Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset: Which One Are You?


Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

The podcast

My interview with Raglan radio covers this topic with examples from both Aaron and myself. Scroll to the bottom of this post to listen and view the (approximate) timestamps.

Imagine this: You’re at work, faced with a challenging project. Your boss is breathing down your neck, deadlines are looming, and your colleagues seem to be sailing through tasks like they’re on some tropical holiday.

How do you react? 

Do you think, “I’m just not cut out for this,” and prepare to flee to the nearest coffee shop? Or do you roll up your sleeves, channel your inner superhero, and declare, “I can figure this out”?

Whether you realise it or not, the way you think about your abilities and potential plays a massive role in how you approach challenges, learn new skills, and ultimately, achieve success. 

This isn’t just pop psychology

it’s backed by robust research from Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. She began exploring the concept of mindsets through her studies on human motivation and personality.

Her curiosity led her to investigate why some people are more resilient and willing to face challenges, while others shy away from difficulties. From those studies she introduced the concepts of ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindsets. 

But, why should you care? 

Well, understanding your mindset could be the key to unlocking greater job satisfaction, boosting your performance, and bouncing back from setbacks like a trampoline champion. 

Let’s examine these two mindsets, and help you figure out which camp you belong to. Then I’ll give you some ways to change your mind so you can transform not just your job, but your entire life.

Fixed Mindset:

Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities, intelligence, and talents are static traits that cannot be significantly developed. They often avoid challenges, give up easily when faced with obstacles, and view effort as a sign of inadequacy.

Growth Mindset:

Conversely, individuals with a growth mindset believe that their abilities and intelligence can be developed through hard work, dedication, and learning. They embrace challenges, persist through difficulties, and view effort as necessary to achieve mastery.

a man in a suit with a light bulb over his head representing a growth mindset.

Characteristics of a fixed mindset

Avoid challenges

People with a fixed mindset treat challenges like a hot potato—they drop them fast! They fear failure and think it means they’re just not good enough.

Give up easily

Faced with obstacles, these folks wave the white flag pretty quickly. Why bother trying if effort feels like a waste of time?

Ignore feedback

Constructive criticism? More like a personal attack! Feedback is often ignored or seen as an affront to their inherent abilities.

Threatened by others’ success

The success of others feels like a spotlight on their own shortcomings. Instead of celebrating, they feel threatened and inadequate. It tends to convince them that they’re not good enough.

Characteristics of a growth mindset

Embrace challenges

People with a growth mindset are attracted to challenges like a magnet to steel. They see them as golden opportunities to learn and grow.

Persist in the face of setbacks

These resilient souls keep going, even when the going gets tough. For them, effort is the secret sauce to mastering anything.

Learn from feedback

Constructive criticism is like a treasure map. They use it to find ways to improve and get better.

Inspired by others’ success

Rather than feeling jealous, they get a boost from seeing others succeed. They believe that if others can do it, then they can too. It provides motivation and inspiration for them to continuously improve.

How these mindsets affect your behaviour

1. Response to failure:

Fixed Mindset: Imagine you’ve just tripped over your own feet in front of everyone at work. A fixed mindset would have you believe that this stumble proves you’re a plonker for the rest of your life.

To avoid any more public tumbles, you might start dodging any situation where failure is even remotely possible. Safe, yes.  But oh so limiting!

Growth Mindset: Now, picture the same scenario, but with a growth mindset. You’d see this little mishap as a learning opportunity—maybe a chance to improve your coordination or just to have a laugh with everyone else and keep going. Failure isn’t the end; it’s just a step on the way to success.

2. Approach to learning:

Fixed Mindset: You get an email about a new training course at work. Instead of jumping in, you think, “What if I don’t get it, or I fall behind everyone else? Maybe I’ll skip it.” With a fixed mindset, the fear of looking incompetent can make you miss out on great learning experiences.

Growth Mindset: A growth mindset would have you clicking that “Sign Up” button faster than you can say “self-improvement.” Learning is exciting, and every new skill is a chance to enhance your toolkit. Bring on the new challenges!

a man sitting on a couch holding a laptop and a credit card having signed up

3. Effort and persistence:

Fixed Mindset: You’ve been working on a project for hours, but it’s just not coming together. If you have a fixed mindset, you might think, “I’m just not cut out for this,” and abandon ship. If you have to work hard at something, you see it as a sign that you lack talent.

Growth Mindset: On the other hand, a growth mindset sees effort as part of the process. Struggling with that project? Great! It means you’re learning and growing. You dig in deeper, knowing that persistence will eventually pay off.

