- Have you ever felt like giving up? Like you just didn’t have what it takes or you just weren’t smart enough? If so, that’s classic fixed mindset thinking and until you learn how to adopt a growth mindset, you’ll never achieve your full potential.
- After 30 years of research Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck synthesised her findings into the book Mindset, where she outlined her theory that people fall into one of two camps – a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
- A person with a fixed mindset believes that their intelligence and skills are capped, that they only have what they were given from birth. This means they become discouraged by challenges or setbacks and their ability to reach their potential plateaus.
- A growth mindset oriented person on the other hand, looks at challenges as opportunities for growth and bounces back from setbacks. They believe that their intelligence, skills and even fundamental aspects of their personality can grow through time through hard work and determination.
- In reality, we all have a mixture of the two mindsets – it all depends on context. So you might have a growth mindset when it comes to sports but a fixed mindset with respect to business. The key is to identify where you are holding ourselves back with fixed mindset thinking and adapt those limiting beliefs.
Have you ever felt like giving up? Like you just didn’t have what it takes or you just weren’t smart enough? If so, that’s classic fixed mindset thinking. Until you learn how to adopt a growth mindset, you’ll never achieve your full potential and you’ll never realize your goals.
Hi, I’m Eric Partaker and I help CEOs, entrepreneurs, leaders, and individuals close that gap between who they are and who they’re capable of being so that they can reach their full potential in the areas of life that matter most. Now, we all know that our minds govern a lot of what we do. If we’re not in the right state of mind, we won’t perform as highly as we could, we won’t achieve our goals in the way that we would like. Mindset turns out to be divided into two primary camps. There’s a fantastic book on this by Carol Dweck, called Mindset, which takes together about 30 years of research to determine what the two groups of people are that people typically sit in.
Those two camps are a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. In actuality, we tend to be combinations of both mindsets. So we’ll have a fixed mindset approach to certain things and a growth mindset approach to others. Today I want to talk to you about what these two mindset differences are, but more importantly, what are the things that you can be doing to foster a growth mindset?
Now, fixed versus growth mindset – a fixed mindset is someone who believes that their intelligence and skills are fairly capped, they have what they were given. You’re born with your intelligence, for example. They often become discouraged by challenges or setbacks, they tend not to put in as much effort as say someone with a growth mindset persona, and their overall development, their ability to reach their full potential plateaus. They frankly never get there, and they end up leading a life that’s not as fulfilling.
Now, a growth mindset oriented person on the other hand, looks at challenges as opportunities for growth, bounces back from setbacks, realizes that the only reason that they haven’t achieved a certain thing, position, point or a goal in their life is because they have not put in enough effort. They believe that their intelligence can constantly be shaped and grown. They believe that their personality, even basic fundamental aspects of their personality, can also change and grow through time. So in a way they believe that they are still malleable, that they can still develop in unforeseen ways and that their intelligence is not something that they’re born with, it’s something that they make. These people tend to not plateau early. They tend to continually reach new heights.
As you can imagine, these people also tend to realize their full potential. Why is that so important? Why do we keep linking this back to realizing our full potential? Well, it goes back to a guy by the name of Abraham Maslow. He did a lot of research looking at what leads people to their deepest fulfillment in life. And in his research, he ascertained that once our basic needs are met, like food, shelter, and finance, we then pursue things like love and belonging, but that our path to deepest fulfillment comes in realizing our fullest potential. That’s when we’re happiest. That’s when we live a life that is full of hope and happiness rather than despair and maybe regret. So there’s a fundamental reason why you and all of us should be wanting to adopt a growth mindset because a growth mindset will help us realize our full potential, which will lead to a more deeply fulfilled and happier life.
So with all that being said, how do we go about reaching our full potential? Well, there’s a series of things that you can do to adopt a growth mindset to aid you in that mission. The first thing that you should do is just recognize where in your life do you tend to respond with a fixed mindset or attitude? What triggers that? Is it that you tend to develop a fixed mindset attitude? Again, let me explain – a fixed mindset attitude is an attitude of, “Ooh, you know, maybe I’m not capable. I’m not good enough. I don’t think I can do this. You know, this isn’t for me.” Where does that show up? How does that appear in your life? When you have those feelings, is it because you are confronting challenges that you’ve never faced before? Does that make you adopt a fixed mindset mentality?
Is it because when you’re suddenly under a lot of pressure, you tend to seriously start doubting yourself? Is it when you tend to encounter or meet someone who you perceive to be better or more intelligent than you, do you then shy away because you’re worried about competition? And on that note, it’s really interesting when you think about the word competition. When we consider that word versus a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset, because a fixed mindset person is always thinking that they’re competing with everyone around them. Whereas a growth mindset person tends to think that they’re just competing with themselves. How do I become better today than who I was the day before? That’s the race that they’re running. How about you? Do you typically compete against others or do you see yourself as continually improving and competing against yourself?
