Fixed Mindset Or Growth Mindset

Are you “smart” or are you a “hard worker”? Adopt a growth mindset and work smarter AND harder!

Events And Responses

Recently, I was reading through an e-book on setting aside one hour a day to work on your #1 goal and I came across this bit of advice:

E + R = O
Event + Response = Outcome

Right now you may be telling yourself things such as the following:

  • I can’t find the time to work on my goals right now; I have a kid.
  • My boss is always asking me to stay after work and take on more job assignments.
  • I have such a long commute.
  • There’s just so much stuff coming at me.

Circumstances ≠ Outcome

However, those statements are just the events or the circumstances in your life at the moment. Your outcome doesn’t depend on those events or circumstances in and of themselves, but on how you respond to them. Ask yourself this question: “What’s the story that I’m telling myself?

  • Are you telling yourself that you can’t achieve your goals because you just don’t have the time?
  • Are you telling yourself that you can figure out a way to carve an hour out of your day and start moving toward the achievement of your goals?

If you tell yourself the first story, a year from now you’ll be in the exact same position you are right now. If you tell yourself the second story, a year from now you’ll either have reached your goal, or at the very least you’ll be much closer to its achievement than you are now.” [Fábrega]

A Psychology Experiment

This idea brought to my mind the concepts of “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset”.

In a research study, scientists (notably Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, and her colleagues) gave a fairly easy test to 2 groups of adolescent students. When the students were given the results of the test, one group was told “Wow! You got (x number) right. That’s a really good score. You must be smart.” The other group was told “Wow! You got (x number) right. That’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard.” A seemingly minor difference – one group praised for ability, the other praised for effort.

But what a difference it turned out to be. Given the chance to take another, more challenging test: “The ability praise pushed students right into the fixed mindset, and they showed all the signs of it, too: When we gave them a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from. They didn’t want to do anything that could expose their flaws and call into question their talent.”

“In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from.” [Dweck]

Then they tried another experiment. They gave both sets of students another test with more difficult questions. The students who were praised for their ability quickly gave up. “If success had meant they were intelligent, then less-than-success meant they were deficient.” [Dweck] But the group praised for their effort simply decided that they needed to work harder – which they did. As the tests became more challenging, their performance got better and better but the first group’s performance on the tests became increasingly worse.

Fixed Mindset Or Growth Mindset

Through years of research, Carol Dweck identified two mindsets, as she called them — fixed mindset and growth mindset.

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.” [Dweck; “What Is Mindset?”]

Learners And Nonlearners

“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures” said sociologist Benjamin Barber, “I divide the world into the learners and nonlearners.”

We all exhibit traits of both the fixed and growth mindsets. But one is more dominant in each of us. Fortunately, these are not fixed traits that we were given at birth – they are a result of nature and nurture – an expression of our genetic traits that influence and are influenced by our experiences, our upbringing, and our relationships. This means a person with a fixed mindset can develop into a growth mindset.

So if you are a “nonlearner”, someone with a fixed mindset who is more concerned with appearing “smart”, you can develop the thinking patterns of the “learner”, the growth mindset, which allows you to learn from experience, improve and grow.

Test Your Mindset

First, if you’re interested, you can complete this assessment to see which mindset you lean toward:

Test Your Mindset
Find out which mindset you use most.

Then, if you want support in changing to or strengthening a growth mindset, here is one approach, from the web site*.

Hear Your Fixed Mindset “Voice”

As you approach a challenge, that voice might say to you “Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent.” “What if you fail—you’ll be a failure” “People will laugh at you for thinking you had talent.” “If you don’t try, you can protect yourself and keep your dignity.”

As you hit a setback, the voice might say, “This would have been a snap if you really had talent.” “You see, I told you it was a risk. Now you’ve gone and shown the world how limited you are.” “ It’s not too late to back out, make excuses, and try to regain your dignity.”

As you face criticism, you might hear yourself say, “It’s not my fault. It was something or someone else’s fault.” You might feel yourself getting angry at the person who is giving you feedback. “Who do they think they are? I’ll put them in their place.” The other person might be giving you specific, constructive feedback, but you might be hearing them say “I’m really disappointed in you. I thought you were capable but now I see you’re not.”

Recognize That You Have A Choice.

How you interpret challenges, setbacks, and criticism is your choice. You can interpret them in a fixed mindset as signs that your fixed talents or abilities are lacking. Or you can interpret them in a growth mindset as signs that you need to ramp up your strategies and effort, stretch yourself, and expand your abilities. It’s up to you.

So as you face challenges, setbacks, and criticism, listen to the fixed mindset voice and then …

Use A Growth Mindset Voice.

As you approach a challenge:

THE FIXED-MINDSET says “Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent.”

THE GROWTH-MINDSET answers, “I’m not sure I can do it now, but I think I can learn to with time and effort.”

FIXED MINDSET: “What if you fail—you’ll be a failure”

GROWTH MINDSET: “Most successful people had failures along the way.”

FIXED MINDSET: “If you don’t try, you can protect yourself and keep your dignity.”

GROWTH MINDSET: “If I don’t try, I automatically fail. Where’s the dignity in that?”

As you hit a setback:

FIXED MINDSET: “This would have been a snap if you really had talent.”

GROWTH MINDSET: “That is so wrong. Basketball wasn’t easy for Michael Jordan and science wasn’t easy for Thomas Edison. They had a passion and put in tons of effort.

As you face criticism:

FIXED MINDSET: “It’s not my fault. It was something or someone else’s fault.”

GROWTH MINDSET: “If I don’t take responsibility, I can’t fix it. Let me listen—however painful it is– and learn whatever I can.”

Take The Growth Mindset Action.

Over time, which voice you heed becomes pretty much your choice. Whether you

  • take on the challenge wholeheartedly,
  • learn from your setbacks and try again
  • hear the criticism and act on it

it is now in your hands.

Practice hearing both voices, and practice acting on the growth mindset. See how you can make it work for you. [Dweck; “How Can You Change”]

Which story are you telling yourself? “I can’t go for my goals because I don’t have the time, or the skills, or the smarts, or the __ (fill in the blank).”

Or do you tell yourself this story: “I can learn from my experience and I can improve by performance until I reach my goal!”

Change your mindset and you will change your story . . . and your life. And that is embracing the Excelerated Life™!

Excelerated Productivity™ — improving efficiency and effectiveness — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of well-being, meaning, and purpose.

Read more about the Excelerated Life™.


Fábrega, Marelisa. The One-Hour-A-Day Formula. Web. 27 Nov. 2013.

Dweck, Carol. Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success. New York: Random House, Inc., 2007.

Dweck, Carol. “What Is Mindset?” , , , Web. 3 Apr. 2016 <*>

Dweck, Carol. “How can you change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?”, , , Web. 3 Apr. 2016

*Update: As of August, 2019, the website was no longer available.

fixed mindset or growth mindset

3 Replies to “Fixed Mindset Or Growth Mindset”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.