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The Difference Between Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset?

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We’re always striving for growth. Whether it’s a bigger house, a bigger bank account, or bigger muscles, more is usually considered merrier. However, with this constant quest for self-improvement and a bigger bottom line, one important factor can get lost in the shuffle: mindset. You may be gaining knowledge, but are you truly growing?

We’ve discussed mindset a lot in recent blogs, and with good reason. It is fundamental to everything we are trying to achieve – both as professionals and as human beings.

This is especially true when it feels like everything is in flux; from strategy to skill requirements to working arrangements.

How do you continue to thrive when it’s impossible to predict what tomorrow will look like? By adopting a growth mindset.

Being fixed in your ways and resistant to change will get you nowhere. Adopting a growth mindset, on the other hand, opens up a world of possibilities.

So, to help make this year one of growth and continue our focus, we’ll compare fixed mindsets and growth mindsets, before analysing how to apply a growth mindset to your professional life or just life in general.

Let’s get growing!

 

 

The Difference Between Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset?

According to researcher Carol Dweck, there are two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. 

In a fixed mindset, people believe their qualities are fixed traits and therefore cannot change. These people document their intelligence and talents rather than working to develop and improve them. They also believe that talent alone leads to success, and effort is not required.

In a growth mindset, people have an underlying belief that their learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience. When people believe they can become smarter, they realise that their effort has an effect on their success, so they put in extra time, leading to higher achievement.

People with a fixed mindset always want to appear intelligent because they believe that they were born with a fixed level of intelligence that cannot be modified. These people have a fear of looking dumb to people because they do not believe that they can redeem themselves once other people look at them as being non-intelligent.

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In a growth mindset, however people believe their abilities and intelligence can be developed with effort, learning, and persistence. Their basic abilities are simply a starting point for their potential. They don’t believe everyone is the same, but they hold onto the idea that everyone can become smarter if they try.

A fixed mindset assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static given which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.

A growth mindset on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of non-intelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behaviour, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.

You can watch a great TED talk with Carol Dweck on growth mindset here.

 

 

Identify your fixed mindset triggers

Before we explore ways to foster a growth mindset, it’s crucial to be able to spot your own fixed mindset triggers. Though the outcome will always be similar – lack of motivation, resilience, and personal growth – there are several mindset triggers people tend to react to.

It’s unlikely all of these will apply to you, but it would be surprising if none of them did. If you can’t pinpoint one of these triggers as affecting you, you may actually have a false growth mindset?

Having to work hard

Most people like to say they’re hard workers. But in reality, there is something society seems to value more: being “gifted” or “naturally talented.”

Did you ever feel proud when you did well on an exam without working too hard? If hard work is one of your mindset triggers, you may get overwhelmed by tasks that require a long, sustained effort – and you will be more likely to give up.

Another sign that hard work may be a mindset trigger for you is if you tend to compare yourself to others, and you feel discouraged when it seems like it requires less effort from them to achieve the same goals.

Note that if having to work hard is of your mindset triggers, it doesn’t mean that you’re lazy. It just means you have a self-limiting belief – that you think that no matter how much work you put in, some people are just more talented than you are.

Facing setbacks

Life happens. We get sick, we can lose a job, not sign an important contract, there can be an oversight, a mistake, an accident.

A challenge is intrinsic to what you’re trying to achieve. A setback is extrinsic. Let’s say you decide to go on a diet, but on the very first day, a colleague celebrates their birthday at work and you feel like you have to accept a piece of their birthday cake. With a growth mindset, this wouldn’t be a big deal – you’d just get back on track and forget about it. But if setbacks are a mindset trigger for you, you may stop the diet altogether because you feel like you have failed already.

Let’s look at another example: you promised yourself to go for a run twice a week. But it’s been raining all week – what a bummer. Running won’t be as nice with this kind of weather. So, you don’t go for a run. You basically let something like the weather derail your plans. In your mind, a setback is not a setback, it’s a roadblock.

