Psychologist Carol Dweck has found that some people have a growth mindset, whereas other people have a fixed mindset.
A growth mindset means you believe your personality, abilities, and skills are malleable. They can change over time. If you aren’t good at something right now, it doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever. You have the potential to grow and change over time.
A fixed mindset, on the other hand, means you believe your personality, abilities, and skills are pre-set. They don’t really change that much over time. If you aren’t good at something right now, it means you won’t be good at it five or ten years from now. Your ability to grow and change over time is limited.
A Growth Mindset is More Effective
It’s not surprising that having a growth mindset is better for you. The reality is that for most things in life, there is a set of steps you can engage in to improve. This is true whether you want to learn how to shoot a basketball, play the violin, or get better at public speaking.
Change is Hard
The problem is that engaging in any sort of improvement program is hard work. And if you have a fixed mindset, you don’t really believe it will do any good anyways. So, you tend not to even try, which leads to very little growth and change, which leads to getting entrenched in a fixed mindset.
Getting Better at Pull-Ups
I was aware of this difference in mindset the other day at the gym. My wife was complaining that she wasn’t getting any better at pull-ups. I reminded her that she hadn’t been practicing them. She nodded halfheartedly, as if she believed engaging in a pull-up improvement program wouldn’t do any good.
My wife was stuck in a fixed mindset. And it was related to her experiences growing up. For her, most things tended to come easy for her. She was good in school, and played basketball in college. She believed she was either good at something… or she wasn’t. Over time, a fixed mindset came to dominate her experience.
My experience growing up was different. I was overweight most of my growing up years, and bad at sports. At some point in high school, I got really motivated to get in shape, and was able to do it. I experienced firsthand that if I worked at something long enough, I was able to make a change. I started to buy into the growth mindset. Even today, if I’m struggling with something, I have this thought in the back of my mind that I can do something to change my situation.
3 Steps to Develop a Growth Mindset
If you find yourself stuck in a fixed mindset, here are 3 tips to make a shift toward a growth mindset:
- Get a coach. For anything you want to improve, there is usually a tried-and-true method for improvement. You don’t have to figure out the path by yourself. Get a coach or counselor who can help you put together a plan for improvement.
- Start small. Sometimes people make the mistake of taking a huge first step. They bite off more than they can chew. Then they get frustrated and quit, which further entrenches the fixed mindset. Instead, start small. Start very small, with something you know you can do.
- Give it time. Any change or improvement takes time. I remember when I first started running, I didn’t see any change in my body over the first month. I felt discouraged, worried I was never going to see any results. When you get to this point, you have to stick with it. People can change, but change happens slowly. Sometimes it’s hard to even notice it. Give it at least six months.
What is one thing you are struggling to change or improve in your life? Do you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset? What is one step you could take toward developing a growth mindset?