Growth Mindset Vs Fixed Mindset

By Dr. Samar Habib

In her book Growth Mindset Vs Fixed Mindset Carol Dweck belabors a single point. A single but extremely important point. In essence, she noticed that there were two types of children in the world. Those who looked at an unresolved situation as unresolvable and quickly gave up, and those who looked at an unresolved situation as potentially resolvable at a future point in time.

The children who saw the situation in its present (unresolved) configuration as unalterable, were categorized as possessing “fixed” mindsets. They tended to rely on natural talents, but this meant they didn’t have the perseverance to learn new skills that they may not have naturally been good at.

On the other hand, the children who saw a situation in its present (unresolved) configuration as temporary or transitory, were categorized as having a “growth,” mindset. They had a mind willing to adapt to the needs of the situation. They had an innate sense of the long game, and were able to outdo the kids in the talent-but no-steam camp. Ideally, you’ll want to combine natural talent with a growth mindset, but even if you didn’t have talent, a growth mindset alone, Dweck argued, would be a game-changer. She wasn’t entirely right.

A recent (and huge) study published in the Journal of Psychological Science and reported by Medical Xpress, however, found that children who were taught the growth mindset (that they could improve their skills by playing the long game of effort and practice), were no better off than children who were not taught the approach.

It is important to keep the results of such an extensive study in mind, especially when Dweck’s approach is taught in schools on the understanding that it improves academic results. Nevertheless, even as an adult, after reading Dweck’s repetitive book, I have to say I benefited from the central idea in it. I found myself able to identify the times I was looking at a situation with a fixed mindset — thinking this isn’t working now, and therefore it won’t work in the future. I found myself switching to the logic of a growth mindset, and thinking “even if this isn’t working right now, this does not necessarily mean I won’t be able to find a way to make it work in the future.”

The binary framework of fixed vs growth is useful not just for children, but to anyone who’s looking to improve their game. So, maybe it doesn’t improve children’s academic results, but it does provide a healthy lesson in emotional resilience and intelligence for someone at any age.

Samar Habib is a writer, researcher and educator who lives in California. You can learn more about mind management from her in The Quantum Mind. Get in touch with her on drsamarhabib [at] email [dot] com