Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset – Which do you have?


Just recently I was watching TED talks that really got me thinking… I love TED because of all of the thought provoking topics, but this one in particular hit me at just the right time, so I’d like to share it with you.


The TED talk was by Carol Dweck and it’s called ‘the power of believing that you can improve.’


She talks about the ‘power of yet’. And that power is in the difference in telling people they failed at something – ‘not now’ – vs telling them ‘not yet’ and keep trying.  ‘Not yet’ encourages people to keep trying and learning until they get it, rather than quitting because they feel like they’ve failed. ‘Not now’ is a fixed mindset and ‘not yet’ is a growth mindset.


In her study she uncovers there are two types of people, those who have the ability to embrace learning something new as a positive thing and relish in the growth process – growth mindset people. And then there are those who feel negative about new challenges and see their inability to master something instantly as a failure so they shut it down and avoid it – fixed mindset people.


Which are you?


If you’re not sure, ask yourself, when is the last time you learned something new? And is it something you grew into and conquered overtime, or was it to hard so you quit and you’ve never done it again?


In her study, Carol gave 10 year old kids problems that were slightly too difficult for them to solve. Some reacted in a positive way saying things like ‘I love a challenge’. These kids understood that their abilities could be developed and they had what Carol calls a growth mindset.


Where as other kids felt it was tragic and terrible to be asked such hard questions that they didn’t know the answers to. This was because their intelligence had been up for judgment and they failed. Instead of basking in the power of ‘not yet’, they were stuck in the  ‘not now’, she says.


In these studies, kids with a fixed mindset said next time they would cheat to find the answer, or that they would find someone who did worse than they did so they could feel good about themselves. And in the studies, these kids would run from difficulty.


Scientist studied brain activity as all of the young students confronted the hard questions. Fixed mindset kids had little brain activity because they ran from the difficulty. But kids with the growth mindset had lots of brain activity because they relished in the challenge. These kids with growth mindsets embraced the idea that their abilities can be developed. They processed the question, they learned from it and eventually they answered it. They engaged with this process of improving.


It’s funny, but this absolutely plays out in adults as well every day, especially in fitness.


As a fitness professional, you see lots of members attempt your classes for the first time. They come in unfit and unsure but they want to make a change so bad that they bought a membership to the gym and got brave enough to walk into class.


What happens next demonstrates fixed mindset versus growth mindset in relation to one’s personal fitness.


Those with a fixed mindset fixate on the fact that they feel like the most unfit person in class and that they can’t follow the exercises as well as the members who regularly attend the class, so they instantly feel outcast and unsuccessful. They also fixate on how hard it feels physically and instantly associate negative feelings with the exercise. These people tend to put fitness in the too hard basket, deem it not enjoyable because they weren’t instantly good at it or instantly gained results from it, and they don’t return despite all of our efforts to make them feel welcome and successful.


Whereas, there are new members with growth mindsets. These people understand before they enter the class that this is a brand new activity they will be exposing themselves to so they are ok with the fact they might not get every move straight away, but they are willing to take the time to learn and get better. These people also realize that they can’t reach their ultimate fitness goal in one class or even several classes. They realize they need to be consistent and overtime they will win results progressively. This realization of growth overtime makes them feel more positive about how physically challenging the workout feels and the sore muscles they may have after. These people understand that they are ‘not yet’ where they want to be but they are on the path to achieving it in time.


That is just a fitness example, but the point will stand true in anything we attempt to learn.


I don’t know about you but I would certainly rather be a person with a growth mindset and harness the power of ‘not yet’ to achieve more in my life than a person with a fixed mindset who puts all new things in the too hard basket and ends up never filling their life with anything new.


Dweck argues that the mindset we have as adults stems from how we were raised as kids. But I’d like to think regardless of how we were raised, we have the power as adults to make the choice as to how we approach the world.


So today, celebrate your progress in something instead of fixating on the fact that you haven’t quite got to the end result yet. Feel good about your growth and tell yourself ‘I’m not there yet, but I will get there.’


Thanks for reading! Sign up for my free Newsletter to be the first to receive these articles as they are posted.