Now going back to that first point, the number one thing that we want to do to transition from a fixed to a growth mindset is to identify what triggers that fixed mindset within us. What are those situations? The second thing we want to do once we’ve understood what the things are that trigger that fixed mindset persona within us or attitude or way of behavior is to embrace that, because we are all combinations of growth mindset and fixed mindset. Attitudes, ways of belief that nobody’s perfect. Nobody is fully a growth mindset-oriented person. For example, you might have a growth mindset towards certain things like athletics, your job, your role as a parent, the art of negotiation, or business planning or strategy, whatever it may be. You may have a fixed mindset persona when it comes to things like maybe just competition in general, or writing or speaking, or a particular sport that you’re trying to play, whatever it may be.
We have to recognize that we’re a combination of both growth and fixed mindset personas all within one person, as a result of our childhood, our experiences and the various beliefs and values that we grew up with that were imparted upon us, or that we took from our environment and from our experiences. So we have to embrace that fixed mindset. We all have varying degrees of a fixed mindset reaction to different things that we encounter in life. Once we can embrace that, we can then move on to the third step. This might sound funny, but the third thing that you need to do is actually give that fixed mindset persona a name. Maybe something funny, like Lazy Larry or Doubtful Diana. I’m using names that happened to match up, that might not obviously be the case, but you just want to give it a name.
What is the name of that persona? Because we want to separate that from us. We want that to be its own thing. We want to recognize that it exists, we want to know what it is that triggers it, but then we want to name it. That’s quite powerful because in that moment, when you’re feeling that doubt, in that moment when you’re saying, “Oh, I’m not good enough,” in that moment, when you say “I’m just not smart enough,” in that moment when you say, “Here I go again, I’m screwing this up again. I’m taking too long to do this. I’m not moving quickly enough.” In those moments when that typically happens, we are just associating that with us. We are saying that that’s who I am. And by giving your fixed mindset persona it’s own identity, its own name, going forward you can then say, “It’s that version of me showing up. There’s Henry or there’s Sally or Melissa,” whatever name you want to use, but make sure you identify it as something other than you. It’s within you, but it has its own identity.
Now the fourth and final thing that you can do to help you transition from that fixed mindset persona which shows up in varying degrees and based on various situations, depending who you are and what you’ve experienced in your life. The next thing that we can do is start to educate that persona. How do we educate that persona? By focusing on five things. So when we’re experiencing a challenge, for example, we can make sure that that persona realizes that challenges are what lead to growth. When we’re in the gym, it’s challenging, right? To do a particular exercise, a bicep curl or leg press or running, it’s challenging, right?
But when we stress a muscle, what happens? We cause it to grow. Similarly when we challenge ourselves, that’s our path to mastery because it causes growth. So we need to look at challenges as opportunities for growth. So when something’s challenging, one of the phrases that you can use, that you can really embed and tell this fixed mindset persona is, “Yeah, that is challenging. Great. Because it’s there where the growth lies. It’s through that challenge that I’ll become stronger, better, more confident, more skilled.” A key phrase that you can use to trigger that is just ‘bring it on’. I know, you’ve probably used that phrase at some point in your life. You’ve certainly probably heard it before, but when you’re faced with something that makes you feel like, “Maybe I’m not good enough for this,” or, “This is going to be difficult.”
Yes, it is. And through that, I will grow. Through that, I will become stronger. So bring it on. “I’m under a deadline. How am I going to get this written? I don’t have enough time.” Bring it on. “I’ve never spoken in front of that audience before. Will I have what it takes to be out there on stage?” Bring it on. “I’m not sure if I’m as good as that person at basketball, tennis,” or, “I’m not sure I’m going to win in this five on five football match,” Bring it on. Every time you feel that, bring it on. That’s the first thing that you can do around the area of challenges.
The next thing that you can do from an education point of view is setbacks because we will all fall down. Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman emperor, wrote in his journal that, I must not think that I should be getting through life without being knocked down. I must actually expect it. I can try to anticipate it, but even if I don’t anticipate it correctly, even if he were to still get knocked down – and he didn’t mean just on the battlefield, he meant also just in day to day life, that the game is to see how quickly I can stand back up. That’s a growth mindset. A growth mindset says, yeah, things will be challenging. And then sometimes I will have a setback. I will be knocked down, but the game is how quickly do I stand back up? Whereas a fixed mindset persona, whatever the name is for your fixed mindset persona, if you think about that identity, that version of you might simply say “that’s it” when a setback happens.
You have this internal dialogue. Maybe you say to yourself, “I told you, I knew it. I’m not good enough. I’m just not as smart as those other people. I’ll never get there. I shouldn’t have even tried. See, there you go. There’s the proof.” That’s the fixed mindset persona speaking. Whereas the growth mindset person looks at that setback and says, “Great, how quickly can I stand back up?” One of my favorite Japanese proverbs is to fall down seven times, stand up eight. I love it, because it suggests that we’re going to be knocked down many times in life. Seven and eight, proverb terms. Those are big numbers, it says we’re going to be knocked down a lot in life. But it also says all we need to do is just stand up one more time.