Practical applications of a growth mindset

1. In education:

Teaching Strategies: Teachers can help students by swapping those “You’re so smart!” type praises for “You worked really hard on that!” This simple shift can help students focus on effort and strategies rather than innate intelligence.

Resilience Building: Help students understand that struggling is not a sign of weakness but a natural part of learning. Share stories of famous failures who turned their setbacks into comebacks.

2. In the workplace:

Employee Development: Create a culture where continuous learning is the norm. Encourage your team to take courses, attend workshops, and share what they’ve learned with each other, so everyone can benefit.

Feedback Culture: Promote a feedback-rich environment where constructive criticism is welcomed and seen as a tool for growth. Normalise the idea that everyone, from the CEO to the guy who started yesterday, is committed to continuous growth and development. If you don’t already know, you might have to learn how to give constructive criticism. 

3. Personal development:

Self-Talk: Monitor your internal dialogue. Swap out “I can’t do this” for “I’m working on it” or “I’m getting better every day.” Positive self-talk can significantly influence your mindset and actions.

Goal Setting: Break down your huge goals into bite-sized chunks. Celebrate each small win along the way, to keep the momentum going and your motivation high.

Strategies to cultivate a growth mindset

1. Reframe Challenges:

Stepping stones across a river.

See challenges as exciting stepping stones to grow your skills and knowledge, rather than insurmountable roadblocks. Remember, every misstep is just feedback helping you adjust your path.

2. Embrace Effort:

Recognise that effort is the secret ingredient to mastery. The more you put in, the more you get out. It’s not about innate talent; it’s about the sweat and tears you’re willing to invest as you develop and grow.

3. Learn from criticism:

View feedback as your personal growth GPS. It’s not about pointing out what’s wrong; it’s about pointing you in the right direction. Use it to refine your skills and strategies.

4. Celebrate growth:

Don’t wait for the big wins to throw a party. Celebrate every small step forward. Acknowledging progress, no matter how tiny, keeps you motivated and focused on improvement.

Summing up a growth mindset: The key takeaways

Understanding whether you have a fixed or growth mindset is like discovering the secret ingredient to your favourite food. A fixed mindset can keep you stuck in the same old rut, avoiding challenges and shying away from new opportunities. But with a growth mindset, every obstacle becomes a stepping stone, every failure a lesson, and every effort a chance to improve.

Ready to transform your mindset? 

Start by embracing challenges, valuing your own efforts, and learning from feedback. Celebrate every small victory and let the success of others inspire you. By shifting your mindset, you can unlock new levels of job satisfaction, performance, and personal growth.

So, go on—take a good look at your mindset and see how a few simple changes can lead to extraordinary results. Your future self will thank you!

Related posts

Podcast timestamps

00:00 Introduction
02.00 What are mindsets and what are the differences between Fixed and Growth Mindsets?
04.20 There’s no failure, only feedback. Explanation of this NLP assumption.
05.00 How school and testing impacts our attitudes about trying new things, and peoples’ trauma response.
07.00 How the different mindsets approach challenges, and why.
08:30 Response to feedback and how to respond to mistakes, so we improve.
10:00 Imagining what life would be like if we didn’t have to be perfect, but could just feel free to try new things.
10:30 Response to others’ success.
11.00 Aaron believes we’re deliberately creating people with fixed mindsets, by frightening people with learning and testing etc. and how we change over time.
13:00 Another NLP belief that ”If others can do something, then I can too.” How the developers of NLP took a different approach and examined how people achieved success, instead of how people ended up in mental institutions. How they reframed their discoveries for professionals who weren’t open to new ways of thinking.
16:00 NLP phobia cure vs. desensitisation—with example.
16.30 Response to failure, and how to reframe this as learning
21:00 Attitudes to effort and persistence. Aaron relates his experiences (with examples) of coaching kids at football.
24:00 The importance of practice and the analogy of driving a car.
26.00 Beginners mind
28:00 The motivations behind learning to drive.
29:30 Impact of mindset at work and how to improve
31:00 Aaron talks about how it seems to be ingrained in our culture to point out what’s wrong and gives examples.
33.00 Personal development and our self-talk. Lots of examples and ways to change, including setting incremental goals and ways to challenge your abilities. We talk about the Iron Cowboy!
38:00 Strategies to cultivate growth mindset. Ways to reframe limited mindset.
42:30 Compare your development against your previous level of competency, rather against someone else or an expert.
45:30 Use reframing to give you a different point of view.
48.30 Anchor a positive state for yourself.

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Tags: Beliefs and values, Health and wellbeing, Motivation and taking action, Podcasts and audio tips, Thinking and mindset


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