Fixed Versus Growth Mindsets

The hero stories that inspire us the most are about the people who overcome challenges. The athletes who were told they would never walk, and break speed records for their marathon time. The artists born without arms, making masterpieces with their mouths and feet. The champions who keep trying and achieving, even when external forces tell them to give up.

Those that overcome have what Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset. A growth mindset is one that values learning, effort, and mistakes. This is counter to what Dweck calls a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset assumes that the attributes and traits that we have are static and stable, and effort and challenge is pointless, because abilities can’t change.

MindsetThe animated video (watch for the Harry Potter and Star Wars references!) beautifully illustrates some of Dweck’s research and studies, and can help parents start shaping their own mindsets, and that of their children, to more of a growth mindset. Compliments like “You really worked hard!” or “I like how you learned from your mistakes on that worksheet” can foster learning and growth mindsets more than “You are so smart” or “You are so talented.”

Mindsets are hard to shift and shape, and like all new habits, shifting to growth oriented mindsets take practice and rehearsal. Self-talk can help make this technique more automatic. When you forget your keys, this isn’t a “I’m so dumb” or “I’m so forgetful” moment, but rather “How can I learn from this mistake to streamline and organize my belongings?” Changing your own mindset to one of growth can translate into the compliments that are paid to the developing minds in your life.

For more information, check out Carol Dweck’s book.