What is a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset? And why should I embrace a growth mindset?


In month three of my second rotation at Boeing, I was
drowning in excel and data
. I was flustered, stressed, and worked my way down a
steep learning curve. But I turned to my manager, my team and myself to learn how to use excel. 

In month six, I came down the steep learning curve. I completed my overtime charts project. I
learned how to pull data from several different sources to produce weekly/monthly overtime
charts and transformed them into automated charts. I realized after this
rotation that I could do any job I put my time and effort into.

I realized now that I was practicing a growth mindset.

What is a growth mindset? What is a fixed mindset?

According to Carol Dweck’s (She is a professor in psychology
at Stanford) article in Harvard Business Review, a growth mindset is when
individuals believe their talents and intelligence can be developed through
good strategies, hard work, and feedback from others.

Those with a growth
mindset are…

 motivated to master new skills and gain feedback about their work.
She or he may not be as afraid of failure as someone with a fixed mindset. If you want to watch and learn more about a growth mindset, here is Carol Dweck’s TED Talk: The Power of Believing that You Can Improve.

Those with a fixed mindset believe….
that talents and
intelligence are set. These individuals believe that talents create success,
not so much effort. These individuals may see those around them as either smart
or dumb. People with fixed mindsets may also be motivated to receive
validation. They may avoid failure because losing or underperforming weakens
his or her confidence. 

Why does your mindset matter?
It’s important to think about what mindset you are currently
at because
your mindset can help determine your actions or lack of actions in your
education, career, relationships, and personal success.
Those who tend
to lean to a fixed mindset may rationalize failure. Those who tend to lean to a
growth mindset may develop a resilience and love of learning.


Why should you
embrace a Growth Mindset?

Whether you’re teaching a classroom or leading an
organization, empowering yourself and others to embrace a growth mindset leads
to students and employees feeling more empowered and committed.

Those who
embrace a growth mindset will learn more, learn faster, and see their failures
as opportunities to develop.

4 Ways to Embrace a Growth Mindset:

1. Praise the Process of Learning

Instead of hurrying to get to the end goal, embrace the
process or the journey to get there. Reward yourself when you put in the right
effort and continue to persevere to get to your goals. Remind yourself that
your level of intelligence is not set. If you believe your brain, attitude, and
intelligence can grow, you will grow and behave differently. 

2. Change “Never” to “Not Yet”

Carol Dweck shared in her TED talk that students with a
fixed mindset responded to challenges in absolute terms, like “never” and ended
up giving up. When another group of students faced challenges, they saw their
situation with a “not yet” mindset. They determined that even though they were
not able to solve the problem in that instance, they would be able to solve it
later with practice and experience.

Work to remove “never” from your mindset and replace it with
“not yet”. If you are learning a new
job or a new sport, don’t give up, be patient with yourself, and practice. You
may not be to your end goal yet, but you’ll get there.

3. No one exclusively has a Growth Mindset or a Fixed Mindset –
we are all a mix of both.

Depending where we are at in our lives and the situation, we
may be more fixed in our mindsets or more open to a growth mindset. Fixed
mindsets may emerge when we are put into a new role or situation where we feel
uncomfortable, want to quit, but know it may be good for us in the long run.

Growth mindsets may emerge when we are finally learning a
new hobby or skill we’ve been wanting to try for a long time. For instance, I
wanted to learn how to partner stunt my freshman year of college. I know I
wasn’t very good the first 6 months but I know I could learn the skill after a

Just being aware that we are all a mix of both mindsets will help you recognize when you are practicing a growth mindset or feeling stuck in a fixed mindset.


4. Don’t be Afraid to Fail

One way to address a fear of failure is to accept and acknowledge
that failure may happen. Even if you do experience failure, remember that failure is not tied to your value as a human

One of the benefits of failures that it leads to learning. It allows you to get a better idea
of what you should be doing next and how you should really be spending your
time. If you need some tips or reasons on why you should take the time in your life, especially when it comes to failure, here is a previous post: 5 Reasons to Reflect.

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Have you ever had a fixed mindset? Or have you ever embraced a growth mindset?

Thank you for reading!


Photos: Miriam Subbiah