’t only praise your child, friend, or co-worker for succeeding. Praise them for their efforts. Praise them for trying something new and putting themselves out there. It’s not the outcome that really matters, it’s the process that you take to achieve the outcome.

Don’t simply praise intelligence or natural talent. Praise the process.

Wrapping it up

By now, you understand the difference between the two types of mindset. You can see why growth mindset is the better way to go.

Now, go out and practice your new mindset. Spread the word to others about your new mindset and how it can help them.

Just be yourself and trust your new way of thinking. Take this knowledge and apply it to all the different parts of your life!

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