Do You Have a Fixed or a Growth Mindset? Begin to Focus on Growth and Achieve Success

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All organisms have the potential to grow and develop, but people may have learned not to.

1. What is the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset?

If people have a fixed mindset, they view their abilities as a fixed entity. They tend to view their failures as a consequence of their insufficient abilities to perform well. People interpret and understand their experiences through so-called attribution styles.

People with a fixed mindset have a learned helplessness attribution style: They attribute their successes to external factors, which they do not think they can influence, and they view their failures as personal insufficiency [1]. They do not realize that failures often are a consequence of insufficient effort.

If people have a growth mindset, they tend to view their competences as constantly developing. They believe they can improve themselves by hard work. They know that goals can be achieved with the right amount of effort, and that the effort pays off. They attribute their successes to internal factors such as their own abilities, which they believe they have the power to influence.

They make mastery-oriented attributions like: “I know I can achieve this goal with enough effort”. Here, the person believes that his goal lies within his zone of mastery. The same person is likely to attribute a negative outcome or failure to an insufficient effort [1].

2. How do we develop our mindsets?

People may have developed either a fixed or a growth mindset, depending on the way they have learned to view themselves and their abilities. They may change or revise their mindsets as new learning experiences take place. From early childhood, children begin to develop their type of mindset, as they experience how they influence the world and how others respond to them when do they so.

Children may internalize their parents’ or teachers’ expectations. Other people’s expectations work as self-fulfilling prophecies in that we try to fulfil these expectations. For example, if parents expect and view their child’s abilities as insufficient, then the child may begin to expect the same.

Praise also contributes to the development of a mindset. Despite the commonly held belief that praise for ability motivates people. Research has shown that praise for effort motivates children more than praise for ability. If people are praised for ability, they show less task persistence, less task enjoyment or motivation, they decrease their performance and make more negative attributions [3].

3. What are the consequences of a fixed mindset?

If people have a fixed mindset, they have more self-doubt. They view their abilities as a fixed entity, and as a result, they tend to view failures as a matter of personal insufficiency. You can imagine  how much distress this attribution might cause. A fixed mindset may cause people to give up quickly because they do not realize that success is a matter of the right effort.

Also, people with a fixed mindset may not challenge themselves and try out new solutions to a problem because they are afraid of failing or being wrong. Remember, if they are wrong, they only have themselves to blame. It is not like people with a growth mindset, who blame the effort instead of themselves.

So what mindset do you have? How do you take up challenges, and how much task persistence do you show? Do you think we are able to change our mindsets – what is your experience? Leave a comment.

Image: Monty VanderBilt
  • Yes we do have the ability to change our mindset from fix to grow. During my teen years I became withdrawn and performed poorly all through High School. My counselor would call me once a year into her office but it was pretty much just for her own documentation. My mind was fixed in that I couldn’t do well in school. Towards the end of my Senior year, the counselor called me in and all she asked me was: “Are you planning to go to College”? And I said “yes”. I kid you not, her response was: “who told you you can go to college? She wrote some notes and said: “thank you for coming in”. And that was it. She was a bad counselor. But her lack of caring and guidance made me realize that I’m the only one that can help myself. I was determine to find the way, the persistence and the consistency I needed to go to college and graduate from college. And so I did.

    • Hello!
      I am glad everything worked out for you. You found your inner strength and will to succeed. No doubt, she didn’t do what se was supposed to do. I mean, the job description ‘counselor’ is per definition to facilitate progress. Your story is super inspiring, and it reflects your ‘growth mindset’. Thanks for sharing.
      Best wishes,
      Simon