An introduction to Fixed and Growth Mindset

Leanne Kack
Posted on Sep 03, 2021

What is Mindset?

Mindset matters! Natural ability is important, but what you do with that natural talent matters more. Someone’s mindset can ultimately determine their potential because learning fosters continual development, while talent without the desire to learn can restrict growth.

So what is Mindset?Mindset encapsulates the way people think about themselves, it is their self-perceptions.

An American psychologist, Dr. Carol Dweck, identified two types of mindsets: Fixed and Growth. People who possess a Growth Mindset see intelligence and general ability as something that can be continually developed, therefore they are constantly seeking out new learning opportunities. On the other hand, people who have a Fixed Mindset see intelligence and general competence as a fixed trait that people either have or do not have.  These beliefs consequently impact self perceptions of personal intelligence and general ability, which can impact how people approach different situations and respond to set-backs. For instance, people who have a growth mindset believe they can continually improve, so they tend to welcome tasks that challenge them and they focus on the growth that comes from set-backs instead of the shortcomings. While people who have a fixed mindset are fearful of appearing unintelligent, they tend to avoid tasks that challenge them and react negatively to set-backs and failure.

Why is Growth Mindset Important?

An individual’s Mindset can have important implications to personal development and workplace culture. Mindset can determine how people respond to set-backs, view challenges, and interact with one another. People with Growth Mindset see set-backs as opportunities to learn and improve, therefore they are more willing to challenge themselves and put effort into difficult tasks. However, people with Fixed Mindsets do not value allocating effort to difficult tasks because they feel effort is an indicator of not being naturally smart. Consequently they tend to stunt their development by giving up in the face of adversity and shying away from challenges.

Fixed Mindset can also impact personal interactions by creating a competitive environment. When people think their intelligence and general abilities are fixed traits they have a tendency to try and defend their perceived level of competence and protect themselves against others who they feel can threaten their status. This can therefore result in an environment where people compare themselves to one another, put other people down, lie, and cheat for the purpose of protecting their perceived status.

Are you stuck with a certain Mindset? Do people either have a Fixed or Growth Mindset?

However, Fixed Mindset is not all that bad! In reality, we are all a mix of both growth and fixed mindsets, and our mindset composition changes overtime. There is no such thing as a pure growth mindset for people who tend to have fixed mindset triggers. For example, have you ever gotten super defensive when receiving feedback? Performance feedback can sometimes be perceived as threatening because it suggests that you are not good enough, which would make it a fixed mindset trigger. Even if you feel you predominately have a Growth Mindset, most people have some sort of fixed mindset triggers that spark defensiveness.   It is therefore important for you to recognize your Fixed Mindset triggers so they do not get the best of you. You can do so by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What causes you to get defensive?
  • What do you feel threatened by?
  • What makes failure difficult for you?
  • What’s the fear behind it?
  • How do you respond to the anticipation of completing a challenging task? Feel free to name an emotion, a physical sensation, a memory or anything.
  • What do you avoid out of fear of looking silly, incompetent, and/or unintelligent? 
  • How do these fixed mindset triggers impact you? 
  • How do they impact the people around you?

With greater awareness of your Fixed Mindset triggers you can start to gain control of how you respond to them, allowing you to reap the benefits of a Growth Mindset. Leanne Kack: Leanne Kack is an Employee Engagement Consultant, Coach, and Researcher, who helps organizations reach their full potential.

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Leanne Kack is highly experienced with change management, team development, and employee engagement and she has used her experience to help organizations strengthen their team dynamics and development. Leanne works closely with employees and leadership teams by providing coaching and training services that assist in the development of workspaces that promote personal and professional growth. She is also heavily involved in conducting performance evaluations and designing workshop content in accordance to needs assessments. Leanne holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Biology from Queen’s University, a Master’s in Sport and Performance Psychology from Florida State University, and a Master’s in Organizational Behaviour from Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. Leanne also holds a Professional Coaching Certificate from Adler Graduate Professional School and received a certification in Applied Mindfulness Meditation from the University of Toronto