What is a mindset? A mindset is simply your way of viewing the world around you. It is much more complicated than it sounds, however. Your mindset consists of beliefs that you’ve held all your life. Therefore, they can be difficult, but not impossible, to change.
With effort, though, you can change your mindset, and make significant progress in the way you view setbacks, challenges and criticism. In this article, we will compare two types of mindsets: fixed mindset and growth mindset. After comparing the two, I will give you tools to help you to develop a growth mindset.
Definition of Fixed Mindset
Do you have a fixed mindset? If you believe that you are good or bad at something, you have a fixed mindset. You believe that you only possess a specific amount of the basic qualities, such as talent and intelligence, which cannot be changed (they are “fixed). Furthermore, in your mind, these traits are responsible for your success (or failure).
Under your fixed mindset, putting forth effort to do something new is useless. If you expend energy to do something and you fail, you chastise yourself for wasting that effort. These are all hallmarks of a fixed mindset way of viewing the world.
People with fixed mindsets are more likely to avoid challenges than to face them head-on, as they are trying to avoid failure. By avoiding even attempting something, you avoid failure. With your fixed mindset, you view failure as a sign of low intelligence and when, inevitably, you do fail at something, you see yourself as lacking abilities and talent. To you, failure has become a definition of who you are, and you therefore avoid trying new things.
To maintain your self-confidence, if you have a fixed mindset, you only pursue activities in which you have knowledge and are assured of success. You cannot accept criticism of your flaws and hate feedback, viewing it as negative. You try to hide your flaws from the world, and only stay within what you believe are your personal limitations. Negative feedback, you believe, reveals those flaws and limitations, which, if revealed, would expose you as a failure and a fraud to the world.
Unfortunately, if you do possess a fixed mindset, you are loath to develop new abilities or skills that might make you feel fulfilled or happy. You don’t want to push yourself into new things. You give up quite easily on things that you do try.
Real World Example of Fixed Mindset
John, a school boy, is the perfect example of someone who has a fixed mindset. His philosophy of life revolves around his core belief that if you do not possess a certain talent or ability now, there is no hope that you ever will possess it.
One of the signs of John’s fixed mindset is the fact that John avoids all challenges, such as new physical exercises in gym class at school. For example, one day he is asked to jump over a vaulting horse, which is something that he has never done before. Because he does not want to fail at trying something new, such as this exercise, for fear of looking dumb to others and receiving criticism from his peers and the teacher for his actions, he refuses to attempt the jump.
John also actively avoids criticism. If his teacher gives him feedback in order to improve his assignment, for example, he views that feedback as negative criticism of his personality and character, rather than what it really is — simply constructive feedback about his work and performance, designed to help him improve it the next time.
If he is presented with a choice between doing something that is easy and something that is challenging, John will choose to do the thing that is easy every time. One example of this is his preference for using an escalator over taking the stairs when he is trying to get to the next level. He chooses the escalator, which is the way to expend the least amount of energy, over the stairs, which could actually increase his heart rate and use more energy but would be beneficial for his body.
Another example of John’s idea to choose the easy over the hard can be seen when he is practicing his guitar. If he makes mistakes while participating in his guitar practice, which he inevitably will, he stops practicing immediately rather than persevering through them. Persevering through those mistakes would help him learn something new, but to John, any mistakes are a sign that he is a failure.
John never encourages his friends to try new things. If his friends do try something new and they succeed, John feels intimidated and is not at all happy about his friends’ success. Rather than celebrating their triumphs, John is afraid that his friends’ achievements will pressure him to improve his own life.
If John’s fixed mindset does not change, as he grows up, John is less likely to be hired for a job over a candidate who has a growth mindset. His belief that you must be born with a certain talent, skill or ability and cannot learn it is quite unattractive to potential employers. He will most definitely lose a job to a candidate who possesses the opposite mindset — a growth mindset.
Definition of Growth Mindset
Do you have a growth mindset? If you believe that you can develop new talents and abilities through working hard, practicing, learning new things, and receiving feedback (both negative and positive), you have a growth mindset. You think that you can be good at anything you set your mind to, believing that your abilities are strictly because of your efforts and actions.
If you have a growth mindset, you realize that it takes effort in order to grow, change, and develop new skills. You appreciate the fact that effort is necessary in order to reach your goals. You believe that the more effort you expend, the closer you will grow into mastering a new skill.
People with a growth mindset view any mistakes that they may make along the way to developing new skills as an essential way to learn. Your fixed mindset means that you understand that mistakes are necessary in order to learn anything new—whether it’s a new skill, ability or talent. You believe that mistakes show the tremendous effort that you have put forth in trying to learn, develop and master new skills. To you, failures are only momentary hindrances along the path to achieving your goal of mastering something new. Therefore, you don’t let failures stop you, but rather, you persevere despite your failures.
