Growth v fixed mindset

fixed v growth mindset
TED Talk by Carol Dweck, “The power of believing that you can improve”

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.

Resignation or acceptance?

resignation or acceptance
Image courtesy of digitalart at

You might shy away from the idea of “acceptance” when it comes to your thoughts, feelings or situation.  Perhaps you are mixing up acceptance with resignation.  There are big differences between the two.  Making an active choice of one over the other for yourself can give you your power back!  Let me explain…

Some people might say that resignation and acceptance are the same thing, meaning defeat, powerlessness, or giving up on any hope of change.  That might be what resignation is, but it’s not what is meant by acceptance in a therapeutic context.

Think of being lost, and needing a map to find your destination.  What is the first thing you do?  Find out exactly where you are already!  You wouldn’t be able to move on with your journey if you didn’t know your starting point, and acceptance is like that. Acceptance is the big “you are here” arrow we need to orient ourselves.

Acceptance can be really hard at first.  It is easy to get caught up in ruminating.  You might fall into a cycle of thinking “this shouldn’t be happening!” or “things should be different!” – sound familiar?  That is the opposite of acceptance, because you are fighting hard against what is happening in the here and now.  This fighting against yourself uses up a lot of energy, causes stress and breeds dissatisfaction.

How would it be if you stopped?  Perhaps you fear that stopping this cycle of thoughts will mean giving up hope of any change?  No!  I have good news for you – acceptance is change, in and of itself!  Acceptance is the first step to making things different and growing.

Carl Rogers, in his book On Becoming A Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy, said “We cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed.”  He also said, “It becomes easier for me to accept myself as a decidedly imperfect person, who by no means functions at all times in the way in which I would like to function. This must seem to some like a very strange direction in which to move. It seems to me to have value because the curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I change.”

Carl Jung put it more succinctly, when he said, “What we resist, persists.”

Acceptance is about treating yourself kindly.  Much as a child won’t learn if you shout at them, or a plant won’t grow if you restrict its water, you won’t grow while you are fighting yourself and your circumstances.  You can turn that energy to other uses.  Greet your painful feelings with kindness and acceptance.  You might be surprised as they lessen in intensity and duration.  Listen to what your feelings are telling you.  Examine your thoughts with compassion, as you would those of your best friend.  If you wouldn’t insult your best friend for their situation and tell them it must be different, why do it to yourself?  Let yourself grow.

If you find this difficult, or overwhelming, take a step back.  Don’t push beyond your limits of safety.  If you would like to work through and move on from these issues in a safe and supportive environment, please contact me to book an appointment.