Fixed Vs. Growth Mindset

I hope your week was fantastic. Did you get outside for some activity? Today, I will be talking about fixed vs. growth mindset. 

I was skiing with the family and having a proud dad moment watching my little guy compete in a slalom race at Sunshine Ski Resort in Banff.

Watching the improvement of both of my kids since the start of the year got me thinking more about how and why people succeed (or fail) in life, and why Mindset plays such an important role. Particularly during New Year’s Resolution season.

In the previous posts, I’ve described Mindset as “the filter through which you see the world”. This is so relevant because your mindset colors every experience and interaction throughout your life. This impact and the resulting cascade of decisions and actions make it the most important factor in the results you achieve across every aspect of life.

As with all clients at FRESH!, from the youngest ages, my wife and I have been teaching our kids about the control they have over their mindset.

I wish I knew this information when I was young!

There are many different theories and philosophies of mindset and psychology. I like the approach of Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University and a leading researcher in the field of mindset and performance psychology. Carol identifies two key mindsets that have dramatically different consequences for the person, those around them, and the results they are able to accomplish in life.

We won’t spend too much time going into the details. I just want to get your mind thinking about the possibilities. And begin identifying which type of mindset shapes most of your thoughts, and what you can do about changing your mindset in your daily interactions.

Here’s a great image of the fixed vs. growth mindset. 

Source: Pinterest

Fixed Mindset

Let’s have a look at the Fixed Mindset:

People who hold these “fixed” beliefs think that intelligence and abilities are relatively static. In essence, “they are the way they are” and not much will change that. But that doesn’t mean that they have less of a desire for a positive self-image than anyone else. So, of course, they want to perform well and look smart.

However, achieving these goals requires taking on challenges. Challenges in the fixed mindset are a potential hazard that can lead to failure (and therefore a slight on them as a person).

By definition, a challenge is hard and success is not assured. So rather than risk failing and negatively impacting their self-image, they will often avoid challenges and stick to what they know they can do well. I’m sure we all know people who fit this style. Perhaps you even see it in yourself in some instances!

The same thing happens with obstacles. The context is slightly different in that challenges are things that you can decide to do while obstacles are external forces that get in your way. Because we often have to face these external situations, the fixed mindset person will get started, but give up easily to avoid failure. 

They can then use excuses as to why they weren’t able to overcome the obstacle.

You see, in a fixed mindset, excuses are OK because they are external factors outside the person and therefore don’t reflect poorly on them as an individual. 

What’s the point of working hard and making efforts if afterward, you are still on square one? If your worldview tells you that effort is an unpleasant thing that doesn’t really pay dividends, then the smart thing to do is to avoid it as much as possible.

Because the fixed mindset believes that ability and talent are inherent to the individual, trying hard means that they must not be that talented. Therefore, if something doesn’t come easy, they will avoid working too hard at it for fear that it will highlight a lack of “talent” or “ability”.

For the Fixed Mindset, they ignore useful negative feedback in the best of cases and take it as an insult the rest of the time. The line of thinking leads them to believe that any criticism of their capabilities is criticism of them as a person.

The reaction and push-back from feedback usually discourage the people around you. After a while, they stop giving any negative feedback. And further isolating them from external influences that could generate some change.

They see the success of others as a benchmark against which the person looks bad.

Usually, when others succeed, people with a Fixed Mindset will try to convince themselves and the people around them that the success was due to either luck, innate talent, or objectionable actions. In some cases, they will even try to tarnish the success of others by targeting their character or integrity.

As a result, fixed mindset people don’t reach their full potential and their beliefs feed on themselves: They don’t change or improve much with time, if at all, and so to them, this confirms that talent is innate and “they are as they are”.

Growth Mindset

Now, let’s now look at the opposite side of the mindset coin…the Growth Mindset

People who hold the Growth Mindset believe that intelligence is fluid and can be developed. They believe the brain is like a muscle that you can train. This mindset leads to a natural desire to grow, learn, and improve.

And how does one with a Growth Mindset improve? First, they embrace challenges, because they know that they’ll come out stronger on the other side.

Similarly, obstacles – external setbacks – do not discourage them (at least for long). How they will look to others is not very important to them and their self-image is not tied to their success. Failure is an opportunity to learn, and so whatever happens they win.

They see the effort as something useful and are not avoiding it at all costs.

But as necessary to grow and master useful skills that will serve them well in the future.

To the Growth Mindset person, criticism and negative feedback are sources of information to help them grow and learn. That doesn’t mean that all criticism is worth integrating or that nothing is taken personally. But at least the Growth Mindset individual understands that he or she can change and improve. So the negative feedback is not perceived as being directly about them as a person, but rather about their current abilities.

They see the success of others as a source of inspiration and information. To Growth Mindset individuals, success is not seen as a win-lose scenario. Because of this approach to life and different ways of thinking, Growth Mindset individuals will continue improving. This will create positive feedback loops that encourage them to learn and improve every day.

If you want to learn strategies that will support you in cultivating a mindset that creates opportunities and success in your life, enroll in our on-demand, fully online Mindset Mastery Workshop.

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Fixed vs. growth mindset

First, if you are upset because you are noticing some fixed mindset traits in yourself, it’s completely normal to hold a fixed mindset in some areas. In fact, you can hold a fixed mindset in one area (i.e relationships), and a growth mindset in another area such as work, music, etc.

There is great news for you – especially if you just recognized yourself as being someone who holds the Fixed Mindset view of the world. It is possible to change from one to the other!

A recent study by Carol Dweck and Lisa Sorich Blackwell of low-achieving seventh graders dramatically demonstrated this point.

All students participated in sessions on study skills and understanding the process of learning. One group attended a neutral session on memory while the other learned that intelligence grows stronger through exercise (like a muscle).

Students taught the growth mindset had massive increases in math grades and were much more motivated. Dweck explains that “Study skills and learning skills are inert until they’re powered by an active ingredient,”.

Students may know how to study but won’t want to if they believe their efforts are futile. “If you target that belief, you can see more benefit than you have any reason to hope for.”

Does the fixed vs. growth mindset theory fit with your personal experience? Does it describe people you know? 

Have an amazing weekend of cultivating your growth mindset!

If you are looking for help to transform your mindset, just reach out. My team and I would love to help.

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