Sometime last year I came across Stanford Psychologist, Carol Dweck’s work on mindset. This lead me to read her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success where she explored the concepts of growth and fixed mindsets in relation to parenting, business, school, and relationships.
In her book, she describes the fixed mindset as the belief that your talents, intelligence, and abilities are carved in stone. On the other hand, Dr. Dweck’ describes growth mindset as the belief that your basic qualities are things that you can cultivate through effort.
The Difference Bewteen Fixed and Growth Mindsets
Those with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence or abilities are static traits that can not be developed. They believe that things are just the way they are.
For instance, if you believe that you are poor at math, with a fixed mindset, you believe that no amount of effort can improve your math ability. You believe that your math ability is static and has been predetermined by your genes and/or upbringing or prior experiences.
You view your limitations as permanent and you shy away from trying new things. In the face of challenges, you fear that your deficiencies will be unmasked and that the truth of your abilities will be revealed.Those with a fixed mindset believe that if you have to work hard at something, then success in that particular activity, is not meant to be.
The problem with the fixed mindset is that it is incredibly limiting. Is it true that if you are not already an expert in your field then you will never be an expert in your field? Achieving this takes an incredible amount of grit and commitment to focusing on the process and not the outcome. I write more about these concepts here and here.
People with a growth mindset believe that their skills and talents are malleable and can be developed. This group of people believe that these skills, talents, and abilities can be cultivated and strengthened over time.
Moving from a Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset
Dr. Dweck explains that while people differ considerably—in aptitude, talents, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
Innate talent is a real thing. However, talent alone is not enough. Those who we see as being talented have invested an inordinate amount of work to strengthen their skills and abilities.
In her book, Dr. Dweck notes that it is possible to have both fixed and growth mindsets about different activities. The goal however, should be on discovering the triggers that lead us to possess a limiting mindset about a particular activity.
Dr. Dweck explains that we should shift from a “now” mindset to a “not yet” mindset. You may not be good now, but with encouragement and practice, you can get better. Changing our mindset creates a shift in the way we approach the challenges that arise on our journey to achieve our goals.
Also published on Medium.