How to develop a growth mindset that will enable you to reach new levels and live your best life.
Carol Dwek, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, published the Mindset book (Mindset: the new psychology of success) in which she discusses the differences between people with a fixed vs growth mindset. The author explains how we can achieve our goals by changing our mindset.
What is mindset?
Our mindset shapes our beliefs in accomplishing something. It determines whether we believe we can develop and grow or not. The author explains that there are two kinds of mindsets: fixed vs growth mindset.
Those with a fixed mindset believe they are capable of doing some things but incapable of others. Since they believe that improvement isn’t really possible they often don’t even bother trying. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe they can acquire any skill if they make the effort. They continue to develop and grow throughout their lives.
What is a fixed mindset?
Fixed mindset definition:
A fixed mindset is when people see their qualities as fixed traits that cannot change, Carol Dwek
People with a fixed mindset believe you were either born with the ability to do something or not. You are either good or bad at something. If you are bad then you will never get better. They do not believe that “practice makes perfect”. If you don’t have a natural ability to do something then you will never be able to do it. Since they categorize people into two groups they are constantly judging people to determine which group they fit into. They also assume that others are always judging them. Therefore, they often feel a need to prove to others that they are as good as they think they are. They will usually ignore useful negative feedback.
People with a fixed mindset do not deal with problems well. They see them as obstacles they cannot overcome. They may avoid challenges and give up easily.
Since those with a fixed mindset believe that skills are a result of natural talent, they don’t believe you need to make much effort. They will therefore tend to put less effort into anything they do. In their opinion, you either have talent or you don’t. Hard work and effort are not really factors of success in their opinion.
Many big companies have a fixed mindset. They hire employees who they consider talented. They don’t bother to train them since they believe you either have talent or you don’t. If these employees don’t perform as well as expected or make mistakes then they fire them. This causes multiple problems. They lose good employees who could have improved with training and guidance. They also cultivate a fixed mindset culture. Employees feel they are constantly being judged so they spend their time trying to look good instead of being productive. When everyone is trying to look good, they don’t cooperate with each other and don’t work together as each person is trying to look better than others.
Fixed mindset examples
- In the workplace, superiors with a fixed mindset believe that there is no need to keep employing employees who lack the required skills. They don’t believe that they can acquire these skills so there is no reason to keep them on.
- Employees with a fixed mindset are constantly seeking approval and will not be prepared to accept criticism in any form as they see it as a blow to their ego. Since they don’t believe that they can improve, if they are not good at something they never will be, and therefore, they are not open to learning or improving.
- In relationships, people with a fixed mindset will discourage their partner from learning and developing since they honestly believe that it’s not possible so it’s a waste of time and resources.
- When a person with a fixed mindset fails they will consider themselves a failure and will forget about all past successes. Since they don’t think they can improve or learn from their mistakes they will just give up.
What is a growth mindset?
Growth mindset definition:
A growth mindset is when a person understands that their abilities can be developed, Carol Dwek
People with a growth mindset believe that practice makes perfect. You can acquire or perfect any skill if you put your mind to it. They believe that hard work, dedication, and perseverance will bring results.
People can grow and develop even if they don’t have natural talent. They are constantly trying to improve and work on their weaker skills.
People with a growth mindset face problems well and see them as challenges.
Those with a growth mindset are more likely to reach their potential than those with a fixed mindset. The growth mindset is the key to self-fulfillment.
Growth mindset examples
Here are some examples of growth mindset:
- In the workplace, superiors with a growth mindset will look for employees with the potential to learn and grow even if they currently don’t have the required skills. They will invest in them, and help them acquire the necessary skills assuming they will eventually do a great job.
- Employees with a growth mindset will be open to criticism since it will help them improve.
- In relationships, people with a growth mindset will encourage their partner to keep learning and developing.
- When a person with a growth mindset fails they will try to understand why they failed and how they can learn from this experience.
Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset
People don’t have either a fixed or growth mindset. We all have both. You can have a fixed mindset in one area and a growth mindset in another. It’s a spectrum and it’s very dynamic. Because the fixed mindset holds us back, the idea is to look for what triggers it in us in any given situation. Check how you deal with challenges, criticism, obstacles, etc. When you are more aware of these trigger moments then you can get yourself more into a growth mindset.
Dealing with failures
Nobody goes through life without ever failing. Even those who have experienced great success have also experienced failure at some point in their lives. What does a growth mindset mean when it comes to inevitable failures?
- People with a growth mindset see failures as an opportunity to learn, improve and develop. They will analyze their decisions in order to learn from them. They will work on their weaknesses in order to improve their skills and grow.
- On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset see failures as disasters from which they cannot recover. They don’t think they can learn from their mistakes. When they fail they either describe themselves as failures or make excuses. They might blame others for their failure or just look the other way. Either way, they are not interested in learning from their mistakes.
Dealing with obstacles or difficulties
Most people will inevitably encounter difficulties or obstacles on the way to achieving their goals. The path to any goal worth reaching will rarely be free of obstacles on the way. Those with a fixed and growth mindset will deal with obstacles in very different ways.
People with a fixed mindset will avoid difficulties whenever possible. When they are faced with obstacles they will often give up. All they see are the risks and difficulties and often think it isn’t work the effort. Those with a growth mindset see difficulties as challenges they are willing to face and overcome.
People with a fixed mindset prevent their own development through their limiting beliefs that if they cannot do something they will never be able to do it and their fear of failure. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset work hard to grow, develop, and ultimately realize their potential to the fullest.
What factors determine whether a person has a growth or a fixed mindset?
Mindset development begins at birth. Babies and toddlers want to learn and develop as much as possible. They are anxious to grow up as soon as possible. They have a growth mindset. Their primary caregivers play a big role in determining whether they keep their growth mindset or not.
Parents with a growth mindset encourage their children to continue learning and developing, whereas those with a fixed mindset discourage their development and lower their expectations sending their children a message that they are not capable of improvement.
How to develop a growth mindset
You can change your mindset by learning and understanding that your characteristics and skills are not predetermined and that you can continue to grow over time.
Our mindset is often strongly influenced by caregivers, teachers, parents, or role models. However, even if our mindset was influenced by others it does not mean we cannot change it. Anyone can adopt a growth mindset if they are prepared to make changes. It isn’t easy to change your mindset, but it is possible. By confronting your own attitudes and ideas, you can develop a growth mindset. If you are prepared to work on developing a growth mindset, how do you do it?
Here are 12 ways to develop a growth mindset:
Make small changes
Even if you have a fixed mindset in most aspects of life you don’t have to change your entire mindset. You can work on adopting a growth perspective in certain situations as often as possible and slowly make changes to your mindset.
No matter what you do, focus on progress and not on perfection.
Look at your own improvements
Think about things you couldn’t do once and can do today or things you’re better at today. What did you do to improve? Thinking about these things shows you that improvement is possible if you are willing to put in the work.
Learn from your mistakes
When you make mistakes – and we all make mistakes – analyze them and learn from them. The idea is not to beat yourself up but to see what you can do next time you encounter a similar situation.
When you make mistakes be kind to yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend who had made a mistake. Encourage yourself as you would encourage them.
Look at challenges and obstacles as opportunities
Each time you are faced with a challenge try to see how you can make the best of it. When life gives you lemons try to turn them into lemonade. For example, if you lose your job, look at it as an opportunity to find a better job and not as a crisis you cannot recover from.
Study other people who have managed to improve
Dr. Dwek discussed an assignment she gives her students at a freshman seminar at Stanford each year. She asks them to do research on their hero. Most of the students assume their hero just catapulted to success because of their inborn talent. However, each time their research shows that their hero put in huge amounts of work and faced many obstacles on the way.
The power of yet
In a Ted talk, Carol Dwek talked about the Power of Yet. It started in a high school in Chicago where students had to pass 84 units to graduate. If they didn’t pass a unit they got the grade “not yet”. This was very motivating. Instead of failing, they hadn’t passed “yet”. Not yet means you are on a learning trajectory. You haven’t passed yet but you are on your way there. As a result, Dr. Dwek continued to research the word “yet” and showed that saying “not yet” after a wrong answer keeps up motivation and encourages persistence.
