Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

Your mind is a very powerful force. It can enslave you or empower you. It can take you to the depths of misery or get you to the heights of ecstasy.

If you spend a lot of time thinking about the negative, you will draw more negativity into your life. Conversely, if you choose to spend your time thinking about positive things, you will attract positive things into your life.

In his book The Power of the Unconscious Mind, Joseph Murphy tells a story of a man who visited a fortune teller. The fortune teller told him that he would die in a year’s time. The man had always been a healthy and energetic being. But as time passed and the deadline approached, he began to worry too much.

He spent all of his time thinking about his impending death. And as he worried more, he began to get sick. He ultimately died due to too much stress exactly one year after the fortune teller said he would. But it was all because of the constant fear and stress he had created in his mind and not because the fortune teller had said so.

In our everyday life, we hear stories of people who have become paralyzed due to accidents. Many have been told that they would never walk again. The few who choose not to believe what the doctor said eventually ended up walking again. The belief that they kept in their mind that they would walk helped them walk again. Do you really think the same would have happened if they had allowed themselves to wallow in self-pity?

Basically, the law of the mind is that positive attracts positive while negative attracts negative. The stories that occupy your mind and the things you believe in can either prevent change from happening or pave the way for new skills to blossom. It’s all a matter of perspective.

In this article, we talk about the two types of mindsets that can make a world of transformation in our lives — fixed mindset and growth mindset.

The Difference Between Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck is a researcher at the University of Stanford. She is well-known for her work on the growth vs. the fixed mindset. She describes the difference between the fixed and growth mindset:

”In a fixed mindset, students end up believing that their abilities, their talents, and their intelligence, are fixed characteristics in their life. They have a specific amount, and that’s it, and then their aim becomes to always look good and to never look foolish. With a growth mindset, the students appreciate the fact that their abilities and talents can be advanced and developed through constant effort, good coaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone is the same, or that anyone can be an Einstein. However, they believe everybody can only get better if they work hard at it.’’

From this, we can see that the benefits of a growth mindset are apparent, but most of us admit to having a fixed mindset in many situations. The truth is; this is dangerous because a fixed mindset can prevent development and growth of new skills, which can end up sabotaging your happiness or health down the line.

For instance, if you hold a belief that you are not a good swimmer, then this view becomes an excuse to avoid swimming. Your fixed mindset prevents you from plunging into the waters and hinders your ability to learn and develop new skills and abilities.

In the meantime, someone who has a growth mindset would be happy and willing to try swimming even if they fail repeatedly. They view failure and any other setback as an opportunity to continue working and developing their skills rather than seeing it as something they can’t do.

In the end, the person who has a growth mindset is more likely to exploit and utilize their potential. They learn from failure rather than just refusing to learn. They find inspiration from the success and achievement of others instead of feeling threatened.

Relationship between Mindset, Belief, and Behaviour

Do you think there is any relationship between mindset, behavior, and belief? Yes.

Let’s keep it simple before we dive in:

  • What is a mindset? It is a way of thinking.
  • What is a belief? It is a feeling of certainty or confidence about something.
  • What is a behavior? It is a way of acting towards something or someone.

Now let’s define mindset more closely: Your mindset is a collection of beliefs and behaviors that shape your habits. And your habits affect what you do, what you feel and how you think. Your mindset impacts how you make sense of everything around you and how you make sense of your life.

In short:

Your mindset shapes your beliefs.
Your beliefs shape your behavior.
Your behavior shapes your mindset.

How Your Mindset Influences Every Aspect of Your Life

Dweck goes ahead to do research on an important question about the connection between our mindsets and our lives.

If you believe things like:

  • It is too hard for me to lose weight
  • I’m not good at math
  • I can’t be an athlete
  • I’m not creative or innovative
  • I’m always late

These types of fixed mindsets will cause you to avoid doing new experiences for fear of failing. As a result, you stagnate and don’t learn as much.

Recognizing Your Mindset and That of Those Around You

”For twenty years, my research has proven that the views one has significantly affected the way one leads their life. It can determine whether one ends up becoming the person they want to be and whether they achieve the things you value. How does this happen? How can a mere belief have the power to alter your psychology and, as a result, your life? Believing that all your qualities are sort of carved in stone —the fixed mindset— yields a need to prove yourself again and again. If you have only a specific amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a particular moral character — well, then you’d better demonstrate that you have a huge and strong dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these essential characteristics. Some of us are trained in this mindset from childhood.’’ Carol Dweck.

