Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

Carol Dweck is an American Lewis and Virginia Eaton professor of psychology at Stanford University.  She is interested in motivation, personality and development and has done many studies regarding those themes. You may have heard of her study about two mindests, based on her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006),  growth mindset and fixed mindset. The mindsets have impact on how you react to challenges. Acknowledging and realising your mindset can help you to make sense of your behavior and definitely help you to change it.

People with fixed mindset believe that intelligence is static. It cannot be changed. Eighter people are born with the talent or the cleverness or they won’t have it. These people do not believe in effort and want to have the perfect score in the easiest way possible. When they face difficulities it is easier to simply give up. The blame for mistakes is always outside and not their own fault. In fact being a failure or a loser is the worst that can happen to them and must be avoided at all cost. They need to maintain the image of perfection for themselves and for the others. They want to be seen as genius and truly enjoy being praised but hate being judged, criticised and do not bother to listen or take advice. And if they fail, they will find those who did even worse. 

Fixed mindsets do not want to learn. They are not accurate about their true talents and abilities. For example grades can be the measurement of their value and can lift them up to heaven or crush them down to personal hell. 

However, this is not the only way to think. 

The growth mindset is the opposite to fixed mindset.  Growth mindset people enjoy challenges. When fixed mindset tries their best to keep up the perfection image, growth mindset is not afraid to fail. In fact failing makes them try even harder to succeed. Challenges are essential for them to grow and learn more. 

They seek for challenges and truly enjoy to solve them. They make effort and give everything they got, not simply to get a good grade or compliments but to change and become even better. 

They believe talent and intelligence can be changed and are always growing, you can and you will get wiser. Grade is not a tool to measure their own value, full potential and wisdom, and never will be. They do not let one failure to shape them. Grade or the outcome is simply a reflection of their knowledge at the time when the test was made, nothing more. Unlike fixed mindset people, growth mindset people can accurately evaluate their skills and abilities. They want to get feedback and they will listen to constructive criticisim and are willing to learn from it. Therefore they always strive for better results.  

What do these mindsets have in common? These are two ways to react to same situations but with different attitude.  Also you may have both mindsets but in different areas in life, for example you may think that intelligence is possible to grow but artistic skills are fixed. 

You can go on your life by thinking of every difficult situation as a teacher and as one way for you to learn and grow wiser, or you can think of every obstacle as nuicanse that just tries to prove that you are not capable at winning the challenge. 

How to change this mindset?  If you want to keep your fixed mindset no one is stopping you. I admit it is safe and easy solution to choose to do the things you know you will be good at. But from my experience fixed mindset can make you suffer a lot in vain. If you are tired of being a slave of perfection, change is possible. 

First step is to be mindful of your fixed mind thoughts. Everytime you catch yourself thinking of the story of ”This is too big of a challenge for me” or ”It is too difficult and I hate it” or ”I am stuck and I will never change” realise that those are fixed mind thoughts. Then replace those with new growth mindset thougts. ”Actually, I can do this” ”this can be challenging but I enjoy this and learn from this” and ”my potential is unlimited” and ”I will give my best and it is enough”. Constantly remind yourself about the differences of the mindsets. Ask yourself everyday what are the opportunities to learn and grow today. Use the question how can I do this instead of can I do this.   

This change can be revolutionary. Remember that you have the power to choose your mindset.




Sources:  (Book) Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. (2006)