Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset: The Massive Difference Can Change Your Life

The online world buzzes with terminology about different mindsets. The idea of a growth mindset vs fixed mindset seeps into conversations about money, wellness, and life in general.

Understanding the difference between a growth and a fixed mindset is vital to changing your perspective and cultivating a better life.

Origins of Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

The idea of growth vs. fixed mindset originated at Stanford University. Psychologist Carol Dweck studied different people’s varied approaches to the world in a 1995 paper, and her discoveries led her to further research on growth mindsets vs. fixed mindsets.

She published Mindset in 2006, and the rest is history.

The idea that the way you think is just as crucial as your innate intelligence and talent burst into mainstream life, with influencers, psychologists, authors, and professionals in various industries latching onto mindset shifts for a better life.

What is the Difference between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset?

Dweck’s work on growth mindset vs. fixed mindset reigns supreme. She discovered that Henry Ford’s famous quote, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right,” is backed by science. 

Your mindset is a critical component in whether you achieve your goals.

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset: The Difference Between Can and Can’t

The difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset is the difference between can and can’t.

People with a growth mindset believe they can do anything, while people stuck in a fixed mindset think there are limitations to what they can achieve.

The best way to describe the difference is by diving deep into both a growth and fixed mindset.

What is a Growth Mindset?

A growth mindset allows your mind the opportunity to grow and change. People with a growth mindset believe anything is possible. They view limitations as obstacles to be overcome rather than insurmountable barriers.

A growth mindset is a worldview that says your brain has no limitations. Consider the famous George McFly/Marty McFly quote, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

With a growth mindset, you can always learn and grow, develop new talents, and expand your horizons. There’s no limit to the inspiring power of our inner selves.

People with a growth mindset constantly experiment. They try new things, not fearing failure but rather welcoming it, viewing it as an opportunity for growth. They keep trying, knowing they’ll eventually unlock the secrets to success because they have it deep within themselves.

Examples of a Growth Mindset

You’ve likely encountered people with a growth mindset throughout your life. They are everywhere, and you may even have one too.

Consider the famous story of Michael Jordon, who was cut from his JV basketball team. He knew how good he was, so he kept practicing, made the team the following year, and the rest is history. Though the story’s truth is debatable, the idea remains: Jordon refused to accept “no” and became the Greatest Of All Time.

However, it’s not just famous people with tons of innate talent that exhibit a growth mindset. These fictional examples that you likely encountered at some point in your life:

  •       A woman has an interview for her dream job. She preps for weeks but doesn’t get the position. With a growth mindset, she uses failure as an opportunity. She calls the hiring manager to see what she can do better and double-checks the job announcement to see if she is missing critical skills.
  •       A man watches his colleague rise in the ranks while he struggles to get promoted. Because he has a growth mindset, he asks his colleague to mentor him and provide thoughts on making himself more marketable for professional opportunities.
  •       A business sees two consecutive quarters of loss. Executives conduct market research to see what consumers want and develop new products that appeal to broader consumer desires.
  •       A woman wants to learn how to dance. She struggles to learn the moves but keeps at it for weeks and hires a professional to help her.

These examples show that a growth mindset is vital in everything from your personal life to hobbies and business.

What’s a Fixed Mindset?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we find a fixed mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe there’s a cap to their abilities. They fear failure because it highlights the maximum limit of their capabilities.

A fixed mindset prevents people from taking risks. They believe there are limits to what they can achieve, so they don’t set their sights too high.

They believe they can’t, and because of this, they often refuse even to try.

Examples of a Fixed Mindset

Let’s review our examples of growth mindsets and see what would happen if these people had a fixed mindset instead.

  •       The woman doesn’t believe she’s talented enough to score her dream job. She settles for easy but tedious work to protect herself from future failures.
  •       The man gets jealous of his colleague, pretending he rose through the ranks due to luck or networking. He doesn’t ask for help improving his skills and stays stuck in his mid-level role for years.
  •       The business refuses to fund market research, believing there’s no way their product can improve. They continue producing a subpar product and eventually must declare bankruptcy.
  •       The woman stops trying after the first time she falls. She says it’s too complicated and accepts that she’ll never be a dancer. She puts her music away and derides herself for her lack of talent.

The difference between believing you can versus believing you can’t has massive impacts on your life. The growth mindset group rises through the ranks in their industries, seeks assistance, and strives for unlimited growth. Their insistence that they can helps make it a reality, and even if they don’t achieve all their long-term goals, their outcomes are typically better simply because they tried.

The fixed mindset group gets stuck. Fixed mindsets inhibit growth. People who believe they can’t stop trying, trapping themselves in little prisons of their own making.

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset: Limitations vs. Possibilities

People with a fixed mindset believe there are limits to what they can learn. They think they were born with all their innate abilities and can’t change their station regardless of what they do. This belief creates a sort of helplessness. A fixed mindset hinders creativity, growth, and development. It stifles self-improvement and personal development.

