Growth vs Fixed Mindset

“For decades I’ve been studying why some people succeed while people who are equally talented, do not and over the years I have discovered that people’s mindset plays a crucial part in this process” – Dr Carol S. Dweck

Dr Dweck’s work highlighted the difference between having a Fixed versus a Growth Mindset had on people’s ability to achieve their potential. A Fixed Mindset comes from the perspective that character, intelligence, and ability are fixed. You are not in control of them.  The Growth Mindset sees that you can change and grow through effort, application and experience. You are in control.

If we want to improve at whatever we do look at how the Fixed and Growth Mindset respond to some key characteristics:









What mindset do you have?

Here is an exercise from Dr Dweck’s book MINDSET to help you determine which mindset you have.

Answer these statements about intelligence.  Read each one and decide whether you mostly agree with it or disagree with it.

  1. Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.
  2. You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are.
  3. No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit.
  4. You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.


Statements 1 and 2 are the fixed mindset statements. Statements 3 and 4 reflect the growth mindset.  Which mindset did you agree with more? You can be a mixture, but most people lean towards one or by the other.

You also have beliefs about other abilities.  You can substitute ‘artistic talent’, ‘sports abilities’ or ‘business skills’ for ‘intelligence’ and ask the questions again.  I encourage you to try it. It is not not only your abilities; it is your personal qualities too.

Look at the statements below about personality and character and decide whether you mostly agree or mostly disagree with each one.

  1. You are a certain kind of person, and there is not much that can be done to really change that.
  2. No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially.
  3. You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are can’t really change.
  4. You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are.


Here, 1 and 3 are the fixed mindset statements and 2 and 4 reflect the growth mindset.  Which did you agree more? Did it differ from your intelligence mindset? It can.

Your “intelligence mindset” comes into play when situations involving mental ability. Your “personality mindset” comes into play in situations that involve personal qualities –  for example, how dependable, cooperative, caring, or socially skilled you are. The fixed mindset makes you concerned with how you will be judged; the growth mindset makes you concerned with improving.

Here are some ways to think about Mindsets:

Think about someone you know who is steeped in the fixed mindset. Think about how they are always trying to prove themselves and they are super-sensitive about being wrong or making mistakes. Did you ever wonder why they were this way? (Are you this way?) Now you can begin to understand why.

Think about someone you know who is skilled in the growth mindset – someone who understands that important qualities can be cultivated.  Think about the ways they confront obstacles.  Think about the things they do to stretch themselves. What are some ways you might like to stretch yourself?

Imagine you’ve decided to learn a new language and you have signed up for a class.  A few sessions into the course, the instructor calls you to the front of the room and starts throwing questions at you one after another.

Put yourself in a fixed mindset. Your ability is on the line.  Can feel everyone’s eyes on you?  Can you see the instructors face evaluating you? Feel the tension, feel your ego bristle and waiver.  What else are you thinking about?

Now put yourself in a growth mindset.  You are a novice – that’s why you are here. You are here to learn. The teacher is a resource for learning.  Feel the tension leave you; feel your mind open up.

The message is:  You can change your mindset.

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