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The Beginner’s Guide to the Growth Mindset

Chances are, you’ve likely been introduced to the growth mindset or at least heard of the growth mindset at some point.

Along with mindfulness, developing a growth mindset is the most impactful thing you can do to improve your chances of success.

It is not just important to success.  Developing a growth mindset is foundational.  Because without it, you won’t put forth the effort necessary to achieve your goals.

Having a growth mindset starts with a belief.  A belief that your gifts and talents aren’t fixed at birth. That anything can be developed and improved with effort and practice.

This belief is so important. You won’t make an effort with things you believe you can’t do.  And why should you? That seems like a waste of time.

As adults, we must pay particular attention to this. Adults have much less free time than children, and even less once we get married and start a family of our own.

Our time becomes much more important as we move into and beyond young adulthood. We begin to avoid things quickly if they seem like a waste of time.

With a growth mindset, we don’t confuse difficulty with wasting time. We realize that certain learning is necessary to achieve what we want.

The growth mindset helps us commit, push forward, and eventually learn what we have to. No matter how hard it seems at first.

Illustration of the two mindsets

Two mindsets, fixed mindset, growth mindset, desire to learn, growth, challenges, obstacles, effort, criticism, success of others.

A growth mindset doesn’t guarantee you will be the very best at whatever you want to do. It means that you have no idea how far you can go unless you give a consistent effort over a period of time.

If basketball is your thing, it doesn’t mean you will become LeBron James, but it does mean that you can get better than you are now, and keep getting better over time. 

You can’t know what your best is unless you believe you can improve and commit to putting in the work.

When you don’t have a growth mindset, you feel that you are good at certain things and not at others.  This can be true, but the fixed mindset causes you feel like you can’t improve.

This results in constantly trying to prove what you are good at.

You dodge the difficult and stick with what comes easy.  Without a growth mindset, you look for shortcuts and get frustrated when nothing seems to work.

A fixed mindset makes you declare that you’ve tried everything. In reality, you gave a lot of things a little effort when you really needed to give a few things a great deal of effort.  

The growth mindset person is okay with failing and sees it as learning.  

Whatever you are trying to do, your struggles could be largely related to your basic mindset.

Let’s dig in and find out more about the growth mindset and its opposite, the fixed mindset. And why it’s important to evolve from the latter to the former.

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

The terms growth mindset and fixed mindset were made popular by Standford psychologist Carol S. Dweck in her book: Mindset, The New Psychology of Success.

There are many differences between fixed and growth mindset people, however, two main distinctions are:

  1. How they approach challenges and learning.
  2. The need for external validation.

Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset approach to challenges:

Those with a growth mindset run into challenges just like people with a fixed mindset. The difference is how each feels about them and their reaction to those challenges.

Individuals with a growth mindset don’t expect to be great at things right away. The process of learning excites them, rather than annoy or cause feelings of inadequacy.

People with a fixed mindset get upset when things get difficult. Rather than enjoy challenges, their attitude moves them to seek out something easier.

To someone with a fixed mindset, too much time spent on something challenging without a visible result feels like a waste of time.

The growth mindset person realizes that tangible outputs take time. They realize that learning is happening when they stay with challenges.

A person with the growth mindset knows practice and repetition is making them better.

This is an important point in today’s world, where distractions are everywhere. Having a fixed mindset will make you more likely to quit a challenging activity and jump to something easier but less important.

Bottom line, the growth mindset embraces and even seeks out challenges. The fixed mindset avoids them at all costs.

Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset and the need for validation:

The fixed mindset requires proof, or validation of talents and abilities. And it requires it right away.

For people with the fixed mindset, not being the best at something means they just aren’t cut out for it.

And for the things they believe they’re good at, there is an urgent need to prove it. Every situation becomes about looking good.

There is no tolerance for looking deficient, as it proves the opposite of what the fixed mindset person wants. It proves that they aren’t as good or talented as they thought.

As Dweck’s research shows, this can result in lying, cheating, and other kinds of behavior that most of us consider morally wrong. All in an effort for validation and acceptance.

When you value the growth and development of your mind, the last thing you need is validation from others.

There is nothing wrong with praise and acceptance. However, when it becomes necessary at all times, growth is severely stunted.

Since validation isn’t at the top of the list for those with the growth mindset, they fail fast, learn from it, and get to the next level more quickly.

Overall Growth Mindset vs. Individual Qualities

Some people have either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset with how they perceive all areas of life.

Others might have a growth mindset in one area, but a fixed mindset in another.

