For Managers


Growth vs. Fixed Mindset: Which is better and why?

Your mindset is the foundation of everything you do and achieve—both successes and failures. We’re diving deep into two mindsets, Growth and Fixed.


When we’re talking about mindset, we’re basically talking about the mental actions that go on between your ears. Your mindset is made up of your beliefs, perspectives, attitudes, and reactions to experiences as well as your feelings about the situations in your life, the people around you, and your past, present, and future circumstances. Consequently, your mindset can affect your actions and reactions, your successes and failures—both short- and long-term, and your behaviors. Your mindset is literally the key to anything you do or not accomplish. As Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can, or you can’t, you’re right.” 

Your mindset can be powerful for both good and bad, and sometimes, more than one mindset can be at work in your head at the same time depending on what’s going on in your life. Two types of mindsets that have become increasingly popular are a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset. The concept of growth and fixed mindsets was made popular by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., a world-renowned Stanford University psychologist, who wrote her groundbreaking book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, in 2006 with an updated version being released in 2016. 

What is a growth mindset? What is a fixed mindset? Dweck offers the following definitions for both mindsets:

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” 

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.” 

In her book, Dweck includes the following chart, which specifically outlines the differences between a growth and a fixed mindset. Based on the chart and Dweck’s definitions of fixed and growth mindsets, which mindset do you lean more towards? It’s important to know where you fall on the growth vs. fixed mindset spectrum so you can continue to cultivate a growth mindset—the mindset that can lead you to success and happiness.

Dweck, Carol. MINDSET : NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS. Random House, 2016. p. 263.

Companies like GE, Bloomberg, P&G, Apple, and Microsoft, as well as newer companies like Pinterest, Uber, Lyft, and Snapchat have embraced the growth mindset concept, and based on one study, those who have focused on creating and nurturing a company-wide growth mindset have seen encouraging results where employees are concerned:

  • 47% more invested in their work
  • 34% higher commitment to the company
  • 47% more trust in the company
  • 49% stronger belief that their company encourages innovation, which is essential to growth

When it comes to actual examples of people with these two types of mindsets, it might be surprising who makes each list:

Growth mindset: Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Fred Smith, Oprah Winfrey, Albert Einstein, J.K. Rowling, Abraham Lincoln

Learn more about the stories behind these growth-minded people here.

Fixed mindset: John McEnroe, Pedro Martinez, Lee Iacocca, Albert Dunlap, Steve Case and Jerry Levin

Learn more about the stories behind these fixed-minded people here.

While it’s almost impossible to have a 100% fixed or growth mindset, most people will fall somewhere on the growth vs. fixed mindset spectrum. Since being as far as possible on the growth mindset end of the spectrum is the goal, here are 12 actions you can take to nurture a growth mindset:

1. Understand and acknowledge where your mindset is right now. Where are you more growth-oriented? Where are you more fixed-oriented? Until you accept where you are, change is unlikely to happen.

2. Change your failure mindset. If you see failure as a negative, or as sign that you cannot do something, seek to view failure as a chance to learn—an education—and as an opportunity to develop new skills.

3. Set realistic goals that push you outside your comfort zone but still allow you to learn along the way to success. Take on new challenges, even though you probably will experience struggles along the way. Be curious. 

4. Pay attention to your self-talk. Do you speak to yourself with growth or fixed mindset talk? When struggles come, do you tell yourself you cannot do this thing? Or do you tell yourself you cannot do this thing...yet.? That one simple word, “yet,” can make all the difference.

5. Reflect often (preferably daily) on both successes and failures and what you learned from both. Then use that knowledge to learn from your struggles to help you to continue to cultivate your growth mindset. 

6. Celebrate and encourage the successes of others. A fixed mindset believes that others’ successes are a personal threat, whereas a growth mindset realizes there is room for everyone’s successes. Make it a point to congratulate those around you with the understanding that their success has no bearing on your success. There is plenty of success to go around.

7. Learn what triggers your fixed mindset thinking. Is it a new and difficult challenge? Failing at a task? Someone else’s success? Realizing you need to learn something new to be successful? Once you understand your triggers, you can proactively work to keep yourself in a growth mindset.

8. Enjoy the journey and value growth over speed of completion. It’s what you learn while you’re mastering a new skill that will breed success, not simply completing a task or project.

9. Embrace criticism as a tool for improvement, not as a testimony of your identity. Welcome and encourage feedback to gain a true picture of how you’re doing. Then use that feedback to fuel your continued growth and success.

10. Value your effort over your current skill or talent. We’re so used to hearing about our talents, which are fixed: “You’re a great writer...manager...musician...and so on.” Valuing your talents over your efforts and skills can become problematic when you falter while using a talent. But since your skills and efforts are not fixed, your continued success will come from your efforts and the skills you develop. 

11. Carefully consider alternate views and perspectives before engaging in conversations and projects. A fixed mindset person will want to jump in and prove the worth of themselves and their views and perspectives, while a growth minded person will appreciate and want to learn from others, even if others’ views and perspectives prove to be correct or more worthwhile.

12. Learn, learn, learn. And then learn some more. Realize that skills—and continually developing new skills—are more important than talent. Because let’s be honest: Talent can only take you so far.

Want to practice your growth mindset-building skills? Our new 12-week program, Manager Essentials, is a cross-company learning experience for new managers, and it includes connection, education, and frameworks and tools that can be utilized immediately. Learn more here. 

The mindset you choose to live in the majority of the time can make all the difference in all aspects of your life. As Dweck states...

“…as you begin to understand the fixed and growth mindsets, you will see exactly how one thing leads to another—how a belief that your qualities are carved in stone leads to a host of thoughts and actions, and how a belief that your qualities can be cultivated leads to a host of different thoughts and actions, taking you down an entirely different road.” ~Carol S. Dweck

A growth mindset not only benefits you, but those around you too. So, choose growth over fixed. Work to continually cultivate a growth mindset and encourage and help others to do the same so that all within your space can experience long-term success and happiness.

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