In-Depth Insights

1. Your Abilities Are Set In Stone With The Fixed Mindset

If you have a fixed mindset, you think that people are either born intelligent or stupid, that talent comes naturally or not at all. You will think that you are only good at the things you have a natural talent for and that those things you aren’t good at, you’ll never be good at - the phrase ‘practice makes perfect’ not applying to people with a fixed mindset. 

This fixed mindset has you believing that you cannot learn and improve through life and you’re likely quick to judge yourself and others at being good or bad at something, feeling a need to show off in the areas where you are smart and talented whilst seek approval to confirm that you’re as great at whatever it is you think you are. However, as soon as you make 1 mistake, you brand yourself an incompetent fool with others who make mistakes falling into the same shaming boat.

It’s not just individuals who think this way, the HR departments of big companies including Enron and McKinsey actively scout out graduates who are so-called naturals, believing that they have the natural ability to instantly boost company performance without the need for much, if any, training in their new job role. Their managers are always evaluating the graduates, wondering if they lack the talent they thought they had when they don’t perform as expected, and readily fire those who don’t live up to their expectations believing that if they don’t already know it, there’s no hope for the future.

2. If You Have The Growth Mindset You Can Grow & Develop

When children have the growth mindset there is no limit to what they can learn and achieve in life so long as they work hard, are dedicated, and persevere when challenges arise.  When they are given a hard math problem to solve at school, they relish the challenge and want to do more math problems at home as they realize that the more math problems they solve, the more they learn.

Kids with the growth mindset don’t necessarily get the highest grades and may not be the smartest kid in their class but they enjoy the satisfaction of pushing themselves to the limits of their own growth potential. They practice relentlessly at a specific task that doesn’t come naturally to them, aware that practice makes perfect and it’s only with hard work and dedication that they will improve their skills, secure enough to know that occasionally failing is the only way to get better.

As adults, people with the growth mindset like to learn from the best in their field and will look at past successful strategies and think about how they can make them even better since there’s always room for improvement. They are always seeking to improve themselves and their relationships and welcome feedback and honest opinions at work, even welcoming problems, seeing them as a challenge to overcome rather than an obstacle.

3. Do You Seek Approval or Development?

People with a fixed mindset seek approval whilst people with a growth mindset seek development. You’ll classify things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ if you have a fixed mindset with no middle ground. 

When Chrysler Motors was about to collapse, a new CEO, Lee Iacocca stepped in and bought the company back to life through his ability to make fast decisions and hire good employees. However, after his initial success, he started to relax and his behavior changed with his fixed mindset suddenly shining through. He was now flaunting his achievement, putting more energy into seeking approval from others than managing the company’s welfare.

In contrast, Lou Gerstner took over as CEO of IBM in its hour of need. He discovered a fixed mindset work environment in which employees were doing what was best for them and not the company. The focus was on internal arguments instead of teamwork and customer service. To fix this, Lou re-shuffled the company’s hierarchies, rewarding those who supported their co-workers whilst putting himself on the same level as his employees so that everyone felt able to talk to him. Lou had a growth mindset which enabled him to create lasting success through creating a new work environment based on teamwork, trust, and shared development.

4. Do You Avoid Difficult Situations Or Relish Them?

People with a growth mindset relish difficulties, able to see the opportunities for growth (even if they fail), whilst people with a fixed mindset think that they’re gifted enough so don’t need to try - they avoid difficult situations at all costs, seeing only the risks and the fact that even if they put all of their time and energy into fixing and overcoming the situation, they still might fail (and look/feel like a loser) in which case there’s no point in trying. This means that people with a fixed mindset cannot improve themselves without questioning their talent.

By the age of ten, violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg was critically acclaimed but by the age of 18 she couldn’t hold her violin correctly. Nadja’s fear of failure, thanks to her fixed mindset, was so strong that she stopped playing violin altogether. On the opposite end of the scale, actor Christopher Reeve had such a strong growth mindset that he was able to move his hands, legs, and upper body after being told that he would be completely paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of his life after his accident. His growth mindset allowed him to make the impossible possible.

5. Our Mindset Is Influenced By The Role Models We Had As Children

When you were born you had a growth mindset as all babies want to grow and learn, but your parents along with your teachers shaped whether you kept your growth mindset or developed a fixed mindset as you grew older. 

Kids with parents who have a growth mindset would have been urged to continue learning and growing every single day whilst parents with a fixed mindset would judge their child, telling them right from wrong and what was good and what was bad. Likewise, some teachers believe in nurturing students to be and do their best, secure in the knowledge that everyone can learn anything with enough patience, practice, and understanding whilst teachers with the fixed mindset believe their student’s performance at school is unchangeable. The good teachers find alternative ways for their students who might be struggling to learn something whilst the bad teacher gives up thinking if they can’t learn the same way as their classmates there’s no hope for them. The weaker students who are not nurtured develop a fixed mindset believing themselves to be stupid with no hope of ever being like one of the clever kids.

6. Anyone Can Adopt A Growth Mindset 

Your brain is just another muscle in your body but it has to be trained to work how you want it to work - If you realize you currently have a fixed mindset but want the growth mindset, train yourself to be that way!

When a wet plate or glass slips out of your hand and smashes to the floor don’t say (whether in your head or out loud) “I’m so stupid!” as you’re reinforcing your fixed mindset. Be conscious of how you speak to yourself and the next time something like that happens adopt a growth mindset by saying “Oh well, these things happen.”

When working on your growth mindset, reach out to people who have a similar mindset for support so that you can discuss your faults and how to overcome them whilst also taking their advice for making viable plans and goals for your future. You don’t need to give up your fixed mindset altogether, you may feel fine with the fact that you’re no artist however, this doesn’t mean that you can’t learn the piano, get a promotion at work, or turn your relationship around - Learn to apply the growth mindset in the situations that make sense for you.

It’s not easy to go from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset as it’s this that has protected you from failure over years whilst also boosting your self-confidence in the areas you are talented in but it’s not impossible… Think of Christopher Reeve and Michael Jordan and remember that the impossible is always, always possible no matter what you’re trying to achieve.

The above is inspired from the bestselling book "Mindset" by Carol Dweck

Exercises | Workbook


Apply What You Read

* With Elevate Uni’s All-Access Pass you can get unlimited access to a growing collection of study guides, courses and actionable resources from the best minds in leadership, business and personal growth. Each resource includes not only in-depth insights but also self exploration exercises, reflective questions and action points so you integrate what you learn.