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Understanding Growth vs. Fixed Mindsets

Have you ever wondered how our mindset and beliefs affect our success and what we want for ourselves?  Understanding growth vs. fixed mindsets can help you shift your thinking and change your life.

You know those internal conversations you have with yourself about your goals and what you can or cannot achieve? It turns out that these beliefs, do in fact, influence our level of success and our ability to improve as individuals.

There are two mindsets, fixed and growth, as coined by psychologist and Stanford professor Carol Dweck. Let’s dive into Dr. Dweck’s work to learn more about growth vs. fixed mindsets. 

Understanding Growth vs. Fixed Mindsets 

Carol Dweck synthesized her work on the two types of mindsets in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. (Be sure to check it out for an in-depth read on this topic!) To summarize her findings, there are two mindsets: fixed and growth. 

According to Dweck, 

“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.” 

When we operate with a fixed mindset, we tend to avoid challenges, give up when the going gets tough, and ultimately believe that we are who we are with a certain amount of intelligence to possess. When leading with a fixed mindset, we believe our qualities are unchangeable, with little room for improvement, if any. 

Comparatively, according to Dweck, 

“In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.” 

Generally speaking, people who have a growth mindset are open to challenges, willing to try new things even if they aren’t skilled at first, and are more likely to reach their potential. When leading with a growth mindset, we believe we can learn, grow, and improve, and that we can change our qualities. 

Are you holding yourself back?

You might be thinking, “Of course, I’m always striving for growth!” And indeed, many of us are; however, you might be holding yourself back stuck in a fixed mindset in certain areas of life without even realizing it. Have you ever caught yourself saying any of the following? 

  • “I’ll never be a good cook.” 
  • “I’m not good at sports.” 
  • “I’m not creative.”
  • “Math is too difficult for me.” 
  • “I could never be an engineer.” 
  • “I suck at board games.” 
  • “She’s a natural planner. I will never be like her.” 
  • “I don’t have an artistic eye.” 

The list goes on, but you get the point! Sometimes limiting beliefs present themselves in areas of our lives without us even realizing it. 

Shifting from a Fixed to Growth Mindset

If you feel like you present a fixed mindset from time-to-time, don’t panic! I’m a firm believer that we can shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset with the proper strategies to transition. I’ve walked through this transition in my own life in a myriad of ways. Here are the strategies that helped me make the shift:

Spend some time observing the way you interact with yourself. Listen to your internal dialogue. Identify the area(s) where limiting beliefs arise in your world without judgment.

First, if you want to shift towards a growth mindset, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with your thoughts and feelings about yourself and your abilities. You need to obtain an understanding of where you’re at this moment. Write down moments of internal dialogue that you want to work to change and moments that you’re proud of the way you viewed yourself.  

Reframe the way you view challenges.

Look, challenges will arise in your life, no matter how much you try and avoid them. What’s essential about taking challenges for what they are is to embrace them wholeheartedly and view them as a means for growth and development, rather than as setbacks or disruptions. View challenges as opportunities in a positive light in place of a dreadful one. 

Embrace the suck with the understanding that skills take practice.

I don’t know about you, but I hate being bad at things. Don’t we all want to be good at what we do? It wasn’t until I learned how to embrace those early stages of trying something new and accepting that sucking is part of the process that I entered the growth mindset territory. You can’t get better at what you want to learn unless you practice. It’s okay that you weren’t born a master of every task or skill! 

Expand your internal dialogue to be more optimistic and reassuring.

Instead of saying, “I’ll never be a good cook,” try expanding this thought to something along the lines of “I’m not a good cook yet, but I will be after I practice and learn new recipes!” Commit to being optimistic and thinking of yourself as someone who can and will learn new skills and abilities with practice over time. 

Do you identify with growth vs. fixed mindsets? Let us know your thoughts below!

About the Author

Alyssa Towns (Swantkoski)

Alyssa graduated from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. Early in her career, her interests shifted, and she works in communications and change management. She lives in Denver with her husband, and they love going on adventures together. She lives for summers in Colorado and enjoys hiking and stand up paddleboarding. She also enjoys collecting plants and stationery sets, reading self-help books, and is obsessed with the Yoga with Adriene YouTube channel. No matter where her career path leads her, writing, and sharing her experiences to help others will always be a part of her plans.