Fixed vs Growth mindsets

Your mindset is decisive in your personal development.

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Why can some people develop their talents, while others can’t? This question was answered in 2006 by psychology professor Carol Dweck, in her book ‘Mindset, the new psychology‘. Dweck states that the issue doesn’t lie in the ability to develop, but in the mindset of every individual. Whether you think you have to show what you’ve got or act as though it’s part of developing yourself makes an absolute difference in your ability to actually develop.

According to Dweck there are two kinds of mindset. First of all there is the fixed mindset. People think that their traits are just given. A kind of ‘what you see is what you get’ approach. If I’ve got this talent, then this is what I have to do it with. According to Dweck ‘people in this mindset worry about their traits and how adequate they are. They have something to prove to themselves and others.’

Failure is information—we label it failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, I’m a problem solver, and I’ll try something else.’

On the other hand you’ve got the growth mindset. Here people believe they have the ability to further develop their talents. They believe in getting better by working hard and learning. These people ‘understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan—without years of passionate practice and learning.’

The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.

It’s really interesting to look at people from this perspective. Growth mindsets will more easily push themselves to the limit in order to succeed. When dealing with Fixed mindsets you have to first try and change their mindset. How would this be possible? Is this a proces that costs some time or can you easily influence people? Maybe we have to influence them at the moment when ‘our products’ start to interact with them. Preparing them for what’s coming and thus making them more willing to push themselves.

The image below gives a simple overview of the differences between the two mindsets (download as pdf).

This is a short but interesting interview with professor Dweck on the topic:

Top photo by: Reigh LeBlanc

Jeroen van Geel

Jeroen van Geel is founder/chief kahuna of Johnny Holland and the interaction director at Fabrique [brands, design & interaction], a Dutch multidisciplinary design agency. You can follow him on Twitter via @jeroenvangeel.

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