When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world (the world of fixed traits) success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other (the world of changing qualities) it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.” Carol Dweck
In 2007, Dr. Carol Dweck introduced the concepts of fixed and growth mindsets and described how these two very different mindsets influence us in various areas of our lives.
A fixed mindset describes the belief that change, growth, and development ARE NOT possible. A person with a fixed mindset believes that their brains and bodies are wired how they’re wired. As a result, the best one can do is to be aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses and make choices and engage in behaviors that maximize the former and minimize the latter.
A growth mindset describes the belief that change, growth, and development ARE possible. A person with a growth mindset believes that although they are strong and weak in some areas right now, they can improve. As a result, the best one can do is to identify what one would like to improve; set goals for what one would like to achieve; and invest the time, attention, and effort necessary to move oneself closer to that desired state.
People with a fixed mindset tend to avoid risk because failure is seen as indicative of a personal defect wired directly into them, whereas growth mindset people accept risk because failure is seen as feedback they can use to grow and improve regardless of whether they achieved what they set out to achieve. People with a fixed mindset tend to avoid effort and evaluate their performances in terms of how little effort it took to achieve a standard, whereas people with a growth mindset value effort and evaluate their performances in terms of how much effort they exerted. People with a fixed mindset tend to view improvement-related feedback as a personal attack and evidence that they are not good enough, whereas people with a growth mindset tend to welcome improvement-related feedback and use that feedback as just one more resource they can leverage toward personal growth.
Today, as you flow through different areas of your life (e.g., parent, employee), notice which mindset you’ve adopted. Notice whether you believe that more knowledge and effort will lead to improvement or will make no difference in your current proficiency levels. Notice whether you welcome feedback and think carefully about how to apply that feedback in ways that can help you improve or become defensive and anxious when receiving feedback that does not focus solely on how well you did.
Human beings are in a constant state of change. Stagnation is impossible. We are either moving forward or backward; we never stay in the same place. We are made for growth and adaptation, and a growth mindset goes a long way toward using our natural tendencies to help us develop and improve in efficient and effective ways.