The precursors and outcomes of a fixed or growth mindset are outlined by Carol Dweck in her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – How we can learn to fulfill our potential.”
The fixed mindset is essentially a belief that ability is predetermined such that you either have a natural talent or you don’t. In other words, your capabilities cannot be changed. A fixed mindset is thought to arise from an overemphasis on outcomes and doing well.
The growth mindset is a belief that abilities can be acquired or refined. In other words, your capabilities can be changed. A growth mindset results from receiving praise for effort, involvement, and improvement.
What are the typical responses of each mindset?
Those with a growth mindset are sensitive about being seen as not trying. Therefore, success is defined by making an effort and seeking to learn. Individuals with a growth mindset choose challenging over easy tasks and pay closer attention to information that improves their understanding and knowledge. They are willing to retrain if necessary. When looking for feedback those with a growth mindset take cues from people who appear to be doing better. Those with a growth orientation prefer to interact with people who support their ambitions to change learn and improve.
Those with a fixed mindset are sensitive about being wrong which means that success is defined by not making mistakes. This results in a resistance to putting in effort because having to do so would mean that you lack talent. Consequently, there is a tendency to pick easy over challenging tasks, avoid new learning, and be vigilant about getting it right. When looking for feedback, comparisons tend to be made with people who appear to be doing worse. Those with a fixed orientation prefer to interact with people who make them feel good about themselves.
How do coping responses compare by mindset?
The growth mindset leads to cumulative success over time and greater investment in long-term plans. Individuals with a growth mindset are more likely to take responsibility and be flexible. This makes it more likely that they will adapt to and overcome any personal challenge. Furthermore, they are less likely to be influenced by the opinion of others and more likely to forgive. With an experience of making a mistake or poor treatment, they are more likely to interpret it as an opportunity for personal growth and understanding. Accordingly, they are motivated by failure and if feeling down will respond by taking action.
In contrast, the fixed mindset has a greater tendency to shirk work, cheat, and blame others. This reduces success over time and promotes a focus on only the short-term. There is a reluctance to take responsibility making it harder to overcome personal challenges. The thinking patterns of those with a fixed mindset are more likely to be black and white with information being classed as either good or bad and no middle ground. If individuals with a fixed mindset are treated badly they are apt to internalize and seek vengeance. They may also adopt stereotypes and prejudices which boost their image by comparison. In addition, they are more likely to give up if failing and reduce engagement if feeling down.
How do groups with this mindset respond?
If you are in a community of growth mindset individuals you invest in each other’s development. Similarly, in a relationship facing difficulties, growth mindset individuals are willing to invest time and energy into finding a solution.
On the other hand, if you are in a group of primarily fixed mindset individuals who are concerned about failure there is a tendency to actively undermine each other. In a problem relationship, fixed mindset individuals are not willing to put in the effort in as problems are viewed as unsolvable and resulting from character flaws.
It is possible to experience a mixture of both growth and fixed mindsets depending on your particular area of focus. For example, with athletic abilities, you might have a fixed mindset, whereas for academic abilities you are growth orientated. The good news is that adopt a growth mindset for success is possible by shifting your focus to the amount of effort you put in and improvement over time. Adjusting a community orientation to collective improvement and contribution can shift group dynamics as well.