The model of growth v fixed mindset is something that has been gaining ground recently, especially as some schools are now using it with their students. It is introduced and explained by Carol Dweck in her TED Talk, “The power of believing that you can improve”.
In short, a fixed mindset is one that sees qualities, traits and skills as innate and unchangeable. This mindset might lead to avoiding challenges and self-criticism when faced with a ‘failure’. By contrast, a growth mindset sees these qualities, traits and skills as constantly developing and arising from learning experiences. This mindset encourages effort and attempts to reach goals, and gains encouragement from the success of others.
Like many things in psychology, I suspect there can be a bit of both types within the same person. You might have a fixed mindset when it comes to some things about yourself and a growth mindset for others. You might find that your mindset changes depending on your mood, what has happened or due to the messages given to you by those around you.
Being able to identify your patterns of thought, and assessing for yourself whether it is helping you or not, can be hugely useful. This model isn’t something you can only apply to skills such as playing a musical instrument or producing fine artwork. You can also use it to consider your more personal skills and qualities such as assertiveness, conflict resolution and resilience. We are all a ‘work in progress’, as previously described in my blog post “Resignation or acceptance?“. By considering where we are now and where we want to be in the future, we can work out how to get from one place to the other (Egan’s Skilled Helper Model).
Dweck says that changing a “no” or “fail” into a “not yet” can help us keep believing that we can improve. Failure stops being an ending and becomes a step in the journey. Where does that journey lead? That’s up to you!
You can watch the video of the Carol Dweck’s TED Talk here, subtitles and a transcript are provided.