Do You Have a Growth or a Fixed Mindset?

Research begun by Carol Dweck in the mid-1980s explored the repercussions of how we think about intelligence. She identified two ways of thinking about intelligence that people hold. Either we tend to believe that intelligence is a fixed thing: you’re born with a certain amount of smarts and that’s what you have to work with, or you tend to believe that intelligence is something that can be cultivated and increased. n the couple of decades since that first study, she has labeled these “mindsets,” and you have either a fixed or a growth mindset.

I came across this wonderful graphic that does such  great job of explaining Dweck’s theory in a small space and I wanted to share it.

The thing to remember is that we are complex creatures and this isn’t a black-0r-white distinction. We have both of these mindsets operating simultaneously. For me, learning about this was an eye-opener because it made me acutely aware of all the ways in which I had operated under a fixed mindset in the past, especially in high school which, if anyone’s keeping track, was nearly 25 years ago. Anyway, here’s the graphic. It’s from Dweck’s absolutely fantastic book, Mindsets: The New Psychology of Success.

It’s worth reading, but do keep in mind that it’s written from a pop-psych perspective and you might be better off reading her original (much shorter) articles. The material in the book is best summed up by the graphic below. I’ll post a review of the book sometime this summer, after the PhD is in the bag. In the meantime, I urge you to check it out anyway. Here’s the graphic:

Graphic of Carol Dweck's Growth v. Fixed Mindset, by Nigel Holmes


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Clyde Morgan says:

    Dr. (almost) Harnum,
    Thanks so much for this post. Daughter & I were just talking about communication issues around this subject!
    How’s the dissertation coming? Have you done your defense yet?
    Remember its just another audition and improvisation! (No high Eb’s!)

    1. Thanks for the note, Clyde, esp. for the dissertation support. Been pushing too hard lately and made myself sick, but I’ve got 320 pages done, so the end is close! Yeah, it’s easy to get caught up in the pressure of the thing. A former PhD from the same program gave me the best advice. He looked me in the eye and said, “It’s just another paper.” He’s right. Will be glad to be finished. It’s great you’re talking with your daughter about this. She’s lucky to have such a conversation. I wish I’d had one when I was younger.


  2. Ryan Record says:

    It is amazing how having a fixed mindset can be so negative. You know, I am no brain specialist but I bet most of us have suffered from this from time to time without even knowing it. It really makes you think about what barriers you put in your own way!! I’m getting ready to take a look at some of your ebooks here. Thanks for the info!

    1. Yeah, I totally agree, Ryan. The fixed mindset can really be debilitating. Amazing the power the mind has to shape behavior!

      But it’s such a complicated issue, too, and it seems essential (for me, anyway) to try to simplify the issue just to understand it even a little bit. It’s easier to split things into black and white, this or that, when the truth is that it’s all a tangled, complicated, multifaceted bundle (I hesitate to say “mess,” but that’s how it feels sometimes).

      One thing I didn’t mention is that a person can have both of these mindsets operating at the same time. It’s not points on a continuum from fixed to growth mindset, but separate constructs, as far as I can tell. I can’t say that for sure about anyone else and haven’t found any research on this specifically, but I know it’s true for me, personally.

      thanks for the comment!

      1. Ryan Record says:

        Makes sense!! By the way, I downloaded your theory book and I really like it. I wrote a little review on my blog, but I don’t have a lot of followers yet so i don’t know how far it will go. lol. Anyway, I look foward to more info. Thanks

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