Getting negative feedback

We don’t all handle critique the same way. Ok, let’s look at professional athletes. They get a ton of feedback from their coach. And sometimes, that feedback can be pretty harsh. But they listen, they learn, they apply the feedback and suggestions. The problem is that some of us struggle to separate our performance from our identity. If we didn’t do well, we think we’re not good enough. Think about how you react to critique – is it one of your mindset triggers?

Being challenged.

Being out of your comfort zone is one of the best signs you are learning and growing. Think about it – unless you’re getting stretched, chances are you’re simply repeating stuff you already know.

Some people are not comfortable being on the edge of their competence. If your mindset trigger is being challenged, it means that when you try to work on something and the solution you try doesn’t work, you believe the goal itself is too hard – and you may quit altogether.

Seeing success in others.

This is one people have a hard time admitting to. It has happened to me before. I would look at someone who was either more senior or had more experience, and I would compare myself to them.

It’s not a pretty emotion – I was basically feeling jealous. What my brain didn’t seem to really get, though, is that these people had been working at it for longer than me, and that there was no reason I wouldn’t get to a similar lever if I put in the effort too.

It can be intimidating to hang out with people who are more advanced than you in their journey – which is why it’s a mindset trigger for many of us.

You may be facing more subtle mindset triggers—for example, some people have specific mindset triggers when it comes to their siblings or their best friend.

But it’s very unlikely you don’t have any mindset triggers. So, take the time to explore your thoughts and your emotions so you can become aware of them. 

 

How to foster a growth mindset

As Carol Dweck said, there are two ways to look at the world: “In one world, effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort. In the other world, effort is what makes you smart or talented.”

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When you have a growth mindset, the hand you are dealt is just a starting point for personal growth. By changing your vision of effort and failure, you can design a whole new approach to your life.

Convinced? Here are fifteen strategies you can use to develop a growth mindset.

Remember the concept of neuroplasticity

here is lots of research showing your brain’s structure is not fixed. Your mind should not be fixed either.

Appreciate the process over the results

It’s all about the learning process. Don’t worry too much about the actual result, make sure you learn as much as possible.

Acknowledge your weaknesses

Ignoring your weaknesses means that you’ll never manage to improve. Acknowledging and embracing your imperfections also means you know which ones you want to work on.

Cultivate your sense of purpose

According to Carol Dweck’s research, people with a growth mindset have a greater sense of purpose. Keep asking “why” and think about the meaning of your work.

Don’t say failing, say learning

Shift your vision of failure. If you fall short of a goal or make a mistake, don’t see it as a failure – make it a learning opportunity.

Value effort over talent.

Stop chasing the reputation of someone who is “naturally smart.” First, genius requires work. Second, you won’t be perceived as smart if you’re not willing to put the work in.

Consider challenges as opportunities

Challenges are an opportunity for self-improvement. Tackle them, and whether you succeed or fail, make sure to learn as much as possible.

Place growth before speed

It takes time to learn. Learning fast doesn’t mean learning well, and learning well requires allowing time for mistakes. Think realistically about time and effort it will require to acquire a new skill. Don’t expect to master everything in one sitting.

Do not chase other people’s approval

When you prioritise approval over learning, you sacrifice your own potential for growth.

View criticism as a gift

Related – don’t wait for constructive criticism. Analyse all criticism. Do not let it destroy you, see it as a useful data point.

Celebrate actions, not attributes

Give yourself a pat on the back when you did something smart—not just when you were being smart and relying on your previous knowledge.

Grow with others

If you have a growth mindset, you may want to share and celebrate your progress with others. Learn from other people’s mistakes, take risks with them. Don’t try to look your best, show how hard you’re willing to work and how comfortable you are with experimenting.

Take the time to reflect

Either once a day, once a week, or once a month, use journaling and metacognition techniques to reflect on your personal growth trajectory.

Cultivate perseverance.

Grit and determination will help you overcome challenges. Remind yourself of all the times you managed to deal with a particularly tough situation. You can do it again.

Use the “not yet” technique.

Carol Dweck says adding “not yet” to any fixed mindset statement is a great way to reframe your thought processes. When you’re struggling, just remind yourself that you haven’t mastered that skill…Yet.

