A fixed mindset refers to the belief that abilities, intelligence and talents are fixed traits that cannot be easily changed. With a fixed mindset we are more likely to give up easily, avoid mistakes and apply less effort to get results.
A growth mindset refers to the belief that intelligence, abilities and talents are things that can be developed and improved through hard work and applied effort. With a growth mindset we are more likely to listen to feedback, apply effort, persevere with setbacks and learn from mistakes.
Understanding that mindset is everything, and developing the right mindset; one which is positive, open and growth oriented is critical for personal and professional development.
What is a Growth Mindset?
According to the psychologist and Stanford professor, Carol Dweck, ‘a growth mindset is the belief that personal characteristic, such as intellectual abilities can be developed’ (Dweck, 1999; Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Yeager & Dweck, 2012)
Carol Dweck was one of the first researchers to identify characteristics related to mindset in the 1980’s. There are many ways her theories can be applied in life, to build confidence, to achieve career progression, to improve relationships and to build resilience to deal with challenges.
Characteristics of a Growth Mindset
The key characteristics of a growth mindset include
- Embracing challenges and instead of giving up when things get tough, you start to see challenges as opportunities for growth
- Persistence is another key feature of a growth mindset. This is relevant for dealing with obstacles specifically, so that in the face of difficult circumstances you don’t give up, you persist and find a solution which helps you move forward and overcome these obstacles
- Learning from criticism and feedback – with a growth mindset you are more inclined to listen to feedback and see criticism constructively so that you can learn from this to develop and grow.
- Not being afraid to make mistakes – you are more likely to embrace mistakes and see failure as a way of learning, rather than something to avoid.
Benefits of Cultivating a Growth Mindset
- Enhanced learning and skill development – with a growth mindset your openness to learning increases which means that you are more open to developing new skills.
- Increased resilience and adaptability – you build resilience to cope when things don’t go to plan and find new ways to adapt so that difficult circumstances don’t get in your way
- Greater motivation and ambition – with a growth mindset you build increased motivation which in turn fuels ambition, as confidence grows, so does your appetite to achieve new goals
- Improved problem-solving abilities – a growth mindset means that you are more inclined to look for the solution to the problem rather than give up, which develops your problem solving ability
- Positive impact on collaboration – with a growth mindset you are more open to working with others and building relationships which has a positive impact on collaboration
What is a Fixed Mindset?
Characteristics of a Fixed Mindset
- Avoidance of challenges – with a fixed mindset you will try to avoid situations which you see as too challenging for fear of failing
- Giving up easily when faced with difficulties – with a fixed mindset you are more inclined to give up easily when things get difficult partly because you will want to avoid failure and also because you may believe you aren’t capable of succeeding and lack the talent.
- Reacting defensively to criticism – with a fixed mindset you are more likely to focus on positive feedback and avoid criticism or react defensively in the face of criticism to avoid confronting failure
- Feeling threatened by the success of others – a fixed mindset is likely to lead to feeling threatened by other people’s success because in some way this reflects on your lack of success or creates judgment by comparison.
Consequences of a Fixed Mindset
- Limited learning and stagnation of skill development – as a result of a fixed mindset you risk stagnation in terms of skill development because you are more likely to resist learning, overall this limits potential for growth
- Hindered personal/professional growth and development – a fixed mindset is also more likely to lead to stunted professional growth, staying in comfort zone and not risking failure by doing something unknown or uncertain
- Reduced creativity and innovation – a fixed mindset is also likely to limit creativity and innovation, as you are less inclined to look for new solutions, instead, you will stick to what you know so you don’t risk failure, or give up easily when problems arise.
Transforming from Fixed to Growth Mindset
The great thing is that mindset can be changed. This in itself is very empowering and whilst it requires openness, effort and consistency, the results are unlimited.
To transform from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset requires not only an openness to failure, but to learn how to reframe your thinking around failure so you start to see failure as a learning opportunity, rather than something negative and judgmental. This means that when you experience a setback, you can learn and grow from this rather than give up.
Realistic Goal Setting
A very useful way of building a growth mindset is to introduce a goal setting strategy into your personal and professional development. This requires you to set goals, starting with small steps so that you can build confidence and momentum. If you are too ambitious at the beginning and experience a setback early on this can be harder to overcome.
Small steps lead to quick wins, this builds confidence and motivation to move towards more ambitious goals. Goals are a proven way of achieving outcomes and getting results. An effective plan would include short, medium and longer term goals which are broken down into small manageable steps, with clear tangible actions that are time bound and have some accountability attached to them.
It is useful to know how to measure your progress and have a clear sense of what success looks like so that you can evaluate along the way.
In this article we have explored what it means to have a growth or fixed mindset and some of the characteristics of both. With a growth mindset you are more likely to achieve success, improve your learning and build resilience to deal with challenges.
The great thing about mindset is that this is something we can all cultivate, however, moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, requires openness and willingness to risk failure.
This takes consistency and patience but in time will yield results and benefits for career growth, for relationships and for all domains of life where you are looking to achieve better results.
If you’re looking for more guidance on mastering a growth mindset, then be sure to check out our mindset training course. This course is perfect for anyone wanting to learn about taking control of their mindset, and embracing a growth mindset for success.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to learn more about the role our mindset plays in our lives, then check out our blog article on why mindset is everything.
Perhaps you’re looking for a career change, and you’re here to educate yourself on some of the key components taught in coaching. If so, then you may want to check out our coaching accreditation course, a course which teaches all the foundational knowledge you need to become a professional and fully accredited coach.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset?
A growth mindset believes that talent and abilities are something we can develop. A fixed mindset sees talent and abilities as things that are fixed. As a consequence, with a fixed mindset learning is limited and growth stagnates.
How does a growth mindset contribute to success?
With a growth mindset, opportunities open up, this leads to increased learning and increased opportunities for success. Anything is possible with a growth mindset.
Can a fixed mindset be changed to a growth mindset?
Yes, but this requires an open attitude, a willingness to try and risk failure and a commitment to persevere.
What are some strategies to overcome self-limiting beliefs and embrace a growth mindset?
Some strategies to try include reframing self limiting beliefs and negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones, using positive affirmations to reinforce positive statements about yourself, focus on positive messages, being open to feedback and being more willing to persist through challenges.
What role does resilience play in the development of a growth mindset?
As you develop a growth mindset, resilience grows. Resilience involves being open to challenge and finding coping strategies to deal with these.
What are the potential drawbacks of a fixed mindset in the workplace?
A fixed mindset in the workplace is more likely to lead to a lack of learning and development, career stagnation, lack of skill development and staying in a comfort zone because it is safe.
About the Author
Jodi is the founder and driving force behind Engage. She is an occupational psychologist and executive coach with a PhD in Coaching Psychology, who for over 20 years has dedicated her career to helping people thrive and be the best version of themselves.
As a leading expert in coaching, she has worked globally with blue chip clients. She combines this wealth of experience and passion for human development with the scientific rigour of evidence-based research which underpins the Engage toolset.