Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset: Which Are You?

Thinking back it’s weird to understand that one of the things that held many of my classmates or co-workers back from getting more out of their pursuits was their mindset.

It wasn’t their talent. It wasn’t their intelligence.

It was simply a mindset.

This seems silly because at almost every level of our lives people have rewarded those that are smart and have natural ability.

You’re so smart. I can’t believe you picked up this subject so quickly.

This makes you think that if you can’t pick up the random subject quickly then you must not be smart enough for it. If you aren’t smart enough for it then why bother?

It’s no secret why so many people when they reach adulthood don’t pursue many other things in life.

Sure, they may dabble, but how many adults become experts at something that they actually started in adulthood?

In contrast, how many kids from ages 1 – 6 spend however long it takes them to finally get something right?

There just seems to be nothing holding them back.

The difference is having a fixed mindset vs a growth mindset.

What is the definition of mindset?

First, I think it’s important to start with the definition of mindset. Here it is straight from the dictionary:

the established set of attitudes held by someone

Nothing to do with intelligence or talent. It only deals with an attitude that someone holds.

Where did this stuff come from?

Mindset is nothing new. However, the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset originated from Carol Dweck and her holy shit you need to read this book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

In her book, Dweck postures that how we view and inhabit our personality is one of our most basic beliefs.

A fixed mindset leads you to believe that your character, intelligence, and creative ability are static (fixed). This means that they can’t be changed in any meaningful way and success is determined by your levels of these 3 things.

The way you must maintain this mindset is by always achieving success and completely avoiding failure (maybe you can see the problem here).

In contrast, a growth mindset thrives on challenges. A growth mindset sees failure not as evidence of a lack of intelligence, but as an opportunity to grow and expand upon existing abilities.

As you can imagine, depending on which mindset you grew up with can determine a lot of the choices and actions you’ve made as an adult.

growth mindset vs fixed mindset chart

Here are the consequences that Dweck uncovered:

Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.

[…]

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?…

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. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.

The growth mindset creates a passion for learning. Nothing is unattainable and everything is an adventure.

Before a kid even learns about intelligence or is called smart, they get to explore anything and everything.

They need to understand how something works because they are curious.

There are no limitations created by external expectations. To them, every experience is a chance to expand on their abilities.

People with the growth mindset are not discouraged by failure because they don’t actually see themselves as failing, they see themselves as learning.

Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? 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.

In contrast, people with a fixed mindset are concerned that if they take a risk it will lead to them showing their inadequacies. Therefore they believe they really shouldn’t be too risky with things.

I see this all of the time in the Dare to Conquer Community. People get excited about starting a business but then become paralyzed because they believe that until they master all of the knowledge, they shouldn’t take any action.

Of course, you don’t know if you’ve mastered any knowledge until you take action but taking action means that you might show your inadequacies.

It’s often why people with a fixed mindset only succeed once their backs are against the wall and they have no other choice.

The ones that start off with a growth mindset continuously ask questions because they see the journey as a learning experience. Yes, they want to see success but they understand their odds increase when they open their minds to soak in the knowledge.

They understand that there probably isn’t a direct route from Point A to Point B. It means there will be ups and downs. It means there will be a lot of bumps but those are just part of the process.

In fact, they can be fun!

What happens when people with a fixed mindset encounter failure?

Well, Dweck explains it well:

If success had meant they were intelligent, then less-than-success meant they were deficient.

Nobody wants to feel deficient.

Nobody wants to feel like they just don’t have it. It’s why people with a fixed mindset always play it safe.

They believe they like challenges, but in reality, they only like the challenges that they know they can succeed with.

If you start an online business and after the first couple of months you find that you are getting no traffic and no money then it can start to wear on you.

Each day is simply another day that isn’t fun. Your confidence in achieving success gets worse and worse.

In contrast, someone with a growth mentality will keep plugging away. Not because they are stupid or blind to what is happening, but because they know that each day is an opportunity to push their limits.

Others have found success so why shouldn’t they be able to?

Mindset Produces Change, Both Good and Bad

In one study, Dweck gave students some IQ questions. When the students completed the test, researchers asked them to write letters to their peers along with reporting their scores.

