What is Growth vs Fixed Mindset
Let me prefix this article by saying that this is a brief overview of Growth Mindset. For a more comprehensive look at the subject, go direct to the creator of the idea, Carol Dweck. You can even listen for free with an audiobook trial.
In one study, children were asked to either complete a jigsaw they’d already done, or try a new one. Sure enough, this correlated with their mindsets. Children with a fixed mindset were reluctant to try something new and risk failure.
A fixed mindset will assume creative abilities, your character, and intelligence are all fixed, so you may as well just accept them. This is a deterministic view of self. Growth Mindset sees the self as a changeable concept.
It’s similar to Einstein’s quote
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with the problems longer.”
Einstein is the posterboy for what is thought of as innate genius, and it is rarely his hard work and determination that is praised.
If you look back to my recent article on self-limiting beliefs, it looks at how we label ourselves as inherently bad.
What’s the upshot of Growth Mindset?
It is not to say “you can do anything”, like so many hokey motivational aphorisms. You have limited abilities, it’s just nobody knows what those limits are.
- Time put in
You probably won’t be Einstein, but maybe you could be good or even great at physics. My guess would be if you aren’t good at it, then you gave up at 15 because it was quite hard. If you’ve slaved away your whole adult life at it, and still suck, then maybe you suck at physics. I bet you haven’t though.
“Success is measured in hours, not years” a music teacher of mine once said.
- Going about it the wrong way
Flogging a dead horse? Going about it the wrong way can also lead to failure.
How many people try and absorb information through reading alone, when it’s proven that using a range of techniques improves your learning? How many people keep going to evening classes a few hours a week and leave it at that?
You’ve got to keep hitting a problem from different angles and ask yourself why it’s not working. If you just conclude that you are the problem then progress stops there.
Looking that fact squarely in the face is essential. It means you can be realistic about yourself and your future. Doesn’t it sound a bit simplistic to say “I’m just bad at it”?
Growth mindset makes us hungry to learn, and Fixed Mindset makes us hungry for approval.
If you assume everything is set in stone, it comes down to whether people take it or leave it, or whether you’re a success or a failure (cue the dreadful expression “I’m such a loser”).
If it’s all fluid (like most things in psychology, biology, and life…), then it’s still anyone’s game.
- Write down 5 things you think you are bad at, but you’d like not to be. How much work have you put into those things (in estimated hours, not years!)
- Even if it’s something like “I can’t small talk at parties”, what have you done to correct it? Read any books? Learnt a load of conversation starters? Found online communities dedicated to improving it? Tried to understand why? Or did you just call it a concrete character flaw and move on?
- Take things month by month. Try and improve one thing at a time. You might yet be able to develop a Growth Mindset and succeed at things you never thought possible.
Want to learn more, again, go straight to the author. This is just a glimpse into her theory. Click here to buy the book or listen for free.
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