Fixed mindset versus growth mindset: you are what you think

Fixed mindset versus growth mindset: you are what you think

Published 10 October, 2018

“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.” (Dweck, 2006)

Research shows that moving mindsets can change the way you study; in fact, having a fixed mindset versus growth mindset can make all the difference not just to your study habits, but your career and attitude in life.

Carol Dweck’s mindsets theory is covered in detail in our elective MBA subject, Business Psychology, Coaching and Mentoring at KBS. It’s important that as current and future industry professional leaders, students understand how different internal monologues can determine our response to situations in the workforce and the strategies we employ, as well as the impact on performance and success.

So, what does it mean to have a fixed or growth mindset?


In 2006, Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, published her research on what she terms ‘fixed and growth mindsets’ in a book that took the world by storm and continues to resonate in the field of education and business psychology.


Dweck’s theory states that when it comes to self-perception, we all unwittingly fall into one of two mindsets:

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 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.

Although people can have tendencies to one or the other, some have a little bit of both going on. It’s important to be able to identify your fixed mindset thoughts so that you can leave them behind.


Take this little quiz to test your style of thinking:


Think about every time you haven’t attempted something because you thought, ‘I wasn’t born with that talent.’ Or every time you’ve feared a challenge or called yourself a failure when you didn’t understand a concept in class.

While we generally know that it’s possible to learn and grow (or else, why study at all?), we also harbour our own doubts about our ability to extend our ‘natural talents’.

Dweck tells us simply, that this ‘fixed mindset’ assumption is wrong. Except for a few cases of genius, her research shows that humans are capable of developing a broad range of talents and abilities through practice. In fact, it has almost nothing to do with any ‘natural talent’ at all.

By shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset, we can liberate ourselves from the idea that our identity is tied to our ‘natural talents’.

Instead, you have the power to extend your capabilities. You are no longer sensitive to criticism, but instead, open to feedback. You have greater resilience and are able to better embrace a challenge. In short, you start on the path towards lifelong learning. Shifting this mindset has been demonstrated to affect many different aspects of life, from relationships to your approach to study and your career. Above all, it’s the mindset adopted by people who go on to succeed in their pursuits.



Learn to identify (and ignore) your fixed mindset voice
A mindset is a story you tell yourself, about yourself. “I can’t do that, because…” Learn to notice when you’re doing it, and then you can ignore it or move on.


Start to think differently about mistakes
Mistakes are how we learn. If you’re not making them, you’re not learning. With a growth mindset, your identity and value aren’t tied to your ‘abilities’. Don’t let yourself be deterred by mistakes, and don’t see them as evidence that you can’t do something. Rise to the challenge and try again.


Be proactive about changing the way you think
There are so many online resources available to help you start to better understand how you think and what impact it might be having on your study, career and life. For KBS students, Careers Central and Academic Success Centre are on campus services dedicated to ensuring students have the tools and skills necessary for a successful study experience and career. This includes one-on-one coaching, focusing on skills such as building up confidence and study techniques that will help you excel.


Be curious and try new things
If you’re not afraid of failure or embarrassment, you’re free to try things you might have felt self-conscious about before. Start a course. Go and be vulnerable in front of strangers. Follow your passion to start your own business. Sure, you’ll meet obstacles, but otherwise, how will you learn?


Here are a few quotes to keep you on your path towards a growth mindset. Print them out, stick them on the wall near your study desk and reflect on them in moments when you get trapped in the cycle of fixed thinking.

To explore more interesting subjects covered in our MBA you can explore our course structures here.

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