So when you have a setback, educate that fixed mindset persona. Educate them, say, “Yeah, we’re expecting this. Sometimes we have setbacks and the game is, how quickly do we stand back up?” The next thing that you can do with regards to your fixed mindset persona is around the word effort. So we’ve talked about educating around challenges, we’ve talked about educating around setbacks, and then the third thing we want to educate that fixed mindset persona is around effort. Where does effort come into play? When you have that daunting thing that you’ve never done before, or that you just don’t feel very skilled in that you have no idea how to do, and you think, “Oh, okay, no, this isn’t me.”
Well, that’s where effort comes in, because with the growth mindset and what research has proven is that everything is learnable. It just requires effort. It just requires you to, once you see what the product is, let’s say you want to become a great speaker. That’s the product that you’re trying to achieve. Then you focus on the process. The process is the effort. So once you know what that vision is, what you want to become your goal, then your goal then goes from whatever that is in the future to what you’re going to do on a daily basis. That becomes the goal. The process becomes the goal, not the product that you’re trying to achieve. You can go ahead and keep looking at that product, whatever it may be, but don’t be walking with your eyes gazing at the top of the mountain. Take a glance, use it as a reminder.
That’s where I’m going. That’s where I’m heading. But keep your eyes down on the path. Keep your eyes focused, left foot, right foot, what’s the process. How this shows up, it may be that if you are wanting to become a great speaker, for example, maybe there’s a speaking competition that you’ve put yourself in, or there’s a particular event that you’ve committed to and that you want to speak well at. Okay, that’s the product that you want to create. Winning the competition, or maybe just participating in it or speaking on that stage or speaking to those people. But now what’s the process? The process is, well, how many minutes per day should you be practicing? Or how many total minutes per week? And that’s the thing that you want to track. That becomes the goal. It’s all about the effort.
The fourth thing that you can be educating your fixed mindset persona around, the fourth word is failure. So our first education point was around challenge, then it’s around setbacks, then it’s around effort. And then the fourth word is failure because we’re constantly failing. But here’s the thing I want you to do. On a daily basis, I want you to replace the word failure with learn. So instead of, “What did I fail at, you say, what did I learn today?” I have a journaling practice where every day in my journal, I record my wins and my learns. So, what are the things that went well or things that I’m grateful for? I put little plus symbols next to each of those things. They could be small things, you know, I had a great time playing with my son, I had a great conversation with my wife. Then I put learns as well.
What did I learn today? It could be things that need improvement that I could be doing better. It could just be genuine things that I learned, but in the context of educating your fixed mindset persona, we’re talking about swapping that word fail with learn. There will be on a daily basis, in a fixed mindset persona language, things that you’re failing at, but in a growth mindset persona language, that you’re learning at. I can’t underscore how incredibly powerful this is to be doing on a daily basis, because all of those micro opportunities that we experience throughout the day that maybe we equate to failure or not being good enough – each one on its own may not feel like it’s amounting to much, but accumulated over time, we’re reinforcing, reinventing that fixed mindset persona around that word failure. When all those little moments we can be transitioning them towards growth, development, and learning.
An example might be that you give a presentation and it didn’t go so well. You could typically then think in that moment that, “I messed that up.” Or with a growth mindset, you could say, “Well, what did I learn? Why didn’t it go well? Was my introduction not engaging enough? Was I not speaking with enough energy during the presentation? Did I not get to the points quickly enough? Did I not recap the points? Did I not connect all the messages in that presentation with benefits for the audience so that they could understand, why is it that I’m listening to this and watching this?”
The fifth and final thing that you can be teaching your fixed mindset persona, whenever he or she shows up, is all about the word yet, the power of yet. I have a great little story about this. So my 13 year old son Alexander, I asked him to read the book Mindset because it’s in our childhood years that our mindset is shaped. Now, the mindset is completely changeable. It requires some effort, this whole video is about what you can be doing to change your mindset, but I wanted to make sure that he was aware of those mindset differences early on. What a fixed mindset looks like and what a growth mindset looks like. Alex read the book and he came up with his 10 big ideas from the book that he shared with me. Then I looked at all those ideas and I said, “Alex, if you had to distill the entire book into just one thought, what would it be?” And he said, “Papa, the whole book can be described as the power of yet.” I said, “Well, what do you mean by that?”
And he said, “In terms of, I may not know how to do something yet.” And that to me is an incredibly powerful thing that you can be constantly reminding and educating your fixed mindset persona around or about. That you may not know how to do something yet, you may not be good at something yet, you may not know how to execute something with the degree of professionalism or skill or perfection that you want yet. And how do you get there? By everything that we just discussed beforehand – by looking at challenges as opportunities, by bouncing back from setbacks, just standing right back up, by prioritizing effort as your path to mastery, by swapping that word failure with learn. And if you do all of those things, you will tap into the power of yet. You may not be experiencing something now, but it’s only a matter of time.
You may not be experiencing something yet, but you will. So those are the differences between a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset, as well as some practical things that you can be doing to educate that fixed mindset within you, within all of us, so that you can become more and more a growth mindset oriented person. Again, why do we want to do that? Because growth mindset oriented people have been shown to reach their full potential, they have been shown to be nearly limitless in what they can achieve and what they put their mind to. Whereas fixed mindset people are going to more typically stop early, be more likely to give up and to not achieve their full potential.