Growth Mindset Versus Fixed Mindset

Updated: Jun 3


I highlighted the importance of adopting the growth mindset. I thought I would write a bit about what the growth mindset is and why, in my opinion, it's essential for success. 

Let's start with the fixed mindset. As the name implies, those with a fixed mindset view talent as a fixed unit that you are either born with or without. That means that top students are top students because they are talented. There's nothing you can do about it. No matter how much you study, you will never be able to catch up to them. This may make you more inclined to procrastinate and avoid challenges (like taking hard classes), because there's no point in facing the reality that you will loose no matter what. Your fixed ability is also a reflection of you as a person. Since there's nothing you can do to improve, feedback and constructive criticism are a personal attack and are very unwelcome. 

Ironically, if you adopt the fixed mindset, what you believe becomes true. Since you won't be motivated to work hard to develop a talent that can't be improved, your growth stagnates. 

Now what I mentioned is an extreme version of the fixed mindset. But this little devil manifests itself in many forms. Have you ever not wanted to look at a test you scored badly in? Has feedback ever made you feel like a less intelligent person? Do you ever procrastinate on a difficult task because you just knew that you wouldn't be able to do it? These are all examples of the fixed mindset. Frankly, all of us probably have a little bit of the fixed mindset in us.

I certainly did. An odd habit of mine that probably saved me was curiosity and willingness to try new things, even if I might not be as qualified as my peers. Without any debate experience, I auditioned for Mock Trial in my junior year and immediately started competing for my school's team. Even though I've never taught students in a classroom setting, I launched a summer Latin crash course for middle school students falling behind in the subject. And the list goes on. Little did I know that this was a part of the growth mindset.

The growth mindset views talent as something you can shape and mold. Yes, there may be some people starting out with more privilege (e.g., strong public school in the area, financial means to afford private teachers, and an Einstein-like mind). However, you can still improve your talent with diligence and hard work. Even if you don't have a natural talent in physics, for instance, but are passionate about it, you can still work towards a physics major.

The key is that progress is possible. What defines you as a person is not the talent that you are born with but the skills that you have worked hard to develop over time. It's how far you've come, not where you are now. With the growth mindset, feedback and constructive criticism is more than welcome. Who knows, it might just help you study smarter and reach your goals faster. Challenges are also a welcome opportunity to sharpen your skills. Anytime you make a mistake is a chance to learn what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future; it's a step forward.The only way to truly fail is if you lose sight of the road ahead of you.

It's pretty obvious which mindset is more likely to lead to success. This is why I made the Downloads access code growthmindset.

If there is anything that I want you to takeaway from College Lead, it's that the largest room in the world is the room for improvement. Maybe you are the tortoise in the race against the hare. But, as long as you keep pushing forward, you will reach your goal.          

I recommended this book last week as well but wanted to include it again in this week's newsletter. How to bean Imperfectionist by Stephen Guise really helps you understand concretely how to shift from the fixed mindset to the growth mindset.