In one study, Dweck took several subjects into a brain lab in Columbia to discover their brain’s behavior after answering a series of difficult questions. The results showed that the subjects with a fixed mindset showed interest only on the feedback they were given regarding their abilities and ignored any information that could have helped them learn and improve. They weren’t even interested in knowing the right answer when they got a question wrong. Instead, they filed the question away in their failure category.

Those who possess a growth mindset, however, were keen to learn so that they could increase their existing skills and knowledge. Their primary concern was to learn, and not to know whether they managed to get all answers right.

In another study involving hundreds of teenage students, Carol Dweck gave each student ten moderately challenging questions out of a nonverbal IQ test. After the trial, she commended each student for their performance. However, she offered two types of praise — some were praised for their ability while others were praised for their effort.

Those who were commended for their ability adopted the fixed mindset and showed every sign of it in their subsequent test. When offered a chance to undergo a task they could learn from, they refused. They literally rejected anything that could expose their weaknesses or challenge their talent. In contrast, the rest of the students who were praised for their effort wanted to take on a new task they could learn from.

What makes the transition from a fixed mindset to growth mindset so hard is the fact that beliefs don’t change overnight. If you have spent all your life believing you have a particular set of talents and intelligence, it becomes tough to view failure as an opportunity to better your skills rather than a reflection of what you’re turning into.

Developing a Growth Mindset For Life

Many times, we put too much value on single events, like a marathon, and underestimate the importance of making small progress on a regular basis, like running five times a week.

We think that running a marathon, getting that dream job or losing forty pounds at once will transform us into what we’ve always wanted to become. We fall victim of fixed mindsets and believe that we are only defined by our results.

The reality is, a gradual and consistent transformation begins by changing our mindsets and choosing to concentrate on the long-term goal rather than the short-term goal. It is the consistent effort that will impact your life and make you the person you have always wanted to become.

It’s about having confidence in yourself, practicing, and learning. It’s about focusing on the long-term end result rather than glorifying short-lived achievements that won’t actually make any significant impact.

When you let short-term results define you — your scores, your talent, your job, your weight and your performance — you immediately fall prey to the fixed mindset. Conversely, when you focus on growing each day, you form an identity that allows you to learn and develop.

The growth mindset believes that your mind is not carved out of stone. Intelligence and skills are malleable with effort, practice, persistence and excellent coaching.

How to Overcome a False Growth Mindset

A false growth mindset is thinking that you possess a growth mindset when in fact you don’t really have it, or you don’t fully understand what it is. We can also say false in the sense that no one has a growth mindset in all aspects of their life. Everyone has a mixture of a growth mindset and fixed mindset. For instance, you could have a predominant growth mindset in one area of your life, but there can be other factors that lead you to a fixed mindset.

Something outside of your comfort zone or something that challenges you could make you have a fixed mindset. Sometimes, you may encounter someone who is better than you at the things you pride yourself on, and you end up thinking “I’m not the best after all.’’ Due to this, we need to look closely at our fixed mindset and find out what triggers them so that we can learn how to overcome it.

Most of the people who develop a false growth mindset were duped into believing that they had a growth mindset. So they just say, ”Well, I have a growth mindset” because they know that this is the right kind of mindset to have or they just misunderstood it all together. When a teacher keeps telling a student that they made an effort on a test even if they failed it, they fill their head with empty promises that intensify some of the problems that growth mindset is meant to counter.

Dweck continues to argue that even if we continue to work hard to avoid a false growth mindset, we can still find it difficult to develop a focused growth mindset because we all have triggers that cause us to develop the fixed mindset.

However, there is a way out of the rabbit hole! Here are some tips to help you manage your fixed mindset:

  • Focus on being aware of when and how your fixed mindset is triggered.
  • Identify anything and anyone that makes you feel threatened and helpless.
  • Develop a growth mindset approach focused on identifying your triggers, dealing with them for what they are and learning to talk back to the fixed-mindset persona with a growth mindset voice, persuading it to try harder and not lose hope. This should begin by recognizing your fixed mindset voice, knowing that you have a choice, talking back at it with a growth mindset voice and then adopting a growth mindset direction.

What it all boils down to is that your mindset is a gradual process that tells you what is going on around you. In the fixed mindset, the process is achieved by engaging in an internal monologue where you constantly judge and evaluate yourself using every piece of information either for or against the fact that you are a successful person, a good person, or whether you are better than the person next to you. However, in a growth mindset, the internal monologue is not one where you judge yourself but one where you have an unending appetite for learning, always seeking to increase your effort so that you can boost your knowledge and skills.

And yes, your mindset is not fixed. You can choose to change your mindset by practicing and practicing.

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