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The Difference Between a Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset

person enriching their mind

Have you ever caught yourself saying these phrases or something similar? 

“I’m bad with names”

“I can’t do math” 

“I can’t do that, it’s too hard” 

You might be stuck in a fixed mindset. Is this bad? Not necessarily, most people struggle with a fixed mindset from time to time. But this mindset might make you feel stuck in life and impede some important growth, which can affect your sense of self-worth and overall happiness. 

In this article, we will learn the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, and we will explore some ways we can start thinking with a growth mindset. 

What is a fixed mindset, what is a growth mindset?

Fixed Mindset: Our capabilities are inherited if we can’t do something, we are likely not cut out for it. With this mindset, individuals believe their skills, traits, talents are fixed, and cannot progress any further

Growth Mindset: Our capabilities are learned and earned through perseverance and work. If we can’t do something, it’s because we have not put in enough work to learn how to do it. With this mindset, individuals believe they are naturally skilled at many things, yes, but for all the skills that do not come natural to them, all they need is to work hard, and they will eventually get there. 

A good way to see the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset is to look at how you respond to failure.

When someone with a fixed mindset fails, they see it as a brick wall 

“I’ve failed, therefore I can’t do this” 

When someone with a growth mindset fails, they see it as an opportunity: 

“I have failed, therefore I should keep trying!”

If you think about it, we all started with a growth mindset. For example, look at babies and toddlers, they fail all the time! Have you ever seen a toddler walk or talk perfectly their first time? I sure haven’t.  Failure is necessary for growth.  

So we all started with a growth mindset, but somewhere down the line something changed, and now it’s fixed, which can cause some challenges. 

Next let’s look at some of those challenges.

Obstacles one might face with a fixed mindset

Here is a list of some issues and traits that can come with a fixed mindset 

Lower confidence

you might see all of these talented people around you and wonder why you are not as talented, which can give you a poor self-image.

Feelings of being “stuck”

it might feel like your life is stagnant, and you are not experiencing enough (because you are not). 

Feeling jealous and threatened by successful people

The longer you go on with a fixed mindset, the longer you will see the growth mindset people around you becoming more successful. This can bring up insecurities and jealousy, and even anger. 

Quick to quit

If you fail, you determine it’s “just not for you” and move on, but in reality if you had pushed further it could have been an amazing experience and new skill set. 

Threatened by feedback

If someone gives you constructive criticism, you may feel like they are attacking you rather than helping you. 

Fear of new experiences and fear of the unknown

Someone with a fixed mindset is hesitant to take on risks and will miss out on many wonderful experiences and opportunities because of it.

Disappointment in yourself

You might look back and feel unsatisfied with your lack of achievements and start to feel disappointed. 

As you can see, a fixed mindset can be very limiting. So how do we move back towards the growth mindset we all started with? Let’s find out!

How to turn a fixed mindset into a growth mindset

Surround yourself around positive and supportive people 

Do you know someone who minimizes your achievements? Maybe you hear that person’s voice in your head from time to time telling you that you’re not good enough. It might be time to talk to that person about how their words affect others, or even lessen contact with them. Instead, surround yourself with people that push you to keep going and trying!

Watch your own self-talk

Possibly the person minimizing your achievements is you. Your mindset starts with your internal voice. Before trying something new, do you have a voice that talks you out of it? “That’s too hard”, “It will take too long to learn”, “I can’t do this” If so, good news! That voice is a choice, you do not have to tell yourself those fixed mindset phrases. 

Next time your mind says a fixed mindset phrase, you can talk back to it with a growth mindset phrase. If you keep at it, eventually your mind will start saying a growth mindset phrase rather than a fixed one to begin with.

“That’s too hard” = “That’s because I have not practised enough”

“It will take too long to learn” = “So I better start now!”

“I can’t do this” = “I have not learned this yet, but let’s start “

Throw yourself into the deep-end

 Sometimes all you need to do to get your growth mindset back is to put yourself into a learning environment. Take a class! No, you don’t need to go back to university, just sign up for a small class, a couple of hours a week. Something you always wanted to learn but didn’t think you were a “natural” at it. Remember to ask for help from your instructor and to take any feedback as an opportunity instead of an attack. 

Notice how you define other people’s achievements

When you notice someone is highly skilled at something, do you think “wow they are so talented!” ? 

This is a fixed mindset phrase because “talent” refers to natural skill. So if you think a highly skilled person is naturally skilled instead of acquired skilled, then you might be pushing yourself into a fixed mindset corner. Instead of thinking someone is talented, think “wow they must’ve worked hard to get there”. 

Break the big task into smaller tasks

A common reason why people give up is because they look at the task and see it as a huge mountain they have to climb. Break the big task into smaller tasks and focus on each small task like it is its own little project

Focus on the Process, Not the Result 

This is sort of related to the previous tip. But basically, try to focus on the process itself. If you keep focusing on the result, you will worry that “it will take too long” “there’s so much to do still” etc, which can lead to quitting behaviour. 

Don’t compare yourself to others

 I know, this one is hard. Especially with social media highlighting everyone’s achievements. But guess what? People generally only show their best self on social media and rarely show their failures, struggles, and hard times. They also don’t always show the process it takes to get to where they are. Comparing yourself to what others show you is bound to make you feel worse about yourself. 

And remember, you do not need to be the best. If you see someone better at a particular task, don’t sweat it! Congratulate them, look to them for inspiration, but don’t use it as an excuse to quit.

Talk with a professional 

If you have the resources, it could be worth it to seek out counselling and therapy. Therapists are trained to help you get unstuck. So if you are trying your best but still feel stuck, look into receiving a helping hand.  

Fail!

People excel because they fail, if you want to do or learn something, start doing the thing and fail along the way. Don’t be perfect, don’t be afraid to fail in front of others, just enjoy the ride and see where it takes you! 

Conclusion

We are all naturally good at something, but for all of those things we are not naturally good at, we can improve on with some determination and work. 

Just remember, change is not instant. It takes time, work, and failure, and that’s okay! Just keep going, don’t be hard on yourself, and make sure to  give yourself breaks. 

Happy learning and growing. 

Want to learn something new? Have a look at the wide array of courses we offer here at Vancouver Island Works Project. We provide small classes and one on one instruction. Call us today, we are here to help you grow!

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