Overall Growth Mindset

The overall growth mindset is the belief that your talents, aptitudes, interests and temperaments are not fixed at birth. None of them.

Conversely, an overall fixed mindset believes that your talents, aptitudes, interests and temperaments are fixed at birth. All of them.

This mindset basically says, “if you got it you got it, if you don’t, you don’t.”

Having a overall fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset will hinder you more than anything.

When you have an overall fixed mindset, you won’t value working hard. Regardless of the activity, the underlying thought is that effort isn’t necessary for the things you’re good at.

For those who are naturally gifted or talented at something, it causes them to hit a wall at some point.

They eventually get surpassed by others who believe in putting in effort to make themselves better.

With an overall growth mindset, you feel like you can get better at anything.

This results in constant improvement throughout life. Because you consistently work hard at the things that are important to you.

Quality Based Growth Mindset

It is possible to have a growth mindset in some areas of life and not others.

For instance, you could have a growth mindset about your athletic ability but a fixed mindset about your intelligence.

Maybe you were naturally gifted at sports and also loved sports from an early age but struggled in school.

Your love for sports combined with natural ability inspired you to work hard and see improvement. Conversely, your dislike for school and poor performance early on started you down the path of a fixed mindset in that area.

As a result, you developed a habit of pushing yourself in athletics but not in intellectual pursuits.

This could apply to numerous skills or qualities. The point is that sometimes people believe they can improve in certain areas and not others.

The key is to pay attention to your mindset no matter what the quality or activity is.

Don’t get tricked into thinking you have an overall growth mindset when you only have that mindset in a particular area.

A Growth Mindset is Essential for Adults

Mindsets start developing very early in life. This is shown in Dweck’s research where there was a study done with four year olds.

The children were given a task to solve puzzles. The puzzle in the beginning was very simple and easily solved.

After that, they were given a choice between the easy puzzle and a more difficult one.

Some of the kids went with the safe choice and decided to do the easy puzzle again. Other children chose to attempt the more difficult puzzle.

The children were already displaying one of the two mindsets.

Those children who chose the more difficult puzzle were displaying a growth mindset. They were up for the challenge, believing they could do it but not being certain.

They were willing to risk failure. The children who chose the easy puzzle wanted guaranteed success. Their focus was on proving their ability.

Most children are exposed to many challenges growing up. Challenges from teachers, challenges from parents, challenges from peers.

While they can certainly display a fixed mindset, they have plenty of opportunities to shift their mindset before becoming adults. With the proper influence and direction, of course.

Once you become an adult with a fixed mindset, it is largely incumbent on you to make the shift to a growth mindset.

Adults have many more options than children. Adults can choose almost everything they do. The books they read, the people they interact with, where they go.

Most importantly, adults choose how they challenge themselves, spend their time, and the effort put towards continued learning & growth.

If we don’t make a concerted effort to change, we won’t change. No one is invested in our success like we are.

A Growth Mindset is About Improvement, not Perfection

Really improving at something in a significant way takes time.

People that naturally have a growth mindset understand this. They find pleasure in incremental improvements, no matter how small.

People that naturally have a fixed mindset don’t feel this way. If a fixed mindset person fails at something, their instinct isn’t to keep trying.

They tend to avoid that activity and find one where success is guaranteed or at least highly likely.

This results in not reaching their full potential even in areas where the talent is there.

Since they have always had some level of success, they don’t feel the need to put in the work to get better.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Most people have heard that quote at some point.

That is the essence of what happens to people with the fixed mindset. They remain at a certain level because they rely on their talents alone. To them, hard work isn’t necessary.

Eventually, those with a growth mindset surpass the people who don’t put in the work even though they may have less natural talent.

Incremental improvements might not look like much in the moment, but they eventually amount to something significant.

A Growth Mindset is Required to Give Your Dreams a Real Shot

If you have a fixed mindset, you will never give your goals a real shot.

You might give a half-assed effort then convince yourself that you’ve given them a shot. In reality you haven’t given them a REAL, legitimate chance to come to fruition.

Giving your goals a real shot requires a growth mindset. This is because you have to believe it’s possible to improve at anything.

Without that belief, you’ll quit way too early. Or do a bunch of other tasks to keep you busy, but never the most important things.

Your mindset will be that the difficulty is an indication that you aren’t meant to do it. And you’ll search for something easier. A path that doesn’t require the “difficult thing”.

The tough pill to swallow is that nothing worthwhile is 100% easy. Even if it’s easy in the beginning, or even for a while, it won’t stay that way.