40% of the ability-praised (fixed mindset) kids lied about their scores. They inflated them so they would look better.

Whaaaaaaa?

The fixed mindset proved to be pretty toxic when these students were praised before encountering something difficult.

In the fixed mindset, imperfections are shameful — especially if you’re talented — so they lied them away. What’s so alarming is that we took ordinary children and made them into liars, simply by telling them they were smart.

Fixed mindset people believe in establishing their superiority over others. They want to be somebody that is worthy, whatever that means.

Growth mindset people believe that success can come when you work your hardest to be the best.

How to Develop a Growth Mindset

Okay, all of this sounds great. You see the benefits in having a growth mindset over a fixed mindset.

But how do you develop a growth mindset for yourself?

1. Accept you have weaknesses and that you can correct them

This year, like every year, I decided that I wanted to make some changes in my life. I didn’t want to be an underachiever anymore so I looked at the areas that I could improve.

I found that I have a bad habit of not sticking to my habits. So I read a number of books trying to uncover how you make habits stick because I’ve seen plenty of other people stick to their habits.

I knew this weakness could be turned into a strength. Every time​ I “failed” at sticking to a habit, instead of giving up on it, I wrote down why I think I failed and then I went at it again.

Now, it is much easier for me to stick to habits because I understand that failing at them is no longer a sign of weakness.

2. View challenges as opportunities

Some people consider me cocky because rarely do I turn down a challenge. Maybe I am a bit cocky but I’m also curious.

I’m always curious to see how I handle a challenge. If I fail at the challenge I want to know why I failed and then I want to try the challenge again.

If I succeed at the challenge then I get to tell the person I’m the greatest because that is what cocky people do.

I’m just joking, I only do that to my wife.

I’m joking again.

3. Remember that the brain is not fixed, it can evolve

Your brain can constantly form new connections if you allow it to. Just because you grew up with a fixed mindset does not mean you are stuck with it forever.

There is always room for your brain to grow but that can only happen if you change your mindset and actively take actions that back up that mindset.

Speaking of action…

4. Mindset is both worldview and action

It’s great if you’ve decided to have a growth mindset but it will quickly disappear if you don’t take the actions that people with a growth mindset take.

What will you do the next time you fail? Will you throw your hands up in disgust or will you try again?

Will you look at the puzzle and try to figure it out or will you throw the pieces off of the table?

5. Learning over validation

I like motivation especially the kind where you form some type of nemesis. However, this can also work against you.

What I mean is that many people like to say they are trying to do something to prove someone wrong.

My husband doesn’t believe I can create a successful business so I am going to prove him wrong.

The problem with this mentality is that it is based around the idea that you want your spouse’s approval so when you’re working on this business you’ll shy away from risks.

Any sign of failure means that you won’t get the approval that you seek so you won’t even bother trying something new.

Instead, you’ll buy every single course and book that is available in the hopes that ONE of them finally provides you with the silver bullet that you seek.

6. The process is more important than the result

Results are great when they are what you want, but what happens when they aren’t?

Bad results can make you quit because you prioritize results over the process.

However, when you focus on the process then the result is less important. If the result isn’t what you wanted that’s okay because you can go back and analyze the process.

When people don’t get the results that they want with their online business they do two things:

  1. Ask what they did wrong
  2. Believe that they did everything right

Those two things seem like they contradict and they do, but they don’t see it like that.

I did everything that this person did so why am I seeing different results?

If you focused on the process instead of the results you would probably understand what went wrong.

When you focus on the process you have epiphanies. These new and unexpected lessons appear as lightbulbs above your head.

Going through an online course the first time you might only be focused​ on the result so you miss a lot of things.

When you go through the course two or three times you pick up new things because now you’re more focused on the process.

7. Have a Why

Your Why is going to guide you. It gives you purpose.

There is a difference between…

I want to help people achieve success and live a happy life

…and…

I want to make money

If you follow the second then you’re only focused on the results. If you follow the first then you’re curious about the process that will help others achieve success.

And funny enough when you do that you end up making money.