There are probably more growth mindset techniques out there, but I think these will help you get the gist of it. Now, let’s have a look at the questions you can ask yourself to develop a growth mindset on a day-to-day basis.

 

 

Your mindset determines your success

If you have a growth mindset, you’re much more likely to be successful. Why? Because you have the drive, willingness, and overall foundation of belief to aim for bigger, better things.

If you have a fixed mindset, you’ll find yourself becoming stagnant, without the motivation to achieve anything greater than what you already have.

To quote Carol Dweck:

“For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”

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A fixed mindset will lead you to avoid challenges because they can make you feel inferior. On the flip side, if you have a growth mindset you thrive on challenges. You’ll learn to stretch yourself, seek improvement, and grow personally.

If you have a fixed mindset, you’ll also be tempted to let one setback define you forever. A bad grade, a failure at work, a break up – you’ll feel like all these are definitive in your life.

However, if you have a growth mindset, you’ll take those setbacks and turn them into successes, learning from failure and bouncing back better than ever.

 

It’s all about mindset

Have you ever had someone say to you, “It’s all about perspective”? That’s what mindset is – the way you look at yourself, the people in your life, and the world around you.

If you have a growth mindset, you understand that the harder you work, the more drive you have, and the more optimism you use when facing the world, the more successful you’ll be.

Take a minute to consider yourself and your perception? Are you a fixed mindset person or do you have more of a growth mindset perspective?

Fortunately, you can change your mindset at any time you wish.

 

 

How can a person’s mindset change?

Just as someone can grow and develop their intellect, a person is also capable of changing brain functions and their thinking patterns.

Neuroscience shows us that the brain continues to develop and change, even as adults. The brain is similar to plastic in that it can be remoulded over time, as new neural pathways form. This has led scientists to identify the tendency of the brain to change through growth and reorganisation as “neuroplasticity”.

Studies have shown the brain can grow new connections, strengthen existing ones, and improve the speed of pulse transmission. These suggest that a person with a fixed mindset can slowly develop a growth mindset.

According to Dr. Carol Dweck, you can change your mindset from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. This is also supported by neuroscience studies demonstrating the malleability of self-attributes such as intelligence.

 

 

How to develop a growth mindset

Researchers have found that it is possible to promote a growth mindset by teaching students about neuroscience evidence showing the brain is malleable and improves through effort.

There are several ways to develop a growth mindset:

Realise that, scientifically, you can improve

One of the most direct methods of fostering a growth mindset is by understanding our brains are built to grow and learn. By challenging yourself with new experiences, you can form or strengthen neural connections to “rewire” your brain which, in turn, can make you smarter.

Remove the “fixed mindset” inner voice

Many people have a negative inner voice that acts against a growth mindset. Try to flip thoughts such as ‘I can’t do this’, to ‘I can do this if I keep practicing’ to nurture a growth mindset.

Reward the process

Although society often rewards those who achieve excellent outcomes, this can work against a growth mindset. Instead, reward the process and the effort exerted. One study by Dr. Carol Dweck showed that rewarding effort over results on a maths game improved performance.

Get feedback

Try and seek feedback on your work. When students are provided with progressive feedback about what they did well and where they can improve, it creates motivation to keep going. Feedback is also associated with a pleasurable dopamine response and enhances a growth mindset.

Get out of your comfort zone

Being brave enough to leave your comfort zone can help foster a growth mindset. When faced with a challenge, try to choose the harder option that will allow you to grow.

Accept failure as part of the process

Failure, setbacks, and initial confusion are all part of the learning process! When trying   something new, see occasional “failures” as positive learning opportunities – try to enjoy the discovery process along the way.

 

The Difference Between Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset – Final thought

The growth mindset is the belief that intelligence and ability can be nurtured through learning and effort. Growth-minded people see setbacks as a necessary part of the learning process and bounce back from “failure” by increasing effort.

This mindset has positive effects on motivation and academic performance in students or in professionals.

The limited evidence from neuroscience suggests the brains of people with a growth mindset are more active than those with a fixed mindset–particularly in areas associated with error-correction and learning.

If you have any questions please reach out to me via adam@mydoshtips.com. I would love to hear from you!

I really hope you found inspiration in this article.

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