Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset: Differences and Examples
Is it possible to shape the way we think about ourselves and our abilities? If we know how to tell the difference between a growth mindset vs. fixed mindset, then yes, can definitely be done. How we perceive our intellect and talents affects the way we feel. It can also influence what we achieve, how we stick to new habits, and whether we go on to develop new skills.
Learning more about the growth vs. fixed mindset can do wonders for what you accomplish and how you improve. Here, we’ll discuss the differences between the two, some examples, and everything else you need to know.
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
Back then, modern science hypothesized that the human brain reached its maximum capacity for growth and development in childhood. We now know that the brain is constantly evolving and changing, even during adulthood [*]. The brain responds to experiences and continues to learn and, for lack of a better term, “update” itself.
Despite these findings, some people are fairly certain that individuals are stuck with the smarts and talents they are born with. Carol Dweck, a psychologist from Standford University, was the first to explore the idea of growth and fixed mindsets [*].
What is a Growth Mindset?
A growth mindset is one that sees talents and intelligence as attributes that can be developed over time. This does not necessarily mean that such individuals will start assuming that they can become the next genius. Having a growth mindset simply means that one can improve his or her talents through concrete actions and effort.
People with a growth mindset also recognize that challenges are necessary for the learning process. In fact, these setbacks allow us to increase our motivational effort and try again. Rather than seeing failures as the end of the road, a growth mindset views them as temporary and changeable. This is why growth mindsets encourage learning, motivation, performance, and resilience.
People with a growth mindset are more likely to do the following:
- Put in more effort in their endeavors
- Embrace change rather than resist it
- Believe in lifelong learning
- Take feedback and use it as an opportunity to learn
- See others’ successes as inspiration
Examples of a Growth Mindset
There are many ways that you can demonstrate having a growth mindset. Here are a few examples:
- Rather than believing your skills and talents end where they are now, you can tell yourself that you can improve with effort and practice.
- Appreciating the feedback you are given instead of viewing criticism as an attack will help you learn and grow.
- Excelling in a particular subject may be difficult for you, but that does not mean it is impossible to achieve.
- Instead of believing that you are already the best at a particular skill, you recognize that there is always room for improvement.
What is a Fixed Mindset?
A fixed mindset is one that sees attributes such as talent and intelligence as fixed. Having a fixed mindset means believing that people are born with the level of intelligence and natural talents that they’ll have in adulthood.
Since the fixed mindset does not view talent and intelligence as things to develop, people who think this way typically avoid challenges. And because people with a fixed mindset see these attributes as fixed core points in an individual, they are intimidated or threatened by others’ successes and give up easily.
Adopting a fixed mindset can also result in negative thinking and little progress. For example, someone with a fixed mindset might fail a task and believe it’s because they are not smart enough to do it.
People with a fixed mindset will:
- Believe talents and intelligence are fixed or static
- Feel threatened by the success of others
- Believe effort is a waste of time
- Hide flaws to avoid judgment
- Avoid challenges out of fear of failure
- Take feedback as personal criticism
- Give up easily
Examples of a Fixed Mindset
Having a fixed mindset can be seen in many real-life examples. Some examples include the following:
- Rather than thinking that you can get better with practice, you believe that you can only either be good at something or be bad at it.
- You take feedback personally and feel as though you are being criticized.
- Instead of believing that you can improve in mathematics, you keep saying that you just aren’t good at the subject.
- You have high confidence that you’re good at a specific skill and believe you do not need to improve.
Can a Person’s Mindset Change?
A person’s mindset about success, intelligence, and talent are greatly influenced by external factors. However, the brain is also neuroplastic, meaning you can continue to make new neural connections that grow, change, and reorganize throughout your lifespan [*].
How to Develop a Growth Mindset
There are several ways that you can develop a growth mindset, and one specific way is to continue challenging yourself with new experiences and perspectives. Here are some ways that you can do just that:
Acknowledge and embrace imperfection
Perfection doesn’t exist, especially in people. Learning to accept this can allow you to better appreciate others as they are, including their imperfections and flaws. These are the things that make us unique individuals.
Stop seeking approval from others
Needing constant approval from others can prevent growth, especially in the way that you want. Instead, learn how to trust yourself. Continue cultivating self-approval and self-acceptance so that you can develop your best self.
View criticism as feedback
Criticism may feel like an attack, but it is given to make things better than they are. Try viewing this type of feedback from someone else’s perspective. They can probably see something you can’t and are giving some valuable suggestions for you to follow.
Trust the process
If you’re always fixated on the outcome, then you might miss the growth to be found in the process altogether. Being open to possibilities will allow you to have a growth mindset.
Sometimes we all need a little inspiration. Looking at a quotes related to the growth mindset every now and then can help keep you on the right track as you try to be more flexible and open to possibilities.
The Bottom Line
Learning the differences between growth and fixed mindsets is important if you want to continue lifelong learning. A growth mindset means welcoming challenges, persisting despite setbacks, and taking responsibility. It also means accepting that effort and practice are important parts of developing mastery.
Cultivating a growth mindset can help you build habits to improve your life and achieve your goals. Keep one of our growth mindset posters somewhere in your room to remind yourself to always adopt this kind of thinking, especially when challenges arise.
- Tierney A & Nelson C. Brain Development and the Role of Experience in the Early Years. 1 November 2009.
- Dweck, C. The Choice to Make a Difference. 18 January 2019.
- Primeau, M. Your powerful, changeable mindset. 15 September 2021.