From Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset


What do you think about failure? 

Be honest. Do you fear failure, or embrace it?

Depending on your answer, you might suffer from a fixed mindset that keeps your growth beneath a ceiling.

In Mindset – Changing the way you think to fulfill your potential, author, and psychologist Doctor Carol S. Dweck reveals just how critical your mindset is to your success, development, and happiness. 

Based on various studies, Dweck explains how people with a growth mindset face all challenges with an attitude of learning, reflection and improving.

This approach helps develop new skills, resilience and love the journey towards achievement instead of zooming in on results. 

The good news is that everyone can learn how to adopt a growth mindset, where failure is merely a natural part of the learning process. Signs of a well-functioning growth mindset is effectively summarized in this quote:

We will struggle, we will fail, we will even be knocked down. But throughout, we will get better, and in the end, we will succeed. 

Doctor Carol S. Dweck

What is the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset? 

Essentially, our mindsets are the bridge between beliefs and behavior. Your mindset is beliefs about who you are and what you are capable of. Or not capable of.

At the extreme end of the poles, this is how the two mindsets compares: 

Fixed mindsetvs.Growth mindset
Avoid challengesvs.Embrace challenges
Give up easilyvs.Persist in setbacks
Effort is pointlessvs.Effort creates mastery
Ignore negative feedbackvs.Learn from feedback
Compares with othersvs.Inspired by others

These traits reveal themselves and it is quite easy to spot how other people label themselves. For example, did you ever hear someone say, “I’m not a technical person”? When exposed to anything ‘technical’, this person will completely avoid the situation, or give up quickly to reinforce the self-inflicted belief.

(“See, I told you so!”) 

How a fixed mindset manifests inside you

A fixed mindset will silently put the breaks on your personal development and subconsciously disallow you to learn new, valuable skills. 

Here are a few examples of what I’ve heard people label (and limit) themselves:

  • “I’m not a family person” 
  • “I’ve never been good with money” 
  • “I’m not much of a reader” 
  • “I was never a good student“
  • “I’m not the sporty type.”

Clearly, the “I’m not …” self-talk keeps you from growing. Your mind is practically telling you that you’re not good enough, and that you’ll never be. At least not in this particular skill area.

The fixed mindset creates confirmation bias where a subconscious filter ignores all data that might contradict negative beliefs about yourself. 

This is quickly followed up by hindsight bias whose primary job is to point at selected memories as proof. Sadly, all you can falter is an excuse. 

“You know me, I always forget people’s names [nervous laughter]”.

Whenever you find yourself in a new, stressful or uncertain situation, your mind does a quick search for current beliefs in order to go with the default settings. 

If you don’t pay attention to how your mind automates your thinking and behavior, these unwanted negative beliefs will duct tape themselves to your identity – for everyone else to see. 

How to get a growth mindset

The important thing to know is that your mindset is, in fact, not fixed. You are in complete control to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset:

Mindsets are just beliefs. They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your mind, and you can change your mind. 

Carol S. Dweck

Let’s take a deeper look at how this actually works in the mind.

Neuroplasticity is the science behind a growth mindset

According to Wikipedia, neuroplasticity is how we develop skills and knowledge through effort, practice and persistence.

(Did you notice how perfectly these last three nouns describe the growth mindset?)

Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to change throughout life based on experience. Just like any other muscle, your brain gets stronger the more you use it.

The brain likes habits, or patterns, so when neurons are activated in a particular pattern and repeated often, it’s both faster and easier for your brain to follow that same pattern next time. This also has a compound effect. After each time, you get better and the routine you practice, gets easier. 

Don’t ever believe that you can’t change. And don’t believe that talent is innate. Science has uncovered that your brain has the amazing capacity to reorganize patterns, create new connections and, through it all, create new skills. 

Let’s get practical again and explore how to change your habits and thinking.

Change the dialogue to change your mindset

Beliefs of a fixed mindset often stem from a negative internal dialogue that has been going on too long. It’s basically a tape that runs on repeat inside your head and keeps you mentally handcuffed. 

You need to be pay attention to fixed mindset dialogue such as: 

  • “There’s no use in trying”
  • “This is for other people, not me”
  • “I’m not talented enough”
  • “I’m not as smart as everyone else”
  • “What if I’m not good enough, and they won’t like me?”

This dialogue is not true. All it does, is create excuses for not pursuing an exciting opportunity. Some times you might start a new endeavor, but at the very first obstacle or slight feeling of rejection, your fears and self-limiting beliefs are confirmed. 

Then what happens? You quit. With Usain Bolt speed. 

Instead of the former dialogue, you need to force in growth mindset dialogue like this:

  • “With enough practice, I can do this”
  • “This is different. But maybe I can learn something new?”
  • “I might have failed this time, but I will succeed eventually”
  • “If they can learn it, so can I”
  • “I don’t care if they’ll like me; they will respect my effort.”

How to build your growth mindset with new habits

Now that we’re down with the language of a growth mindset, we have to back it up with actions.

No one’s ever talked their way to success. You need new evidence where you did something that contradicts the negative dialogue that you want to eliminate.

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. Affirmation without discipline is the beginning of delusion.

Jim Rohn

We keep saying things that we’ll never do: “Next year, I’ll buy all Christmas gifts in September”. Or: “No, I haven’t read that book yet, but I will definitely get to it.”

Immediately after the words leave your mouth, you know it’s not going to happen. 

To avoid delusion, we need to install new behavior of healthy, daily habits. This is our new evidence. 

Here are three examples of really simple, daily habits that, if done repeatedly, will let you reach your goal:

  • Goal: Wake up at 5 AM. 
  • Action: Get up at 5 minutes earlier each day until you get to 5 AM.
  • Goal: Learn a new skill. 
  • Action: Read 10 pages of expert knowledge every day.
  • Goal: Accumulate money to invest
  • Action: Set up daily automated $5-10 transfers to an account.

Very soon, you’ll have evidence that you are not your former self, which will quiet the fixed mindset dialogue.  

Don’t worry about the magnitude of each habit to begin with. Start small and focus on ‘showing up’ each day without quitting. Why raise the bar, if you know you’re going to limbo under it? 

Recommended reading: 3 Habits That Elevate Your Wealth, Health and Skills

Checklist: Do you have a fixed or growth mindset? 

I’ll end this with a great list of questions to ask yourself about the state of your current mindset. 

Don’t lie to yourself when you answer each one. See if you need to change your mindset: 

  1. Does failure stop you or motivate you?
  2. Do you prefer what is easy and safe or hard and challenging?
  3. What do you believe more in: innate talent or great effort? 
  4. Do you hold a grudge and seek revenge, or forgive and move on? 
  5. What is more important, first-time perfection or making progress? 
  6. Do you cover mistakes or take responsibility for everything?
  7. Do you view failure as permanent or temporary?
  8. When something goes wrong, do you excuse and blame or analyze and learn?  
  9. Which comes first, your ego or the purpose? 
  10. Are negative experiences your fate or a time for reflection? 
By Kristian Magnus

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