What You Should Know About Fixed and Growth Mindsets
November 12, 2023

Imagine the following scenario: 

You’ve been working tirelessly on a business idea, putting in the work every day. But at the last minute, the market changes, or the technology you hope to use becomes obsolete.  

Do you: 

  1. Quit and say this was never meant for you anyway!
  2. Take some time off to reflect and identify how to get back on track.

Whichever option you choose, your decision is affected by your mindset or your perception of your abilities.  The truth is, regardless of what others may say or think, the stories you tell yourself will either prevent change from happening or allow new skills to develop.  

Today, you will learn about two types of mindsets —growth and fixed — and this article aims to bridge the gap between what you believe and what you do.

Difference Between Fixed and Growth Mindsets 

The idea of fixed and growth mindsets was introduced almost 30 years ago by Stanford University professor Carole Dweck. Her work forms a bridge between developmental, social, and personality psychology. Additionally, it examines the self-conceptions we use to structure ourselves and guide our behavior.

From her research, we understand why we can or can’t achieve success or accomplish our goals. In simple terms, it’s all about our mindset in these circumstances.

Fixed Mindset 

A fixed mindset leads one to believe their intellectual abilities and talents can’t change. This implies that what they are born with is all they can have. As a result, they approach anything in life to look smart and avoid challenges and negative criticism. 

It is difficult for people with this mindset to leave their comfort zone. To them, having to work hard or make errors indicates that they don’t have a high ability.

Growth Mindset 

A person who believes their talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others has a growth mindset. They focus more on the learning journey than on how they may look.

People with this mindset are more oriented toward self-improvement. They treat obstacles and setbacks as opportunities for growth rather than a sign that they are inadequate. They understand that stepping out of their comfort zone places them in unfamiliar territory. But, they know they will become more familiar—and experienced over time.

From the definitions above, we can describe a growth mindset as freeing and a fixed mindset as limiting. Focusing on the learning process builds self-confidence both in the long and short term. With a fixed mindset, confidence in one’s abilities is only short-term.

“When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world of fixed success is about proving you are competent or talented. Validating yourself. Conversely, changing qualities is about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself. – Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

The table below uses 5 scenarios to summarize the differences between growth and fixed mindsets: 

Fixed vs Growth Mindset
Fixed vs Growth Mindset

How Mindset Affects the Workplace

A leader’s mindset plays a vital role in developing and cultivating the mindset of their team or the entire organization. In the short term, it can either motivate or demotivate the team, which affects the organization’s overall performance in the long term.

An organization that embraces a growth mindset:

  • Have employees feel empowered and committed
  • Encourages collaboration and innovation within and across teams
  • Promotes risk-taking, knowing that some may not work out as expected

As a leader, you and your team can gain a lot by deepening your understanding of growth mindset concepts and processes and how they apply in your unique setting. If building healthy teams is one of your goals, and you’d like to learn how a growth mindset can help you achieve this, schedule a free non-obligatory call today, and we will help you identify how a productive team can help you scale your business.

How to Shift From a Fixed to a Growth Mindset

Although mindset is formed in early childhood, it is possible—with consistency and effort—to change it in adulthood.

Since mindset informs how people make meaning out of themselves and their environments, here are 5 tips you can leverage to shift to a growth mindset.

1:  Focus on the journey

When you are fixed only on the result, you miss everything you could learn.

The first step is to identify where you are in your journey and map out where you want to go. By understanding your life vision, you can begin to see or look for value in your current position—internally and externally—in life. 

2: Incorporate “yet” into your vocabulary

Since a fixed mindset makes you see yourself as incapable of learning or achieving a new task, you must speak gently with yourself using the reminder, “I haven’t mastered it yet.”

This signals that despite the struggles and challenges you may be facing, you can overcome anything with persistence and consistency. 

Carol Dweck explains this further in her video on The Power of Believing You Can Improve

3: Pay attention to your words and thoughts

Whether we know it or not, the stories we tell ourselves play a vital role in our behavior.

Be aware of how you speak to yourself, especially in times of difficulty. You can do this by spending time each day to reflect on any challenging situation you had and how you felt and reacted to it. Alternatively, you can carry a small notebook and write down negative thoughts about yourself throughout the day. 

The more you practice this habit, the more self-aware you become. Once you can identify the negative self-talk, you can begin replacing them with more positive and affirming ones.

4: Take on challenges

If you hope to achieve anything worthwhile, you must be prepared to face many challenges in your journey. Choose to look at failures as opportunities to learn. For example, you could say, “Well, that’s one way not to do it; let me try another one,” when you face unexpected failure on your path

5: Inspire and be inspired by others 

They say no man is an island, which can’t be further from the truth in developing a growth mindset. Stories are powerful tools; everyone you meet and interact with has a story that can inspire you—or you have one that can inspire them. 

Is there someone close to you, or on your team, or organization you seem to be constantly achieving success? Be curious to learn from them. Offer to buy them lunch or a coffee and listen to their story. You may discover that they started with a fixed mindset but developed a growth mindset that keeps driving them to learn more and grow over time.

Begin Embracing a Growth Mindset Today

Although having a fixed mindset all the time sounds ideal, it is far from the truth. Most of the time, you will move between mindsets depending on the situation and the period of life you may find yourself in. 

The first step to embracing a growth mindset is identifying the areas where the fixed mindset may take control. Look for learning opportunities and set small achievable goals daily. 

When you dedicate yourself to showing up each day and focusing on the process and the habits that help you grow into the person you want to be, you go through the learning process—which is precisely what a growth mindset is in the real world.

 I offer executive business coaching and consulting services that will help you grow into the leader you’d like to be. If you’re ready to lead your team, contact me today. I will examine your leadership style and help you develop strategies unique to your business to help you grow.  

Check out the Entrusted to Lead Podcast for the latest tools and tips for helping you lead well!  

I look forward to watching you grow!