Fixed vs Growth Mindset – A Simple Concept That Can Make a Big Impact

Growth vs Fixed Mindset

Carol Dweck is a Stanford University psychologist and author of the book Mindset, which to be honest, I haven’t read yet (but will get around to). I came across Carol Dweck’s concept of the fixed vs growth mindset during one of my MBA classes on Decision Making. It was only discussed briefly on one slide, but the concept just stuck with me and like most effective pieces of advice, I haven’t been able to shake it.

The following explanation of the concept is from Dweck’s website:

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. 

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.

As I’ve mentioned recently, I was lucky enough to be able to participate in a women’s leadership and career resiliency program offered at work. When it came to discussing each woman’s motivations, there was a common theme: the desire for challenge and continual learning. In other words, most of the women selected to participate in this program had a growth mindset.

I consider myself a positive person who embraces challenge, but I admit now that I am more attuned to this concept, I have caught myself out displaying elements of a fixed mindset. For example, I did tend to think of intelligence as something a person is largely born with. My approach to doing anything remotely related to maths is that I am inherently bad at maths and will therefore most likely fail. I’ve now tried to apply a growth mindset instead by reasoning that I will be able to master math through disciplined practice. After all, this MBA has thrown a fair bit of maths at me and I haven’t done terribly. Why would I set myself up to fail already? If I adopt a growth mindset, the world is my oyster and anything is possible.

Optimists are more likely to view the world with a growth mindset, and people adopting a growth mindset are likely to be optimistic. A growth mindset encourages other behaviors necessary for success such as persistence, resilience, effort and curiosity. Whilst these behaviours are common knowledge in leadership and personal development theory, seeing them conceptualised based on one belief is both powerful and empowering.

It’s also a simple way to summarise this myriad of positive behaviours we should be practicing, into one question ‘Am I approaching this with a growth mindset?’ 

That Career Girl


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