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In life, the type of mindset we have is critical. Because we can expand or constrict how we engage in life and view the world through our mindsets.
In addition, we create the realities we live in based on the power of our individual perception (mindset). As a result, we often see what we expect to see, and the limitations we face in life are usually self-imposed.
Suppose you don't believe you can achieve something or that an opportunity will not be presented to you. In that case, it will dictate your behavior toward putting effort and energy into that thing.
For example, you have been studying for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). However, you find the material challenging to comprehend and become discouraged and quit studying altogether. After developing a negative mindset toward the test, your behavior soon followed. And you take the test with an already defeated attitude, and the outcome of failure usually follows.
If you took the same MCAT test with the mindset that the material may be challenging to comprehend, but you are determined to give it your all. You may very well have a different outcome at grading time. Plus, if you happen to fail the test, you do so with the peace of mind that you gave it everything you had. This mindset may even drive you to study harder and retake the test.
Fundamentally, this example shows the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset.
According to Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, two basic types of mindsets shape our lives: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. She stated in her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” that success at work, school, the arts, sports, and almost every area of human endeavors can be influenced by how we think about our abilities and talents.
In this article, we will define both and then provide nine differences between a fixed and growth mindset with specific examples of how they differ.
To get started, let’s review two definitions.
People with a fixed mindset often focus on the familiar and feel that their abilities can't change (they're fixed). With this mindset comes the belief that there is no use in putting time into training, learning, or development.
For instance, you have been dealing with some health issues that have limited your mobility. But your doctor has been asking you to get out and walk a quarter of a mile each day. Sadly, you don’t do it because you are convinced that you can’t walk that far, and even if you could, things won’t get any better for you physically.
No amount of encouragement from your family, friends, or doctor can make you do it. You believe your body has pre-established physical limits, and walking for a half-mile is beyond those limits. Your mindset is fixed if your mind tells you that your ability to perform tasks is unchangeable.
Furthermore, when you have this fixed mindset, you feel your current skill level and intelligence will give you the success you desire. We see this mindset in professional sports.
Many athletes make it to the pros based on their ‘God-given skills and abilities. In addition, they try to get by on those abilities throughout their careers. These athletes are often unwilling to accept teaching and training to improve their skillset and put in the hard work.
Unfortunately, this shortens the careers of many gifted athletes as they experience declines in their abilities due to ‘Father Time.’ As their skill level diminishes, and they are unwilling to accept that they need to work on their games, they are labeled as people who are ‘stuck in their ways.' In the world of sports, this could possibly be a career-ender.
Coaches and media personalities highlight the fact that certain players are blind to the fact that they aren’t what they once were. And they overlook the fact that being flexible in their mindset can help them to improve on other aspects of their game that can possibly stretch the trajectory of their careers.
On the contrary, having a growth mindset is having a mind to welcome new challenges. Many call it having an open mind. This shows a willingness to accept new pieces of information that become more relevant to you than the previous information you have been operating with. For instance, if you look back over the past 30 years, data has come in about wearing seat belts and smoking cigarettes, which has changed the mindset of society for the most part in the US. Whatever the mindset change, it may not be the easiest to accept. Still, it is certainly possible, especially if we have a growth mindset.
Moreover, people with a growth mindset believe they can grow more intelligent, knowledgeable, and skillful over time. They develop good habits and have the mentality that ‘practice makes perfect.' As a result, people put in more time and effort when they believe they can become more innovative and successful and achieve great things.
In Carol S. Dweck's book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, she stated, “People with a growth mindset have an underlying belief that their learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience.”
Furthermore, with a growth mindset, you believe that your basic abilities are the launching point for your potential. And the more you learn and grow, the higher the potential is for you to go. Finally, you don't believe everyone is the same, but you feel everyone can get better.
For example, I used to help my grandfather out a lot on his farm, so we had plenty of opportunities to talk. However, one day he asked me if I was doing better. I didn't know what to think of the question, but I answered anyway and said, “Yes, Sir! I am.” Consequently, he would ask me the same question week after week, and I often answered the same way. Finally, I got up the nerve to ask him why he always asked me that question. He stated, “You should always be doing better.”
Some years later, I realized that he did not want me to go through life with a fixed mindset about things but to have a growth mindset and a willingness to better myself.
1. On Going Through Hardships
Someone with a fixed mindset gives up easily. But if you have a growth mindset, you persist through hardships.
Keith never learned to ride a bicycle when he was a kid. He tried to learn to ride but fell and hurt himself. So, he adopted the mindset that he didn’t need to learn. His father offered to give him training wheels, but he felt he was too ‘BIG’ for training wheels. In addition, his father offered to help him learn the hard way, but he was unwilling to try.
2. On Getting Feedback
People with a fixed mindset ignore feedback. However, people with growth mindsets learn from opposing views and constructive criticism.
Barbara was a skillful cook and was determined to open a drive-thru burger joint. However, after a couple weeks in business, she received online reviews that her service was too slow. People were coming to her place of business, having to wait for 20-minutes or more for food while on their lunch breaks.
Barbara's husband, Dennis, told her to ignore the feedback because they were doing their best. However, because she had a growth mindset, she learned from the feedback by preparing some food ahead of time to cut down on wait times. Because of it, she now has many satisfied repeat customers.
3. On Careers
Fixed mindset people are comfortable with their current level of success. But individuals with a growth mindset become masters in their field of study or careers.