Under your growth mindset, you see challenges as ways to help you improve your personal performance, rather than as obstacles to be avoided along the way. You also value others’ criticism and feedback, as you see it as a way in which to improve yourself and enrich your talents. You realize that negative feedback you might receive from others is not feedback about you personally, but rather, feedback about your current skills that is designed and intended to help you to improve them. You believe that the more criticism you receive, the better you will become at developing new talents, skills and abilities.
Your growth mindset enables you to see failure as just another way to learn and improve yourself. Therefore, you are much more apt to reach your goals and to accomplish more than others who have a fixed mindset. Your growth mindset allows you to spend less time worrying about failing and more time developing skills and learning new things.
If you have a growth mindset, you are more liable to make the most of your full aptitudes and abilities. The way that you interpret life’s challenges, impediments and the evaluation of others, under a growth mindset, is by viewing them as signs to help you improve as you strive to develop your talents, skills and abilities.
Real World Example of Growth Mindset
Alice, a school girl, is the ideal example of someone who possesses a growth mindset. She believes that anything is attainable as long as she strives for it, in any and all aspects of her life. This belief is evident in many things that she does.
For example, Alice welcomes new challenges, such as being asked to jump over the vaulting horse during her physical exercise class at school. While she has never performed this task before, she does not hesitate to do it, viewing it as something that is new, enjoyable and thrilling. If she fails, she realizes that failure is not a big deal, and that she can always try again until she gets it right. Alice comprehends that failure is necessary in order to learn. She understands that as long as she tries her best, she won’t be criticized for failing at trying something new.
Alice welcomes feedback from others, good or bad. This is another fundamental sign that she has a growth mindset. She realizes that the key to improving her work on her school assignments is to listen to any feedback her teacher gives her, whether it is negative or positive. Even if the criticism she receives is negative, Alice grasps that the teacher’s feedback does not reflect on her personally, but rather, on her work. She knows that this feedback can help her to improve her next assignment.
Alice also loves challenges and will try something hard, even if an easier alternative exists. This is a prime example of a growth mindset. She, for example, always takes the stairs rather than the escalator—in fact, she leaps up the stairs happily, enjoying the exercise it provides. People with growth mindsets tend to do this.
Alice is a drummer and makes sure to practice every morning for exactly 15 minutes. She knows that she must keep practicing in order to improve, so she perseveres through the 15 minutes of practice every day, no matter what. Alice realizes that effort is necessary for her to be able to master the new skill of playing the drums, and thus, enjoy her life even more. This is a classic sign of a growth mindset.
Under her growth mindset, Alice is inspired by and enjoys seeing the success of others. Through encouraging her friends to improve, she realizes that she is more apt to improve as well. She revels in their success and spurs them to achieve more.
As she grows up, Alice is more likely to get a job than John (who we discussed above, and has a fixed mindset). Her belief that she can constantly improve herself through learning is much more appealing to potential employers than a candidate who has a fixed mindset would be. She will definitely be hired for a job over a candidate who has a fixed mindset.
An Experiment on Fixed and Growth Mindset – Dr. Carol Dweck
The idea of mindsets originates with psychological researcher Dr. Carol Dweck. Mindset is the way that a person perceives talent, success and ability. A researcher at Stanford University, Dr. Dweck came up with the original concepts of fixed mindset and growth mindset. Dr. Dweck realizes how one’s mindset can determine their success, or failure, in life.
Our mindset is already formed at a young age, Dr. Dweck hypothesized. A study conducted by Dr. Dweck focused on four-year-old children, who already have developed either a fixed or growth mindset. The four-year-old children in this study were given an easy jigsaw puzzle to put together. All of the children were able to put the puzzle together easily.
Once they had completed the puzzle, the researchers gave the children a choice– whether they wanted to do the easy jigsaw puzzle again or try a new, harder jigsaw puzzle. Children who had fixed mindsets, of course, chose to do the easy jigsaw puzzle again, something that they knew they could do because they had done it once before. Dr. Dweck and her researchers believed that the children with fixed mindsets were putting across the idea that smarter kids don’t make mistakes, and they saw themselves as smarter because they chose to do something they already had done and knew they could easily do again.
Those children with growth mindsets, however, welcomed the challenge of trying the harder puzzle. They could not understand why anyone would choose to do the easy puzzle time and time again, as it would not be teaching them anything new and would ultimately be boring. They saw a learning opportunity in putting together the new, harder puzzle, and embraced it fully.
Children with a fixed mindset were most concerned with ensuring their success and appearing intelligent to everyone else. Children with a growth mindset, on the other hand, wanted to test their limits and try something new, and whether or not they would succeed was irrelevant. The kids with a growth mindset saw success as increasing their intelligence, not solving the puzzle, so trying and failing would be fine with them.
