What do you feel that you deserve in life? What are your beliefs about what’s possible for you? Most of what you’re capable of in life is determined by your attitude towards yourself and towards your potential. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck discusses the difference between the ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindsets in her work ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’.
When you believe that your personality is set, that you cannot change, you have what is considered a ‘fixed’ mindset. A person with a ‘fixed’ mindset feels that all of their potential is predetermined and that their intelligence, creativity, character, and personality traits are all static and will never change. Those with a fixed mindset believe that they should strive for success and avoid failures by all means possible because failures affirm that they are not skilled or smart.
When you believe that your personality is flexible, that you are always changing, and that who you are is an ever-evolving picture, you have what is considered a ‘growth’ mindset. People with a ‘growth’ mind-set believe that they thrive on the challenges and struggles in life and see these as opportunities to grow. Those with a growth mindset don’t see failure as the end of trying to achieve something, but as an impetus to try harder and reapply our skills in new ways.
These two mindsets determine the way we behave in the world. When we approach things from a growth mindset we will try harder, get up and try again after failures, and generally be more resilient. A fixed mindset results in behaviours such as playing it safe and not sticking your neck out for new opportunities because of the risk of failure, avoiding criticism, and settling for what’s “good enough” rather than what we might be fully capable of if we extended ourselves.
So the view that you adopt about yourself fundamentally affects your life on all levels. It affects the jobs you take, the risks you take, whether you’re willing to try something new, your belief in what your potential is, what you’re capable of, and the type of person you want to be, and whether you apply yourself to achieving things you value as compared to things that seem achievable.
When you have a fixed mindset, there is no room for experimentation and learning through error because those things mean that you fall on the negative side of the self-judgement spectrum.
When you have a growth mindset your life becomes a garden that you can nurture. Just as a gardener wouldn’t say, “I can’t grow tomatoes” because of one bad growing season, those with a growth mindset can see that failures and setbacks do not mean that they have failed. They see each experience, each life experiment, each opportunity as a means for growth and development. They always believe that they can get better and that every piece of them can be honed, developed, and nurtured.
Those with a growth mindset nurture a passion for growth and learning. Deliberate practice and effort can result in greater and greater achievement. And that life is not pre-determined by a certain set of standards set at birth but instead by how much you’re willing to apply yourself and put yourself out there. This results in a sense of determination and persistence towards goals that are not stymied by the first setback.