Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

One of the emphases this year at my children’s school is cultivating a growth mindset in the students, which is “the tendency to believe that you can grow”. A growth mindset stands in stark contrast to a “fixed mindset” which assumes “our character, intelligence and creative ability are static given which we can’t change in any meaningful way”.

These concepts were coined by and are based on research by Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, and her colleagues when more than 30 years ago they began to research student attitudes about failure, noting that while some students were resilient in the face of failure, others were devastated by even small setbacks. She argues that for students who have a growth mindset “the meaning of effort and difficulty are transformed” and that they see effort and difficulty actually leading them to learn and get smarter. Based on her research, Dr. Dweck argues that these mindsets play a crucial role in all areas of a person’s life and that a growth mindset will allow a person to live a life that is less stressful and more successful.

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Below are some of the characteristics of each mindset taken from an article on Stanford University’s Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute website:

How Each Mindset Responds to:
Fixed Mind-Set –
Intelligence is Static
Growth Mind-Set –
Intelligence can be Developed
Avoids challenges
Embraces challenges
Gives up easily
Persists in the face of setbacks
Sees effort as fruitless or worse
Sees effort as the path to mastery
Ignores useful negative feedback
Learns from criticism
Success of Others
Feels threatened by the success of others
Finds lessons and inspiration in the success of others

I love this concept and find it incredibly relevant in both my professional and my personal life. William Craig, a contributor on, also argues that a growth mindset is an advantageous trait for business leaders. He notes the following advantages in his article, Growth Mindset: What It Is and Why It Makes Better Leaders:

  • A growth mindset helps us learn from setbacks – Rather than getting pulled down by failures and shortcomings, these individuals examine what they can learn from these experiences.
  • It makes it easier to avoid disruptions – Craig argues that the fixed mindset individual is prone to rely too heavily on talent and a belief that it is possible to get by without the necessary commitment, whereas growth mindset leaders “who know that productive effort translates to success usually find it easier to avoid workplace drama or other situations that could compromise output.”
  • Having a growth mindset makes you look for new opportunities – A growth mindset will help you to seize opportunities more for your business as well as look for opportunities to pursue growth for yourself.
  • You’ll be more inspired by others while in a growth mindset – Rather than feeling like you have to compete with others, a growth mindset helps facilitate appreciation of others for their strengths and collaboration as you see that everyone brings unique skills and gifts to the team.

As you might have noticed from my previous blogs, I often find reflection questions helpful if I’m actually going to consider new concepts and whether I want to implement them…so here they are:

  • How do I respond to challenges, obstacles, effort, criticism, and the success of others? Would I say I generally have a fixed or growth mindset?
  • How do I cultivate a growth mindset in my professional life?
  • How do I help my employees to cultivate a growth mindset in their lives?

So, what mindset will you choose to cultivate today?

About the Author
Hilary Tricerri is a consultant with Morrison, working primarily in our Grants practice. To get in touch with Hilary, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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