This real-life example of mindsets in action shows that mindsets have developed by the time we are as young as four years of age. However, is there hope that mindset can be changed later in life? This is something that we will be exploring further in this article.
At a Glance – Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset
|Growth mindset||Fixed mindset|
Real World Scenarios- Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset
If you have a fixed mindse
t, in your career, you will not be willing to take risks and will only be willing to attempt to tackle tasks that you are already sure that you can accomplish. You are more worried about looking smart to others.
With your fixed mindset, your supervisors might recognize you early in your career as you succeed in everything you do, since you don’t take chances. However, if you are promoted to a new job and must take on completely new risks and challenges that you aren’t already familiar with, you will fail.
Your fixed mindset prevents you from asking questions that might help you to achieve these new tasks, fearing that you will look stupid to others. You think that intelligent people never fail. You also think that effort is pointless because it’s impossible to improve on your skills, talents and abilities.
If you have a growth mindset, on the other hand, in your career, you will be more willing to take on new risks, chances and tasks in order to challenge yourself. You know that this will increase your intelligence and help you to learn new things.
Do you think that your perfect companion is someone who would place you on a pedestal and make you feel as if you are without fault? If so, you have a fixed mindset.
If you have a fixed mindset, you abhor discussing even small relationship perception problems. You never want to talk about your relationship with your significant other, as you don’t want to appear stupid or look as if you have failed. You likely have much more stress in your life and in your relationships due to your fixed mindset.
Under a fixed mindset, if you have to put in any amount of effort in your relationship, you view that relationship as being hopelessly flawed. Any differences of opinions, you think, is completely due to character flaws in your mate, not in yourself.
Do you think that your ideal partner is someone who sees your faults and loves you anyway, even going so far as to help you improve? Do you want a companion who will spur you on to learn new concepts, ideas and skills, maybe even to help you to develop into an improved person? If so, you have a growth mindset.
With a growth mindset, you are much more willing to discuss any types of problems or differences of opinion that may arise in your relationship. You see any chances to improve yourself as positive, not negative.
How to Develop Growth Mindset
It does not matter how old you are–you can still develop a growth mindset. The following are some steps that you can take to cultivate a growth mindset:
Learn About Brain Plasticity
It is literally proven that you can grow your brain by learning and putting effort which proves growth mindset.
Grow Your Brain Physically
Years ago, researchers scanned the brains of experienced cab drivers in London, England. They found that the more time cab drivers had spent navigating in a certain London area, the larger the hippocampus of their brains (the area responsible for spatial memory) had become. The more these cab drivers challenged themselves, the more neurons would grow in the hippocampus and the more the brain would grow to accommodate and help them to navigate. However, it is important to note that all brain regions cannot grow like this.
Accelerate the Circuits of Your Brain
Other parts of the brain that are not able to grow in the way that the hippocampus grew in the example above can simply make their circuits work faster through a process that is called myelination. It has been shown that concentrating on a subject for a long time causes brain cells to form white sheaths, known as myelin. Myelin insulates the brain circuit. Brain circuits that are myelinated transfer information ten times faster than un-insulated brain circuits. You can only add a limited amount of myelin to brain cells, however.
Change the Wiring in Your Brain
In order to increase the capacity in your brain, you must rewire it. If rewired, different parts of the brain will request assistance from neighboring areas when completing specific tasks. For example, guitar players who have practiced the guitar for long hours with the left hand activate areas of the brain associated with their left-hand fingers, as well as brain areas that are associated with the left-hand palm. Newer guitar players who haven’t practiced as long only activate the areas of the brain associated with fingers. Those who have practiced longer hours tend to activate a larger part of their brain, enabling them to play the guitar quicker and more accurately than newer guitar players.
Change Your Pattern of Thinking with These Steps:
Step 1: Listen to the voice of your fixed mindset.
The first step in changing your thinking pattern is, surprisingly, to actually listen to what your fixed mindset is saying to you.
If you are faced with a new challenge, your fixed mindset will question you like a nagging little voice in your head. It will tell you that you cannot accomplish this new challenge, warn you that you might fail at this new challenge, say that you might get ridiculed while trying, and try to convince you that not trying to do the new challenge would keep your self-respect intact.
If you encounter an obstruction, your fixed mindset will tell you that if you had talent, you could have accomplished the task easily. It will tell you to quit now while you are ahead, and make some excuses, and that only then, maybe you can regain your self-respect that you have lost up until now.
When you receive negative feedback, your fixed mindset will tell you that whatever happened was not your fault, but rather, another person or thing’s fault. You will likely feel irritated at any person who is offering you constructive criticism. Your fixed mindset will tell you that this person thinks that they are better than you but that in reality, they are not. Under your fixed mindset, all that you can hear the person say, no matter how constructive the criticism, is that you have failed and that the person is very disappointed in you.
