- An individual with a growth mindset believes their intelligence and talents can be developed over time. Conversely, an individual with a fixed mindset believes their intelligence and talents are fixed traits that cannot be developed. The two mindsets were developed by American psychologist Carol Dweck while studying human motivation.
- Both mindsets are comprised of conscious and subconscious thought patterns established at a very young age. In adult life, they have profound implications for personal and professional success.
- Individuals with a growth mindset devote more time and effort to achieving difficult goals and by extension, are less concerned with the opinions or abilities of others. Individuals with a fixed mindset are sensitive to criticism and may be preoccupied with proving their talents to others.
What are a growth mindset and a fixed mindset?
An individual with a growth mindset believes their intelligence and talents can be developed over time. They are willing to tackle challenges and have a passion for learning.
Conversely, an individual with a fixed mindset believes their intelligence and talents are fixed traits that cannot be developed. They tend to avoid challenges and give up easily.
Understanding growth and fixed mindsets
The idea of growth and fixed mindsets was first introduced by American psychologist Carol Dweck, a leading expert in the field of human motivation.
Approximately three decades ago, Dweck wanted to know why some children sought out challenges while others avoided failure at all costs. She began studying the traits of each group, describing her work as follows: “My work bridges developmental psychology, social psychology, and personality psychology, and examines the self-conceptions (or mindset) people use to structure the self and guide their behaviour. My research looks at the origins of these mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes.”
This work was later synthesized into a 2007 book entitled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In the book, the reader is encouraged to consider how their conscious and unconscious thoughts affect what they want and whether they will succeed in attaining it. Dweck suggested that altering even the simplest of these thoughts, or beliefs, could profoundly impact nearly every aspect of life.
One of the most fundamental of these beliefs pertains to how the individual views and inhabits what they consider to be their personality. A fixed mindset assumes our personality is fixed, while a growth mindset considers personality to be fluid, dynamic, and evolving. These beliefs are developed from a very early age and have significant implications for personal and professional success.
Characteristics of growth and fixed mindsets
The main difference between each mindset is the belief in the permanence of intelligence and one’s own ability.
A growth mindset considers these factors to be changeable in either direction. In other words, there is potential for improvement and regression – with the latter used as a means of improvement through learning from mistakes. A fixed mindset considers there to be little room for neither improvement nor regression.
With that said, here are a few qualities that differentiate the two mindsets.
An individual with a growth mindset:
- Perseveres after experiencing failure or rejection.
- Finds inspiration in the success of others.
- Considers criticism a valuable tool for personal development.
- Has an interest and willingness to learn.
- Persists in overcoming obstacles.
On the other hand, an individual with a fixed mindset:
- Wants to prove their intelligence or talent with no desire to improve it.
- Avoids challenging circumstances for fear of failure.
- Treats criticism as a personal attack and in so doing, ignores valuable feedback.
- Feels threatened by the success of others.
- Gives up easily in situations requiring hard work, stamina, persistence, or dedication.
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