The Growth & Fixed Mindset

Instead of using the words ‘good’ and ‘poor’, psychologists have favoured the label ‘growth’ and ‘fixed’ which better describe the differences between the two mindsets. The growth mindset, as you might expect, helps you grow by enabling you to face challenges, take risks, accept personal responsibility and change, deal with criticism and perhaps most importantly, work hard. By contrast the ‘fixed’ mindset only allows you to stay as you are, by undermining you confidence and limiting your willingness to try new things and take risks.

These two mindsets are separated by one underlying belief; that ability and potential are either fixed (the fixed mindset) or that ability and potential can be trained and conditions (the growth mindset). This single belief has huge implications on how we think and how we behave. The fixed mindset leads to negative thinking, personal stagnation, but also deep insecurity. This chapter will explore how the belief that ability is fixed influences your mind.

The fixed mindset is that nagging, insidious voice in your head that tells you that you are going to embarrass yourself. That you will fail or it’s not worth the effort. The growth mindset, by contrast, tells you that something might be fun, or worthwhile, or difficult but manageable. The fixed mindset also deflects criticism, blaming faults and lack of success on other people or temporary circumstances, whilst the growth mindset embraces personal faults and failures as avenues to improve. Someone with a fixed mindset might blame having a cold or flu for their poor performance or simply that they were having a ‘bad day’ or even someone else in the vicinity.

Conversely, a person with the growth mindset would accept that when they do something wrong, it’s their fault. This doesn’t mean that someone with the growth minset anguishes over past failures or allows themselves to feel bad; they do, however, honestly look at the reasons why they didn’t perform or act the way they wanted, allowing them to change and control these reasons in the future. On the opposite side of the spectrum, someone who alleviates blame will never improve upon their performance or behaviour, keeping them locked in the same routines & behaviours.


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