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The Difference Between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset

Published on June 16 2017 by
Naveed Ahsan
Marketing Intern

We all have the ability to exceed our expectations but most of us come up short. This isn’t simply because the rare few possesses a certain amount of natural ability that the rest do not have. Studies have, in fact revealed, that the reason some fulfill their potential rather than others cannot be reduced to what we were or were not born with, but something far more controllable- our mindset. 


In Carol Dweck’s Mindset, she writes that a growth mindset is “based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts,” whereas a fixed mindset is the “belief that your qualities are carved in stone”. The former believes that a person’s potential is unknown and can, therefore, be only cultivated through disciplined practice over one’s craft and the latter believes that our position in life has already been determined by the level of intelligence, personality or moral character we’ve inherited. 


Dweck goes deeper into her findings by offering several examples of high achieving figures from all areas of disciplines. She recounts how Jackson Pollack, did not show native artistic talent, according to most experts, yet revolutionized American painting with his innovative technique. Michael Jordan, she continued, was cut from his high school basketball yet evolved into arguably the greatest basketball player to have ever graced the court. The common strain among the vast list of accomplished artists, entrepreneurs, and thinkers that Dweck presented was their constant devotion to their craft. They seek out models they want to emulate and they don’t prioritize fame or material success over personal mastery. They inevitably hit roadblocks, as all of us do, but they continue to push forward by looking frankly at their own mistakes to determine how they can improve and avoid repeating the same mistake in the future. 


Fixed mindset people, on the other hand, believe that there are some who are destined for great success and there are others destined for mediocrity. Essentially, they deem themselves to be the smartest guy/girl in the room. Dweck gives the example of Albert Dunlap, the former CEO of Sunbeam, who rose the company stock price extremely high by laying off twelve thousand employees and closing or selling two-thirds of the company’s plants, after taking over the electric home appliance company in 1996. Eventually, Sunbeam was too much for Dunlap to handle and in amidst his dire straits, left after two short years with the company in under investigation for a $1.7 billion bank loan expected in technical default. Those with growth mindsets do not have unlimited faith in their talents, are not obsessed with self-importance and strive to use their potential as a vehicle to grow not just for their sakes, but for others too.


I’ll end this article with a quote once more by Professor Dweck: “The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hall mark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”


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