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“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become improbable.”Christopher Reeve
When you restrict how far you let your mind go when it comes to your dreams, you’re putting a limit on your success as well. But even the goals that seem so unattainable in the moment can be achieved eventually if you put your mind to it.
If you have a fixed mindset, however, you don’t believe that you can develop your talents in order to eventually be able to achieve your big dreams.
If a dream at first seems impossible, it will always be impossible because you believe your intelligence and abilities are set in stone. Think about the boundary that this puts on your success.
Having a fixed mindset–one that doesn’t consider your unmet potential–will prevent you from getting ahead in life and gaining a true sense of fulfillment.
In this article, we are going to look at 15 fixed mindset examples that will limit your success. If you find yourself thinking along the lines of any of these examples, it’s time to transform your mindset.
And while doing so takes some time, facing this challenge will definitely be worth it in the end.
But first, let’s do a quick review of what a fixed vs. a growth mindset is as a refresher.
Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
Your mindset determines how you make sense of your thoughts, your life, and your surroundings.
According to Stanford psychology professor, Carol Dweck, you have one of two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. These methods of thinking illustrate how we perceive our abilities and how we act according to those beliefs.
Those who have a “fixed mindset” assume that their talents and intelligence are innate characteristics that they’re born with and can't be changed.
They believe success occurs when one’s natural level of intelligence is higher than that of other people. Because of this, they avoid failing at all costs because failure would suggest that they're a failure in life overall, and that can never be changed.
When you believe your intelligence and talent are limited, you don't see any benefit from trying to develop these personal characteristics, so those with a fixed mindset also don’t see a reason to put effort into doing so.
Alternatively, people who have a “growth mindset” view failure as a chance to learn, so they seek out opportunities that will challenge them.
They recognize the relationship between the amount of effort they put into something and their success, so they put the time and effort into expanding their knowledge, leading to higher levels of achievement.
Dweck's research highlights an important question regarding the connection between your beliefs and your actions. Your mindset has a strong influence on your potential for success, and having a fixed mindset can greatly limit how far you go in life.
Let’s take a look at 15 specific fixed mindset examples that can prevent you from achieving your big dreams.
15 Fixed Mindset Examples That Limit Your Success
1. “I’m either good at something or I can’t do it.”
This is a basic example of a fixed mindset that demonstrates one’s lack of willingness to try anything that they don’t know they’re good at doing already. And, without attempting to improve on something, you will never really know if it’s something you may enjoy or excel at doing.
Much of a fixed mindset comes from a place of fear, including statements such as this one. People with a fixed mindset are afraid of other people seeing their weaknesses because if they’re bad at something, they believe they were born bad at it and they have no chance at ever becoming good at it.
For example, let’s say you think you’re not a creative person, so you never try your hand at anything that seems to involve creativity.
If you don’t try to release your creative side, you’re giving up your chance to exercise this ability, which means you may not actually ever know if you’re truly a creative person or not.
This statement is limiting to your success because you will never succeed at something if you don’t try it in the first place. And speaking of trying…
2. “I won’t fail if I don’t try.”
People with a fixed mindset would prefer to not try because then they don’t have to experience failure or face the fact that there is something that they don’t have an innate ability to do.
But if you want something badly enough, you would be willing to fail a few times before getting it just right. And with each failure, you would take a lesson away from the experience and change how you do things the next time to bring you one step closer to success.
The issue that people with a fixed mindset see with this is that they associate failure with fault.
Just as children learn to accept “blame” while admitting to their failures, some people don’t go on to recognize that the rewards you can get from learning from your mistakes far outweigh any negative feelings that you may affiliate with admitting fault.
3. “I’m jealous of my boss’s success.”
Because you don’t believe you can get any better than you already are at what you do, you’re jealous of those around you who are more successful. You may even feel resentment toward those that you believe were born with a better chance of succeeding than you were.
But, telling you to “stop being jealous” is much easier said than done. Jealousy is a complex emotion, and studies have shown that it can start developing long before you recognize it’s happening.
However, it’s critical to your success that you do some self-reflection to identify any patterns or themes in the past in which you felt jealous of other professionals. One thing that might influence such thoughts is survivorship bias, where you only see the “survivors” (successes) and not the failures.
If you focus on this idea that there is a limit to the amount of success that can go around, you will treat your coworkers like competitors rather than those with which you’re collaborating to reach a common goal.
You need to be able to maintain openness and generosity to be an effective member of your team and ultimately be successful.
4. “Constructive criticism is just a personal attack.”
It’s true that some people aren’t so great at phrasing constructive criticism in a way that makes it come off as being helpful, so it may come off as a personal attack. What’s more, others are so insecure that they take their frustrations out on other people by attacking all of their work.
Or, you may be interpreting what others are saying as being intentionally harmful when they’re actually trying to help you. The thing about feedback that you always have to keep in mind is that it’s not about you as a person.
You need to take the assumed intent out of the words the other person is saying and only pay attention to the tips that you can take away that may be valid.
