Stanford professor Dr. Carol S. Dweck discovered two primary mindsets – fixed and growth – and each one has a big influence on how we approach learning, challenges, and long-term success. The good news: intelligence can be grown through challenging our brains, just like our muscles get stronger with exercise.
Read on to explore more about each mindset – and find which one is your current default – plus the benefits of growing toward a growth mindset.
True/False: Success – in college, running a business, and life – comes from the natural (and unchangeable) abilities that we’re born with.
True/False: Success comes from effort – the willingness to try, to learn, and to build our brain like any muscle, through continued exercise and increasing intensity over time.
True/False: Our basic framework of looking at the world – our mindset – affects our overall success in multiple areas.
Let’s find out the answers.
Dr. Carol S. Dweck, professor at Stanford University, first introduced the idea of mindsets and how they relate to learning. Her 2006 book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” gathered and expanded the early studies. Since then, the ideas have been applied in classrooms and businesses around the world.
Through her research, Dr. Dweck discovered that mindset affects how a student views failure and success, and it can also influence everything from school and learning to career and life as well.
As Dr. Dweck describes, the way we all approach learning (and the results we see) comes from two mindsets: Fixed or Growth.
A fixed mindset has these characteristics:
A growth mindset has these characteristics:
Here are some common self-talk phrases for each mindset, from the perspectives of both young people and adults.
Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset Language Examples
|Fixed Mindset||Growth Mindset|
|I’m not a math person.||Math was really confusing at first, but I’ve studied hard all year and I understand it a lot better now.|
|Writing is really hard for me. I’m just not good at it.||When I practiced writing every day, it got easier for me. Now, I’m doing much better and it’s even fun.|
|I can’t figure this out.||I’ll find someone who understands this topic and ask for feedback.|
|I’ve always been great at this, so I don’t need to practice.||I’m grateful for my natural abilities, and I can become even better when I practice and continue to challenge myself.|
|I’m too old for this.||I may be the oldest person in my class, but I’ll be two years older anyway when I finish my program, so why not do it.|
|I got a C- on the midterm. I might as well quit the class now.||I have the rest of the term to pull up my grade. I’ll talk to my professor about doing extra credit.|
|I’m smarter than everyone else, and this class is boring.||I’ve never needed to study to get good grades. But let’s see what happens when I apply myself or help others learn this topic.|
|I don’t want to look dumb, so I don’t participate in class discussions.||Sharing my ideas with my peers helps me clarify my position and include different perspectives I may not have considered.|
|All I need to do is cram and memorize this information to pass the test. I’ll never need it again, anyway.||Even though I may not need this information in my career, I’ll do my best to learn about this topic as an opportunity to grow.|
|I already know what works for me, so I’m not interested in trying another approach.||I’ve had good success with the way I do things, but maybe I could have even more success if I tried a new approach.|
Do you recognize yourself more in one mindset group than the other? It’s likely we all have both fixed and growth mindset traits. The valuable piece here is recognizing your stronger tendency.
Whether it’s as a student or in your first jobs or starting a new business, your mindset has a lot to do with how a challenging experience affects you.
A growth mindset can help you rebound from experiences that don’t go as well as you’d like, and use the feedback from the “failure” to improve. This continued improvement fuels more encouragement to finish your goal.
A fixed mindset can derail your efforts as well as your confidence and eventual completion. For example, getting a low grade on one exam, a poor performance evaluation, or losing a big contract can make you want to quit. Perhaps you’re embarrassed, scared, or overwhelmed and start believing that you’re just not good enough and there’s no point in continuing to try.
Yes! As Dr. Dweck explains, just like our brain’s ability to grow, our mindset can change with awareness and the willingness to practice.
Here are her four steps from the book “Mindset” for changing from fixed to growth mindset.
You can apply the ideas of fixed and growth mindsets in all areas of your life.
No matter where you are in your level of success — whether your business is just started or it’s mature and running well — there’s always more to learn. Whether it’s more training in your industry, developing a new skill, or pursuing a new hobby, becoming a lifelong learner can increase your overall enjoyment of life.
What did you learn about mindsets that will be helpful as you pursue your goals for your business and your life? Let us know!
Be sure to check out the resources below for more inspiration as you continue to make progress toward your aspirations in life.
Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” Ballantine Books, 2006; updated edition 2016.
Mindset Works is an organization that fosters growth mindset development by leveraging the pioneering research of Carol Dweck and Lisa Blackwell.
The Mindset Assessment is a free diagnostic tool that identifies current mindset and gives ideas for working toward a growth mindset.
If You’re Open to Growth, You Tend to Grow. New York Times (Feature).
Growth Mindset for Adult Learners. Lift Education, New Zealand.