Lindsay and Alex were hired at an insurance company at the same time. They were both talented at their jobs and were at the top of the company's leaderboard in sales for close to a year. As a result, both of them were given an opportunity to be promoted to Lead Sales Agents within the company. In these positions, they would have more responsibility and the opportunity to gain more knowledge of the industry's inner workings. Unfortunately, it also required longer work hours.
Lindsay was excited about the opportunity and jumped at the chance to ‘perfect her craft.' Unfortunately, Alex was content with his current job and did not want more responsibility. He was challenged by the idea that there was more to learn because he had excelled at everything he had done for the company up until that point.
4. On Facing Challenges
Individuals with a fixed mindset avoid challenges, but when they have a growth mindset, they embrace them.
Mary and Martha were faithful members of their church. They were knowledgeable in scripture and found that many people came to them for advice and understanding of bible verses. The pastor noticed this and allowed the two of them to become Co-Sunday School teachers for a group of young adult women.
It was a challenge for both of them since neither enjoyed speaking in front of an audience. Plus, they also feared being presented with questions to which they did not know the answer. However, Mary considered it a chance to help others while embracing a challenge herself. But Martha declined out of fear.
5. On Dealing with Failure
Fixed mindset individuals don’t deal with failure very well. However, those who have a growth mindset learn from their mistakes.
Felicia took a test with the board of education to become a schoolteacher and failed. She was so heartbroken that she shut herself off from friends and family. She ignored phone calls, texts, and even knocks at her door. She began to question why she ever wanted to become a teacher in the first place and felt as if she had wasted the past four years in school. Consequently, she became depressed and didn’t even want to think about what she would do next.
Lois, a classmate of Felicia's, failed her test the same day. However, once she saw the line of questioning and the area she felt least knowledgeable about, she studied that part of the information more diligently. Lois even decided to solicit the help of a tutor to help her study. As a result, when she retook the test, she was more confident because she felt she knew the test's information much better than before. And, of course, she passed with flying colors.
6. On Seeking Knowledge and Expertise
A fixed mindset says, ‘this is all there is to a thing.' But, a growth mindset says, ‘there is more.'
Maurice was a diesel mechanic instructor at a local college. He has been teaching there for 30 years and is very knowledgeable about the diesel engine. However, he has rejected the college's notion that he needs to learn or teach his students about electric-powered semi-trucks. Maurice feels cramming in the lessons section on eco-friendly trucks is a waste of time, given the trouble, the industry is already experiencing with electric vehicles. Plus, he simply doesn't like them.
As a result, he is losing students for the college's diesel mechanic program to a neighboring college. Neal, the head instructor in their diesel shop, is teaching his students how to service electric semi-trucks in addition to the traditional diesel engines. He feels it is the best way to learn more and prepare his students for the future direction the industry is headed. He feels there is always something new to learn in the automotive industry.
7. On Taking Risks
Fixed mindset settles. However, growth mindset individuals are risk takers.
Monty and Karen both work for an aluminum manufacturer. Unfortunately, the factory was bought out by a larger company, and they required that employees receive payouts for what is owed to them in their 401k.
Having a fixed mindset, Karen selects to put her money into the bank to draw interest. But Monty has a growth mindset and loves to take risks. So with the help of a financial adviser, he invested over half his money into the stock market. He has more than doubled his money since putting it into the market.
8. On Intelligence
A fixed mindset says smart people are born with a high IQ. But those with growth mindsets believe intelligence is gained through hard work.
Jackie has applied herself to studying and reading because she feels it will make her more knowledgeable. She is a junior in high school but is already taking college courses at night because she feels it will help her with her SAT scores.
On the other hand, Erica feels she doesn't need to study because it will not make her any more intelligent. She sees the effort of learning as fruitless and not something that would help her SAT scores. So, she is determined to forgo college and use what she knows to work her way up in the world.
9. On Dealing with Peer Pressure
Those with fixed mindsets often give in to peer pressure. On the other hand, those with growth mindsets tend to stick with their plans and goals despite outside influence.
Tammy sought the approval of her friends before deciding on a prom dress and shoes. She changed her mind several times about a dress based on others' opinions. The dress Tammy finally wore was not her favorite, but it was the one that most of her friends agreed upon.
It also matched her dress. Unfortunately, the high heels she wore were not comfortable and hurt her feet very severely. As a result, she looked miserable throughout the entire prom night.
Desiree, on the other hand, wanted a prom dress that was both beautiful and functional. She wanted shoes that were comfortable as well. So, she decided she would not wear high heels. Her goal was to dance the night away and have fun.
Her dress was not one others may have selected, and she overheard their snickers in the background over the flats she chose to wear. However, it did not stop her from dancing and having a great time.
How we feel about ourselves and our abilities significantly impacts our performance during our study times, at work, and in everyday life. Not every one of us takes time to consider how we think, but we often make negative assumptions about our skills. So, if you desire a growth mindset, it can certainly be developed. There are several ways that you can develop a growth mindset.
According to Dr. Dweck's research, no one has a mindset that is entirely a growth or fixed mindset. And it is worth noting that none of us can achieve everything. But with a great attitude, dedication, and hard work, we can see great success, despite our limitations. It is also important to point out that other factors besides our mindsets determine positive results in situations.
The following are ways to develop a growth mindset.
Out of the two different mindsets, it is evident that having a growth mindset is much better. It means we are goal-oriented, flexible, teachable, willing to change, and open to new ideas.
Having a fixed mindset could hold us back from realizing the great potential we have lying on the inside of us. Though it is essential to know and understand our limitations, they shouldn't hold us back from having a dream and working to achieve our goals.
I want to encourage you to find a balance between the two and always strive to be a better version of yourself tomorrow than you are today.