Instead of saying “I can’t do x”. Say, “I can’t do x yet”. This takes a very fixed-minded statement and turns it into a growth mindset statement.
- I cannot do [fill in] yet
- I am not [fill in] yet
If you are giving a child, student, or employee feedback, add the word “yet”.
Pay attention to your thoughts and the words you use
As mentioned above, simply adding “yet” to the things you say can help make a shift. However, you can make other changes as well.
Instead of saying:
- “I cannot do this” say “I will find a way to do it”.
- “He is criticizing me” say “I appreciate the feedback as it helps me learn and grow”.
- “I am not good at this” say “This is challenging but I know I can improve”.
This is also very important when dealing with kids. You have to be very careful about the words you use as they send messages that can work against your best intentions. Dr. Dwek gives an example of what happens when you say to a child they did something so quickly. They then think that if they didn’t do it quickly you wouldn’t be impressed. Dr. Dwek also discusses the importance of not categorizing kids as either smart or stupid. When you tell a child how smart they are you put them in a box or on a pedestal. They then work to deserve the pedestal and stay on it. They do that by only doing things they are good at or can succeed at.
Use feedback as a tool to improve
Those with a fixed mindset have difficulties hearing criticism or negative feedback. They see it as an insult. Instead, look at it as a tool to grow.
Focus more on the process than on the end result
Those with a fixed mindset are often more focused on the end result than on the process. If they think they cannot do something then they won’t even try. Try to focus on and enjoy the process. Recognize small wins even if you don’t achieve your final goal.
Don’t worry about how long something takes. It is more important to enjoy the process and learn from it than to get things done as quickly as possible.
Positive affirmations are positive statements repeated to challenge negative or limiting thoughts. When repeated often enough, they replace negative thoughts with more positive and motivating thoughts. See how to write positive affirmations.
Examples of positive affirmations to help develop a growth mindset:
- I am open to learning
- I embrace new challenges
- I learn from any mistake I make. Failure is just an opportunity for improvement.
- I improve when I practice
- I ask for help when I need it
- I can find a solution to any problem
- I grow by trying new things
- If others can do something then I can too
- I am willing to put in the effort to achieve my goals
- I strive for progress, not perfection
- I can learn anything
- My brain is like a muscle so I exercise it every day
- I appreciate feedback as it helps me learn and grow
- This is challenging but I know I can improve
We offer free printable positive affirmation cards that you can personalize and print.
Learn something new every day
Making an effort to learn something new every day. It is a great way to develop your growth mindset. This will show you how you can learn new skills and develop existing skills and talents.
Devote time to reflection
Many of our daily planners and weekly planners have a section for reflection. At the end of every day or week spend a few minutes reflecting. Write about what went well and what didn’t, how you can improve, etc.
The following daily planners have a section devoted to developing a growth mindset.
Growth Mindset Posters
With our free growth mindset poster maker, you can make free printable posters with motivating growth mindset quotes.
Select any border (there are hundreds available) and then select any of the growth mindset quotes.
Growth Mindset Journal
Free Printable Growth Mindset Journal
This free printable growth mindset journal has 20 pages and includes the following growth mindset journal prompts with space to journal about each prompt. The PDF is typeable so you can use it online or print it. You can also create a digital planner.
Growth Mindset Quotes
Here are some quotes about a growth mindset:
Talent isn’t passed down in the genes; its passed down in the mindset. Dr. Carol Dwek
Test scores and measures of achievement tell you where a student is, but they don’t tell you where a student could end up. Dr. Carol Dwek
Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training. Dr. Carol Dwek
It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s just that I stay with problems longer. Albert Einstein
Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Thomas Edison.
If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all. Michelangelo
All things are difficult before they are easy. Thomas Fuller.
Strive for progress not perfection.
You have not failed unless you quit trying.
Mistakes help me learn.
You can make free printable growth mindset posters with these quotes and other quotes.