The idea of fixed mindset and growth mindset was popularized by Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford University.
She brought these ideas into the public eye in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
The book discusses the power of our conscious and unconscious beliefs and how they have a profound effect on nearly every aspect of our lives.
The stories you tell yourself are powerful and can lead your life down very different paths.
Your mindset is the mental state, assumptions, and attitudes you hold about something. Having a fixed mindset or growth mindset can prevent or allow changes to happen in your life.
Your mindset will cultivate your view on the world you live within and this is critical to understand. The impact of having one versus the other is significant.
What is a Fixed Mindset?
Those with a fixed mindset believe that their qualities and traits are fixed and cannot be changed. They believe things such as their intelligence, talent, and character are innate and can’t be improved upon through time and work.
Simply put, they believe they either have “it” or they don’t.
Fixed Mindset Examples
You will hear people with a fixed mindset say some of the following things:
- “I’m not a math person.”
- “I’m not a morning person.”
- “I just stay in my lane and stick with what I know.”
- “I don’t have the talent to do that.”
Based on the beliefs of someone with a fixed mindset, qualities and traits are inherited and practicing to improve would be useless.
This leads to those with fixed mindsets avoiding challenges in order to avoid failure.
Since their abilities are static, failure would be a sign of them being a failure as a person since they tried with their full potential abilities. They don’t want to feel less intelligent or incapable so they stay within their comfort zone.
What is a Growth Mindset?
I’m a big proponent of people getting out of their comfort zones and challenging themselves. I believe this is where growth and learning happens. These are my personal beliefs and my beliefs relate more to a growth mindset.
Those with a growth mindset believe the same qualities and traits (intelligence, talent, character, creativity, etc) can change and be improved through practice, effort, and time.
They tend to have an internal locus of control and realize that whenever they have leveled up in their life, it was likely due to their own behaviors, actions, and intent to become better.
If individuals with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are static, those with a growth mindset believe they are dynamic. They have plasticity, malleability, and are open to change.
Influence from environment
People are influenced by the environment they are in and the intentions they have for themselves.
For example, if you began hanging out with 5 intelligent individuals who were several years ahead of you in your career, you would likely level up towards them just by being around them.
You would begin to think like them and behave like them. Through that, you would become smarter, wiser, and mean reversion would move you closer to their level.
This is why people say, “You are the average of the 5 people you hang around most.”
Growth Mindset Examples
People with a growth mindset will say things including:
- “If I try, I can learn and do anything.”
- “I like to try new things.”
- “Failure is a teacher and an opportunity to learn and grow.”
- “I like challenges.”
Unlike individuals with a fixed mindset, those with a growth mindset don’t back down from challenges.
They realize challenges are there to help them grow. When they fail, they don’t take it as a personal hit to their intelligence and abilities.
They know that they may not have been able to accomplish something this time, but with the lessons learned through the failure, they can correct what went wrong to succeed next time.
Those with this mindset enjoy receiving constructive criticism and seek out opportunities to get outside of their comfort zone. Growth can come internally, but sometimes external factors will highlight areas you can improve on and can push you past the limits you thought you had.
Below is a diagram comparing the behaviors and thoughts by those with a fixed or growth mindset in 5 areas.
What Makes Someone Have a Growth or Fixed Mindset?
What causes one person to believe that their abilities are static and another to believe they can change them?
These beliefs were likely cultivated and reinforced in the individual’s upbringing. Somewhere in their childhood, they went through experiences and were reinforced in one mindset or the other.
For example, if you went through school and got a bad grade, your parents probably said one of the following:
“It’s okay, you’re just not a math person.”
“It’s okay, you may not have done well this time, but you can practice and become better at math to ace the next test.”
Your mindset was also reinforced in other areas of your life. As another example, let’s say you played basketball as a kid and you missed a few 3-pointers in a row in practice. A coach may have said:
“You’re not a 3-point shooter. You’re either born a shooter or you’re not. Stick to what you know.”
“Great 3-point shooters are made through practice. You will get there eventually if you work hard.”
Minor moments like these that consistently occur can form a belief system within you.
At a young age, you are not aware of what a fixed mindset or growth mindset is. You simply know what you have been told. This can be dangerous during one’s development. As you grow older these beliefs solidify, become stronger, and guide the direction of your life.
Fortunately, if an individual has awareness and is willing to make the switch, a growth mindset can be developed.
Implications for Life and Career
The mindset you have will guide the direction of your life and career. Both are filled with challenges that you have the choice to walk away from or overcome.
It’s important to note that overall, you may lean towards a growth mindset or a fixed mindset, but within each area of your life, you may operate in both.
To illustrate, let’s say in your professional life, you believe that you can achieve anything through your own work and motivation.