5. “It is what it is.”
Those who have a growth mindset don’t just accept things how they are. Rather, they look for ways to improve things and believe there is always something that can be done to make something better.
People with a fixed mindset limit their success by failing to look back on their work to identify areas for improvement. Even if they believe their work was perfectly acceptable, they don’t see the value in going back and analyzing their processes.
However, those who do this are the ones that aren’t putting a ceiling on their potential because they know they can always do better.
6. “I don’t need to learn any more.”
A fixed mindset doesn’t allow much room for lifelong learning, which also means there is no potential for growth. Think back to when those first iMacs hit the market, sporting a rainbow of transparent colors.
I think we all believed that technology was at its peak. But look at how far things have come since 1998.
It will always benefit you and improve your chances of success if you believe that you can always learn something new, no matter how far you’ve come thus far.
7. “I give up when I’m frustrated.”
Giving up prevents you from thinking outside of the box and coming up with those unique solutions to problems that no one has ever thought about before.
If you’re facing an issue that seems unresolvable, chances are that other people have thought so as well in the past. And if you have a fixed mindset, you’ll quickly assume that you can’t find a solution if you haven’t done so already.
But those with a growth mindset are able to push through this frustration and come up with innovative solutions to problems. And those who are willing to stick around to problem-solve are those who become successful.
8. “I’d never get that job, so I’m not going to apply.”
If you always aim low when looking for your next move in life, you’re never going to make it very far.
Instead of passing over opportunities that you feel like you’re not qualified for, consider yourself to be the perfect “teachable” candidate for the company, meaning your lack of experience has set you up to learn how to do things their way rather being stuck in your own ways.
To be successful, you have to aim high. If you don’t, and you always go for positions that you know you are good enough for, you will never reach your potential and you will be stuck working for other people for the rest of your life. Challenge yourself.
9. “I don’t like experimenting with new things.”
People with a fixed mindset like to stay in their comfort zone. But without experiencing new things, they don’t give themselves a chance to grow or explore in life.
Unless you have your dream job, and it’s exactly what you told everyone as a kindergartener it was what you wanted to be when you grew up, you have to try new things in order to be successful in life.
Your brain dramatically changes when you use it. Just like the rest of your body, your mind needs to be challenged to remain functional–and you challenge your brain by continuously seeking ways to enhance your current scope of knowledge by experimenting with new things. In doing this, you can dramatically increase your success.
10. “This problem isn’t my fault, it’s someone else’s.”
People with a growth mindset are able to learn from their mistakes because they take the first step of accepting personal responsibility for making them. They’re willing to listen to painful feedback as long as they can learn something from it.
11. “I would rather feel safe than try to grow.”
As we mentioned before, a fixed mindset is controlled by fear. When the anxiety associated with being unsafe is stronger than the sense of fulfillment that’s experienced from personal growth, people choose to stick with what they know.
When you’re scared of looking dumb or inexperienced, you stall your development and resist any chances of reaching your potential.
12. “I won't try that because I'll look stupid and get laughed at.”
With a fixed mindset, you not only assume you will be bad at something but you also think you know what other people will think and do. Your assumptions are rarely true and are not based on any tangible facts. Often, they are based on low self-esteem.
A growth mindset allows you to say you will try and if you look silly it won't matter. You will have fun trying and may even give someone else the courage to try. If you end up looking silly, it'll be something you can laugh about later when you have mastered the skill.
13. “I'm too old to follow my dreams now.”
When you base your actions on your age, you will always find that you are never at the ideal age to start doing something. There are people in their 80s and 90s who are doing things that people in their 30s and 40s feel they are “too old” to do.
A growth mindset sees age as a mere number. As long as you are able to dream, you can strive to reach that dream. Physically, it may take you longer, but it is never too late to try.
14. “I will never be comfortable talking in public.”
A fixed mindset often creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you are determined to fail, you send a message to your mind that you are not capable of succeeding, so you end up not putting forth the amount of effort you need to put forth in order to succeed.
You may not feel comfortable doing something now, but with practice, you will get more and more comfortable doing whatever it is. You will be able to look back one day and wonder at the idea that you would never be in your comfort zone in regard to this action.
15. “I can't change who I am.”
This is one of the greatest misconceptions you can have and is one of the ultimate examples of a fixed mindset. Whether you are talking about learning a skill or changing something undesirable about your personality, a fixed mindset takes away the power you are born with to grow.
A growth mindset allows you to take back that power and know that you, and you alone, have the power to change and grow. In fact, that is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.
Final Thoughts on Limiting Your Success With a Fixed Mindset
Your mindset defines part of who you are, and the only way to change your identity is to do so with small actions that you start to do on a regular basis. If you can identify and oppose any fixed mindset thoughts that you have, you can replace them with growth-oriented, actionable thoughts to open up room for more success in your life.
While this won’t happen overnight, by engaging in deliberate practice, you will develop these new skills that will help you move further in life.
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.