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

February 25, 2020
3 Min Read
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It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. – Bill Gates

In order to achieve the most from your potential, it is important to actively cultivate and practice a growth mindset. While the term may be familiar to you, do you really have a good understanding of how it applies to you?

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset?

According to Carol Dweck, a professor and researcher at Stanford University, a growth mindset enables people to perceive that they are able to develop and improve their abilities, talents, and skills over time through hard work. They see opportunities for improvement where others see only failed attempts. By actively cultivating this mindset, you can stand out from the crowd as an individual with grit and determination.

In contrast, those who have fixed mindsets see qualities and situations as less fluid. They assume that if they were never good at a skill like writing, then they will be a bad speller for the rest of their life. Although having these self-limitations may not be a conscious choice, they still can be impediments in your career and life advancement.

How to Change from a Fixed to Growth Mindset

Understanding that growth, while challenging, can lead to improvement is the first step of your journey. Changing from a fixed to growth mindset starts in your mind. Think of a recent experience or interaction where you might have responded something like, “Forget it, I’m not good at that,” or “You should calculate the tip since I’m so bad at math.” Little things, yet still self-limiting.

Now imagine all the ways, big and small, you have limited your career opportunities out of a refusal to take on a new task or learn a basic skill at which you’ve never excelled in. All it takes is a change in attitude – from I can’t do something because I’ve been told that I’m bad at it to I can get better from learning and doing.

Embrace the Work

You have to be willing to put in the work to develop and grow new skills. You have to change the way you look at the world and the challenges you face daily. Start thinking outside the box — but go farther than that. Start asking questions about the box, why it’s there, its purpose, and your role in relation to the box. You might be very surprised at what you will learn, both in the microcosm and macrocosm.

Consider how Thomas Edison described talent: “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Although he had less than a year's worth of traditional schooling, Edison never stopped learning. He is arguably history’s greatest inventor. Edison’s success is attributed to his growth mindset where he understood that with hard work, you can accomplish anything.

How This Mindset Has Helped the Most Successful People in the World Get Where They Are

Despite facing many deterrents and challenges early in their lives, there are countless people who ended up becoming industry leaders, world-renowned musicians, and theoretical physicists. Here are just a few famous examples of people who refused to let a fixed mindset hold them back:

  • Albert Einstein – The renowned theoretical physicist was non-verbal for the first four years of life. On one occasion, his teacher told his parents that he was “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.”
  • Steven Spielberg – Known today for directing some of Hollywood’s biggest hits, Spielberg was put in special education classes after dropping out of high school and later returning.
  • J.L. Turner – The co-founder of the billion-dollar company Dollar General only went to the third-grade in school and was functionally illiterate. In 1993, his descendants founded the Dollar General Literacy Foundation in his memory to help others learn to read and further their educations.
  • Elvis Presley – In eighth grade, Elvis got a “C-“ in music class. Later, after a failed singing audition, he was warned not to quit his day job. He went on to break records all over the world for his singing ability and showmanship.

At the end of the day, you don’t have to be born a genius to benefit from cultivating a growth mindset. Ordinary people do it every day by simply facing new challenges and seeing them as opportunities to grow. The good news is that you can train yourself to cultivate a growth mindset.

How Peer Feedback Can Unlock A Growth Mindset

So how do you translate theory into practice? Where do you start? The first step to developing a growth mindset is by figuring out areas where you can grow in. To identify these growth areas, you can ask people you’ve worked with – your peers, clients, current and previous managers, and so on – for honest feedback to help you be more self aware.

Feedback, especially peer-to-peer, will help you focus and develop new soft skills like leadership, communication, and analytical thinking that you can then apply back to your job, thus further adding value to your company and career. By asking and gathering regular feedback, you’ll begin to identify blind spots that may hinder you from embracing a growth mindset.

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