Step 2: Acknowledge that you have an option between fixed and growth mindset.
The second step in changing the way that you think is to realize that you can choose between the two types of mindsets in your actions. It is your option, and yours alone, to decide how you are going to perceive negative feedback and obstructions that are in your way. You may see them in a fixed mindset, and tell yourself that you do not have the talent or skills to overcome them, or you may see them in a growth mindset, and tell yourself that you must increase your efforts and expand your skills in order to overcome obstacles.
Step 3: Respond to your fixed mindset voice with a growth mindset voice.
The third step in changing thinking patterns involves talking to yourself (in your head). Your growth mindset voice can answer and challenge that nagging little fixed mindset voice. When a challenge arises, for example, your fixed mindset voice will question whether or not you can accomplish it. Talk back to that fixed mindset voice with your growth mindset voice, telling your fixed mindset voice that even if you cannot accomplish the task now, you are certain that you will be able to learn how to accomplish it if only you put in enough effort and time.
Your fixed mindset voice will ask you what will happen if you fail. Your growth mindset voice should tell your fixed mindset voice that everyone fails at least once before they succeed.
Not trying to accomplish the task will help you to keep your self-respect intact, your fixed mindset voice will tell you. Your growth mindset voice can respond, not trying is failing, and if you do not at least try, then you really would have no self-respect.
Your fixed mindset voice will tell you that if you encounter an obstacle, it could easily have been achieved if you had the talent. Your growth mindset voice should answer, no, nothing comes easy to anyone. You must give it your all, and devote much time and energy to achieving the new task, your growth mindset voice will tell your fixed mindset voice.
Facing negative feedback, your fixed mindset voice will place the blame on another person or thing. Your growth mindset voice should respond, no, it isn’t someone else’s fault. The problem cannot be solved unless I take responsibility for it and learn how to fix it.
Step 4: Choose the action of the growth mindset.
The fourth step in developing new patterns of thinking involves knowing which mindset’s action to pick. Of course, you should choose your growth mindset’s action. Your growth mindset tells you to accept challenges, learn from failures, try again, and use constructive criticism to improve yourself. You know under your growth mindset that you can succeed if you try your hardest and enjoy the process along the way.
More Ways to Develop Growth Mindset:
1. Concentrate on Learning over What Others Think
If you are constantly worrying about what other people think, you have less room to grow. You should concentrate on improving yourself, not to benefit others but for your own advantage. Think about your own learning process rather than the judgment or perception of others.
2. Develop a Sense of the Big Picture
Examine your long-term goals and come up with an end goal or purpose for your life. While you’re working, constantly ask yourself what the purpose of that work is. Is it merely for enjoyment, or is it part of a larger goal? You should always be working towards something with a purpose of knowing why you are doing that thing. This keeps your motivation focused on whatever the big picture, or end goal, is for you.
3. Establish Lofty Aspirations and Take on Difficult Challenges
Instead of trying to be better than others, try to be better than yourself. Constantly work on trying to improve yourself. Never stop trying to improve once you have mastered a challenge. Set your goals even higher for the next time, and don’t be afraid to fail.
Remember, failure is simply an opportunity to learn and you can then attempt to do it differently next time. If you do fail, remember that you still have abilities, skills and talents. If you don’t even attempt to do something, that is much worse than failing when you try to do it.
4. Encourage Criticism
Your chances for succeeding are increased by your openness to accepting negative criticism. Constructive criticism that is useful and well-timed is a vital part of succeeding. Use this type of feedback when you are setting challenges and goals for yourself, as it will help you perceive where you should make improvements, as well as areas in which you need no improvements. You will then be able to comprehend what is working in your life and what is not. Remember that criticism is designed to assist you in bettering your performance, not as a personal attack on you or your character.
5.Appreciate the Success of Other People
Your maturity will show through in the way that you handle another person’s success. Don’t let yourself feel jealousy of or be intimidated by others who succeed. Learn to become truly happy for others’ success and make sure to praise them for their success at every opportunity you get. If you do this, then when you succeed, others will be more likely to appreciate you and revel in your success.
How to Help Kids Develop a Growth Mindset
Cultivating a growth mindset can be encouraged in young children, before they develop a fixed mindset that is harder to change. If you want to help your child to acquire a growth mindset:
Praise him when he attempts to do something. This teaches him that trying is valued.
Celebrate any and all grades that you child brings home from school, and interpret them as a result of hard work and studying.
Encourage children to develop new talents and skills, especially ones in which they show an interest. These steps will help children to learn how to learn, and thus develop their own growth mindset.
Developing a growth mindset is a matter of changing the way that you think, perceive, and even the way that your brain processes information. This sounds impossible, but as we have shown, it definitely is not. Use these tools to learn how to transform from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset and live a happier, more fulfilled life.