A tale of two mindsets: Growth vs. fixed mindset

We’ve all experienced the dread that comes from feeling like you’ve failed at a task. Many of us are familiar with the voice that whispers, ‘You’re not good enough’. Why is this? Why do we feel so deterred by failure? 

The answer is often your mindset. A mindset is the deep-seated beliefs that you hold about yourself and your journey through life in its varying spheres; business, family, life, work, etc. 

One way to categorize mindsets is by splitting them into ‘growth’ and ‘fixed’ mindsets.  

What is a fixed mindset?

As it suggests, a fixed mindset is set and inflexible. You believe that you are programmed to be what you are, and that effort is meaningless. This mindset treats the ability to accept a situation at face value as a virtue rather than a learning opportunity. People with a fixed mindset prefer to be perceived as good, clean, patient, humble, and gentle rather than ambitious, enduring, or fighters. This is where the ‘You’re not good enough’ voice comes from. 

What is a growth mindset?

Conversely, a growth mindset holds space for improvement and evolution. You believe that who you are today isn’t necessarily who you will be in the future; that – if positive inputs like effort, learning, and ambition are applied – you can reach your full potential. People with a growth mindset rarely accept defeat and instead treat ‘failure’ as an opportunity to learn and do better next time. 

Studies on growth vs. fixed mindsets show that the two deliver very different outcomes… 

Who is behind these theories? 

Carol Dweck, the author of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, is behind the growth vs. fixed mindset theory. She has devoted herself to studying human motivation and spends her days delving into why some people succeed while others don’t. 

Her theory of how these two mindsets produce different outcomes is rather compelling. She describes mindsets as a collection of beliefs that people use to structure themselves and guide their behavior. Challenges, obstacles, effort, criticism, and success of others – any external stimulus – are therefore received differently depending on what mindset you’re in. 

In a fixed mindset, challenges will likely be avoided, obstacles can defeat you, the effort is pointless, and the success of others feels threatening. In a growth mindset, it’s the opposite. Challenges are embraced, there is persistence in the face of adversity and setbacks, the effort is treated as a path to mastery and betterment, criticism is an opportunity to learn and correct, and the success of others provides lessons and inspiration.

Developing a growth mindset

At One TEAM, we believe that awareness precedes choice. So, the critical first step is to ask yourself whether you currently have a fixed or growth mindset. If you have a fixed mindset or elements of it, don’t get down about it. That’s a fixed mindset thing to do! 

You’re now on a path to developing a growth mindset, which means taking perceived ‘failures’ as an opportunity to learn.

The good news is, developing a growth mindset is entirely possible. And it can drive you towards your goals and dreams, whether that’s a promotion at work, learning a new language, or something else!

One way Dweck suggests a growth mindset can develop is through ‘The Power of Yet’. When a perceived failure occurs, instead of thinking of it as a failure, think of it as ‘I haven’t passed YET’. 

The ‘not passed yet’ mentality invites positive energy to try again and again until success is attained. 

Encouraging a growth mindset in the workplace

A growth mindset in the workplace is highly encouraged as it results in a culture based on work ethic, positivity, and resilience. 

Someone with a growth mindset does not settle or sit pretty; they continuously explore new horizons and push outside of their comfort zone. More often than not, this results in rewards for the business. 

In one of Dweck’s studies, her team analyzed students’ brain activity while reviewing mistakes they made on a test. Those with a fixed mindset showed no brain activity when reviewing the mistakes, whereas the brains of those with a growth mindset showed processing activity as mistakes were being reviewed.

To help a growth mindset develop in teams, Dweck advises leaders not to praise intelligence, talent, or super skills but rather work ethic, intelligence, wisdom, talent, and skillfulness.

At One TEAM, we work on the basis that if your people are thriving (if they’re in the best possible mindset), they’ll deliver better, faster, more impactful results. Sound like something you could use support in? Whether you are in preparation for a big change or simply looking to improve your current output – we can help. Click the “Book a consultation” button below for a no-strings-attached chat about the best way forward.


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