However, when it comes to your weight, you believe you are destined to be overweight since obesity runs in your family. You might not know that while genetics can predispose you to obesity, it is not an ultimate sentencing.
You can escape the predisposition by changing factors in your life such as eating and fitness habits.
Reflect on the different areas of your life and note where you have a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.
Beneficial to all areas of your life
I believe it’s important to operate with a growth mindset in all areas that you can. Research shows that those with a growth mindset tend to be more successful and satisfied with their life.
As an avid reader of books, listener of podcasts, and viewer of YouTube, I have never encountered someone successful who didn’t preach about the benefits of a growth mindset.
Once you develop one, you’ll unlock limitless possibilities for yourself and doors will open for you. This has implications to your entire life and career.
You won’t back down from challenges because you view failure as a lesson and opportunity to become smarter and improve yourself.
Perhaps you interviewed for a position and didn’t get it. With a fixed mindset, you’ll tell yourself that you just aren’t cut out for that career. Others are better than you and there is no use in trying.
With a growth mindset, you’ll tell yourself that you may not have had the skills and experience this time around, but you CAN gain them and become the person that company looks to hire.
I bring up this example because I actually went through this on the path to starting my career. I had no family background in finance and no connections. I figured I just wasn’t cut out for it.
Through a growth mindset and the implementation of small steps to move me towards my goal, I learned, gained experience, made connections, and was able to achieve more than my freshman self ever could have thought.
I haven’t achieved anything great other than securing fulfilling jobs for myself, but even that was ambitious to me as a freshman.
Don’t just take it from me. Do a search of “fixed mindset vs growth mindset” on YouTube and you’ll see tons of videos on the topic and multiple interviews of successful individuals swearing by the growth mindset.
How to Develop a Growth Mindset
Developing a growth mindset is no easy task and won’t happen over night.
When you are making the change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, you are trying to overwrite your belief system that was cultivated over the years of your life. These beliefs are so ingrained in you that it will take effort and patience to make the shift.
But make no mistake. This is achievable. Personally, I felt like the shift in my mind from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset was realized over the course of a year.
In the beginning, I didn’t believe I was cut out for finance. Over the year, I showed up every day and conquered small wins that developed my confidence and showed me the possibility that I could change my circumstance through my own power and will.
Since that point, the belief has stuck with me and I have applied it to all areas of my life.
Here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Awareness
The first step is to have awareness. You need to have awareness of what a fixed and growth mindset is. Once you have that, you can identify the areas of your life where you have either one of the mindsets.
This step is critical. You cannot fix what you do not know.
Learn the traits and behaviors of the two. Create a list of the areas of your life. This list can include school, career, fitness, social life, finances, relationships, etc.
Create two columns for each category, with one for fixed and one for growth. List out beliefs you have for each category under both fixed and growth. Maybe for career you see that you have more things to list in growth mindset than fixed. But maybe for fitness you have more beliefs listed for fixed rather than growth.
You could then identify that your beliefs on your fitness levels can be improved upon and shifted towards growth. This exercise will help you point things out to yourself.
Step 2: Make the Shift in Mindset
Next up, you can make the shift to your mindset. Here is a quick list of things you can do and focus on:
- Realize you are able to improve
- Cut out the inner fixed mindset voice
- View failure as learning opportunities to improve
- Realize that failure is temporary
- View challenges as opportunities to level up
- Take small steps forward, allowing you to conquer small wins and build confidence and momentum
- Be inspired by others
- Become curious and hungry to grow
- Think realistically about time and effort
- Fall in love with the process of something rather than the result
- Seek out constructive criticism
Step 3: Implement
These things are easier said than done, but if you keep them at the forefront of your mind, you can consciously tell yourself you are going to implement these shifts.
Step 4: Reflect
As you begin implementing, take time to reflect on how your progress is going.
- “Have I been implementing these new beliefs?”
- “Am I truly believing in this new mindset?”
- “How could I better embody someone who has a growth mindset?”
Step 5: Refine
Finally, step 5 is to refine. Once you reflect, you’ll be able to find areas where you can make tweaks and fine-tune.
After you refine, you can repeat the steps. Each round, you will become better and better and will eventually make the full transformation.
Your mindset is critical to your ability to succeed in your life and career and achieve a level of satisfaction.
A growth mindset will carry you far and your odds of success are much higher if you have one instead of a fixed mindset. It’ll get you through the highs and lows that are inevitable on your path.
You might currently have a fixed mindset, but realize that it is not permanent. While it isn’t easy to make the transition, it is doable. Once you begin to build confidence and see the possibilities, you’ll have the momentum to keep pursuing.
Saying “You can achieve anything you set your mind to” is a cliché, but sometimes the clichés are true.