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Growth Mindset Vs. Fixed Mindset: Which One Do You Have?

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I recently finished Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” which motivated me to deeply ponder her thesis on the Growth Mindset versus the Fixed Mindset, and how we, as individuals, employ them in life every day. Mindset (or attitude, as I prefer to call it) is critical because in order to be successful, one must be self-aware of the mindset to which they subscribe.

For example, are you challenging yourself? Are you giving up in the face of adversity or potential failure? Are you putting in deliberate, conscious effort? Are you afraid to take on challenges because of the fear of making a mistake?

According to Dweck, these are the questions one must ask. If you want to be truly successful and achieve mastery, new psychological evidence suggests that hard work, effort, perseverance, and grit are the keys to get you there.

A similar case study was exposed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers: The Story of Success.” Gladwell’s assertion is that 10,000 hours of hard work, struggle, and deliberate practice are needed before one is considered an expert and holds mastery over their field. These notions resonated with me, because I’m sure everyone remembers their father’s, grandfather’s, or a mentor’s advice when they were young and thought they knew it all: “Look son, there are no get-rich-quick schemes in life, if there were, we’d all be rich” or “The road to success is built upon blood, sweat, and tears” (i.e., sweat equity); you get the gist.

I am a true believer that talent, ability, and intellect can only get you so far. One must also possess a strong desire and insatiable hunger to learn and develop by taking challenges head-on and cultivating and advancing skills.

Moreover, new research has challenged conventions in that the brain does in fact continue to develop into your early thirties. Advanced neuroscience indicates that the brain is malleable, and you can influence neurons that can change with experience, either positive or negatively. 

When constant positive neural growth takes place, you change your baseline thinking and re-wire thought patterns, which in turn will change your overall behavior in small increments. If you think about it using common sense, it clicks. The brain, like any other body part needs to be challenged, stretched, and used to become strong. If you don’t go to the gym and exert force on your muscles and challenge your body, you will become decrepit. So it goes with your noggin.

Growth Mindset

As I mentioned previously, think of the Growth Mindset as an attitude, a way of life. One who employs the Growth Mindset, believes that life requires continuous learning and that failure is a critical and necessary component of that learning and self-development. It is the deep belief that no single individual is born with innate talent and ability. Rather, mastery, talent, and ability, is developed over time through perseverance, grit, and hard work.

There is great debate as to whether or not Larry Bird is the best basketball player of all time. People constantly mention his talent and ability and grace. What people don’t talk about though, is, as a poor kid growing up in French Lick, Indiana, before school and after school, how Larry would methodically practice his jump-shot every day for hours on end. In the rain, in the sleet, in the hot sun in the early morning hours and well into the evening – it didn’t matter. That drive combined with his competitive nature and willingness to take challenges head-on (i.e., Magic Johnson) is what made Larry Bird arguably the best player in the NBA.

Dweck states that a Growth Mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure, “Not as evidence of unintelligence, but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible’!” – Audrey Hepburn

Traits of the Growth Mindset

Intellect can be developed over time and leads to a desire to learn and grow which results in:

  • Embracing challenges head-on
  • Perseverance (i.e., not giving up) in the face of setbacks, defeat, or failure
  • Seeing effort and hard work as a path to mastery
  • Using criticism and negative feedback as a form of learning and self-development
  • Finding lessons and inspiration in the success of others

Fixed Mindset

A Fixed Mindset, is an attitude that assumes character, creativity, intellect, and ability are static, and endowed to us upon birth (i.e., he’s a natural, a born genius, etc.). What is often overlooked with those who employ the Fixed Mindset, is that if you look at history, there are many examples of people who came from backgrounds of deep poverty and working class, but through resilience, determination, and hard work, made positive impacts on the world.

Take Thomas Edison for example, after thousands of tireless nights and failures, he created the modern light bulb. Through those failures, he learned and grew as a result. He employed the Growth Mindset. 

A Fixed Mindset view would have given up with their justification being that scientific traits weren’t carved in stone at birth. Remember, a Fixed Mindset, can negatively affect all aspects of your life ranging from education, career, and personal relationships.

Traits of the Fixed Mindset

Intelligence is static and leads to a desire to look smart which results in:

  • Prefer to avoid challenges
  • Giving up easily to obstacles or challenges
  • Seeing effort as fruitless or a waste of energy
  • Ignoring useful negative feedback or criticism, and taking it personally (i.e., ego)
  • Feeling threatened by the success of others
  • Not learning from or acknowledging their mistakes because of arrogance or ego

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw 

Employ a Growth Mindset

Relatives, friends, and colleagues young and old, I implore you to read Mindset, you will not be disappointed. Even if you are retired from the “working” world, there is so much to be gained that can be applied to other aspects of your life. 

You can take a skills inventory and challenge yourself daily to employ a Growth Mindset. Ask yourself whether you are shying away from challenges out of fear. Remember, challenge and failure are necessary to learning, self-development, and growing as an individual.

I’ll leave you with this quote: 

“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 (Fixed Mindset). In the other world, effort is what makes you smart or talented (Growth Mindset).” – Carol Dweck

Keep on challenging and believing in yourself and you will achieve greatly.

What’s one new thing you’re learning this year that you didn’t know last year? Share your stories with us below!

Brendan M. Coyne loves to read, write, and practice self-development and bettering himself. His goal is to share what he learns with others, in the hope that through that learning, they will achieve their goals and fulfill their dreams. You can connect with Brendan through his website theselfdevelopmentlife.com or on LinkedIn.

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