No matter what your particular path is, there will be challenges along the way. There will be something (or likely many things) that won’t come easy.

Usually, there will be at least one particular thing that you must get better at. This thing is a non-negotiable part of the journey. Without it learning it, you don’t stand a chance.

For instance, say you love law and your goal is to become a prosecutor. Unfortunately, you are terrified of public speaking, and don’t feel like you’re good at it.

To achieve your goal, you must get better at public speaking in order to argue cases in court. You can’t work around it.

Regardless of your goal(s), eventually the only option will be to get better at some “thing” or quit.

A person with the fixed mindset will quit and a person with the growth mindset will get better.

Get Clarity on What is Holding You Back

Mindset is very important and foundational for achievement, but so is being clear about what you want to achieve.

It’s important to get clarity on what you’re trying to achieve and then determine (to the best of your ability) what might be holding you back.

With that in mind, ask yourself whether or not you have a growth or fixed mindset towards that thing you believe to be holding you back.

Consider the following phrase: “I can’t achieve X because I’m not good enough at Y”

X is what you want to achieve and Y is what you believe to be holding you back.

For example: “I can’t start my own blog because I’m not good enough at writing.”

If this were your real example, you would need to:

  1. Investigate whether or not the statement is true.
  2. Look at what kind of mindset you have related to Y (in this case, writing).

If you really are a poor writer, what kind of mindset do you have about it? Do you believe that some people are just gifted at writing and others aren’t?

Is your mindset that writing is something you can’t improve?

If so, you need to change this because your efforts at writing will be half assed, if you put forth any effort at all.

Your mindset needs to change. You have to believe that you can get better at writing and prove that you believe it by practicing and learning as much as you can about writing.

Try to apply this to your own situation and see what you discover.

The Importance of Growth Mindset in Relationships

Regardless of what you have heard, there is no such thing as a solo success.

I’m not saying that a person can’t work to build themself into a successful person. Individual effort could still be the most important thing.

What I mean is that other people are always involved in some way, shape, or form.

Even if you build a business from the ground up without assistance from anyone, customers are still necessary to succeed. Customers are other people. Those are relationships.

If you become a successful musician all by yourself, you had to have fans to get there.

I would argue that no successful business person or musician actually got there 100% on their own. However, the point I’m trying to make is that there are always other people involved, eventually. No matter what.

How the mindsets view relationships

With a fixed mindset, you want people to put you on a pedestal. Whether it’s your mate or your friends, you have a belief that others should make you feel good.

When others are critical of you, it is viewed as a slight. Even if it’s in your best interest, you see it as a sign that the relationship is flawed.

It has the dual effect of both damaging the relationship and preventing you from growing.

Conversely, those with the growth mindset see relationships as each party helping the other to become a better person.

In healthy relationships, people recognize each others faults and want to help the other improve.

Those with a growth mindset realize they aren’t perfect and appreciate opportunities to become aware of shortcomings.

Since success of any kind will involve other people, it’s always better to approach relationships with a growth mindset.


This is my favorite part of any post or article. The part where I really get to the point of what I’m trying to say.

Not that everything else is just fluff, but it doesn’t get to the core of why I chose to write this. And who I am writing it for.

If you really want to explore the growth mindset, you should get Carol Dweck’s book. There is no better resource.

I chose to write this because I truly believe in the growth mindset and how important it is to develop at any age.

Another belief I hold is that a growth mindset is foundational to any kind of self improvement or personal development efforts. In my honest opinion, it isn’t possible to improve in a meaningful way without it.

I’m writing this for adults who feel like they aren’t living up to their potential. And who feel like they can’t change.

Believing you can’t change is exactly what the fixed mindset tells you.

The fixed mindset isn’t easily changed because you keep doing things that reinforce this belief.

Specifically, quitting when things get difficult or convincing yourself that the struggle just isn’t worth it.

Over time you’ll find out (if you already haven’t) that success is in the struggle. Success is in the journey to becoming better. But it takes a growth mindset to appreciate the struggle.

Add Mindfulness to the equation as well.

Along with a growth mindset, I believe mindfulness is just as foundational to self improvement and personal development.

With mindfulness, you can determine which mindset you’re approaching things with in the moment. This allows you to modify your behavior and make better real time decisions, instead of always running on autopilot.

My suggestion is to dig into mindset and mindfulness prior to embarking on a self improvement journey. Or at least become familiar with them.

I guarantee you that both will be important every step of the way.

Next: The beginner’s guide to mindfulness in real life

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