A growth mindset is about possibilities. Growth-minded people believe they can achieve anything. They’re mindful of their thoughts and actions and focus on improving themselves.

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset in Different Areas of Life

An insidious trick of growth vs. fixed mindsets is that it’s not a one-and-done deal. You may have a different attitude toward different aspects of your life.

Some folks have a growth mindset regarding their career but a fixed mindset concerning their health. Others may have a money growth mindset but a fixed mindset about their abilities.

Most people don’t have 100% growth or a 100% fixed mindset. It’s a spectrum that varies based on their confidence in various aspects of life.

What Does the Science Say?

The nascent field of neuroscience is just beginning to study whether mindset matters.

In 2019, Dweck returned to mindset studies to determine whether classroom interventions should change students’ minds about their academic achievement. She discovered kids only needed one hour of praise and encouragement to shift their mindsets.

Studies in Neuroscience support Dweck’s findings. Neuroplasticity describes our brain’s ability to change how it responds to stimuli. Though traditional studies in neuroplasticity sought treatments for physical ailments like strokes, the research implies that we can also change our thought patterns intentionally.

Neuroplasticity shows us that our brains can change and adapt. However, we need to believe it and provide the tools to make it happen.  

How To Change from a Fixed Mindset To a Growth Mindset

A fixed mindset massively impedes your life, but the good news is that your perspective is flexible. If the description of a fixed mindset spoke to you, you can change yourself and cultivate a growth mindset instead.

Define Where Your Mindset Needs Improvement

The first step to improving your mindset is defining where it needs improvement. Identify the areas where you feel you have created a fixed mindset. Determine what your goals are in those specific areas.

You may also want to engage in shadow work to understand why you have a fixed mindset in these areas in the first place. This inner study can help you identify and overcome psychological hurdles to personal growth.

Ditch Perfection

Perfection is the enemy of progress. People get so wrapped up in doing things perfectly that they freeze up and don’t do anything at all.

Ditch the idea that anything worth doing is worth doing well, and embrace its opposite: anything worth doing is worth doing poorly! Stop spending untold hours striving for perfection that doesn’t exist.

The yearning for perfection often stems from a fixed mindset because deep down, you know it will never be perfect, so you know you never have to say it’s done. If it’s never finished, you never have to risk someone telling you it’s wrong, meaning you can remain blissfully unaware of your failures.

Embrace Failure

People with a fixed mindset often fear failure. It means you aren’t good enough, and you believe you can’t get better because you have a fixed mindset.

That’s not true.

Failure is our greatest teacher. Making mistakes allows us to examine what went wrong and where to improve. It helps us develop as a person.

Stop fearing it and instead reap its rewards and valuable life lessons.

Maintain a Sense of Realism

A growth mindset tells us anything is possible, but that is not entirely true. Most people will not become elite athletes or celebrated actors, and a very rare few will rise to the executive ranks of business.

Cultivating a growth mindset isn’t a magic button to success. You must be realistic about your goals.

A Positive Mindset Helps

A positive and a growth mindset aren’t the same, but they complement each other.

Embrace positivity to develop your growth mindset. Look on the brighter side of things and avoid negative thinking.

End it With “Yet”

People with a fixed mindset collectively scream, “I can’t do that,” before fading into nothingness. They forgot the critical ending to the sentence “yet.”

Those with a growth mindset know the “yet” is critical to success.

“I can’t do that…yet,” state adherents to the growth mindset. And then they do the hard work to turn that “I can’t” into “I can.”

Lifelong Learning

A critical component of the fixed mindset is the inner belief that there’s a cap to what you can learn.

Prove that wrong. Develop a passion for learning.

Become a lifelong learner. Dive into books, seek mentorship, ask questions, learn new skills, and try new things.

Let go of the need to know everything and embrace the idea that the world abounds with knowledge you haven’t learned yet.

I Love a Good Challenge!

Change the way you view challenges. They’re no longer barriers to success but growth opportunities.

Struggles allow you to test your skills and push yourself beyond your limits. Overcoming these difficulties helps us grow.

Enjoy the Journey

Achieving a goal is fantastic, but what provides a greater sense of accomplishment, achieving an easy goal or a hard one?

An easy goal doesn’t offer a good journey, and that’s the critical part. Life isn’t about the final destination; it’s about the ride.

When you have a growth mindset, you focus on the journey. Each achieved goal is just one stop along the way, allowing you to set a new destination with each arrival.

Embrace a Growth Mindset

Fostering a growth mindset is crucial for a happy life. It sets you on the path to success and helps you achieve your true potential.

Ditch your fixed mindset and realize the abundance of possibilities all around you. It’s never too late for a change in mindset.

It starts with you. Believe you can and open yourself up to the world of wonders that awaits.