If you encounter a problem at work, in your understanding of something or in your relationship, do you give up and accept that is the way it is? Or, do you try and work through the problem realising that, even if it is difficult, it is likely to reward you in the end?
These are two different mindsets according to psychologist Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University in California who has previously held professorships at Harvard and Columbia and the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The two mindsets come in the form of ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ and it is this which makes us successful, not whether we just have the talent, skills or intelligence.
Dweck says mindsets are beliefs about yourself and your most basic qualities. A fixed mindset is when people believe that their traits and characteristics are just a given, they don’t believe their talent or intelligence can change.
“If they have a lot, they’re all set but if they don’t… So people in this mindset worry about their traits and how adequate they are,” Dweck explains on her website. “They have something to prove to themselves and others.”
In 2015, Dweck said that often people with fixed mindsets see challenges as risky.“They could fail and their basic abilities would be called into question,” she told The Atlantic. “When they hit obstacles, setbacks or criticism this was just more proof that they didn’t have the abilities that they cherished.”
Alternatively, there is the growth mindset. People with this mindset believe their qualities and traits can develop through work and effort. So, they might be happy if they are intelligent but they do not rest at that, they keep going to improve their skill.
Dweck told The Atlantic that when students have this mindset they recognised that challenges were the way to improve their abilities: “Setbacks and feedback weren’t about your abilities, they were information you could use to help yourself learn.”
Dweck said this mindset not only affects our education and working life, as one might expect, but also our relationships and even our moral character and personality. As far as romantic relationships go, Dweck says those with a fixed mindset believed their partner would put them on a pedestal and make them feel great 24/7. Those with a growth mindset recognised partners and relationships have faults and that sometimes it takes work and improvement.
“The growth mindset says all of these things can be developed. All – you, your partner and the relationship – are capable of growth and change,” she wrote according to the website Brain Pickings. “In the fixed mindset, the ideal is instant, perfect and perpetual compatibility. Like it was meant to be. Like riding off into the sunset. Like ‘they lived happily ever after.’”
However, despite the two clear definitions, Dweck has also said that it is rare for someone to have one of the mindsets all the time.
“Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets,” she told The Atlantic. “You could have a predominant growth mindset in an area but there can still be things that trigger you into a fixed mindset trait.”
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