FIXED Mindsets vs. GROWTH Mindsets

FIXED Mindsets vs. GROWTH Mindsets

SO…I READ A BOOK. Surprising? Not really, honestly I’m probably one of the biggest bookworms on the planet at the moment. But this one was AMAZING! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that so clearly defined for me the breakdown between the fixed and growth mindsets. I know what everybody’s thinking already, Stevenson you’re being super vague about this book, just get it out already. The Book is called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.

Now for the longest time, I’d been able to read quotes from the book or passages in articles that quote it, but I’ve never gotten to read the full thing. So when my roommate brought it home one day I got a familiar buzz in the back of my brain and totally threw myself at it. So what is this mystical book that I won’t shut up about? Why does it even relate to Social Skills or Self Improvement even a little bit?

If you read any of my posts, I put a lot of stock in mindsets through my teaching. To me, simply changing a mindset opens up a hallway of open doors and possibilities! So of course this book makes my heart smile. Basically what this book does is describe the different aspects of people personalities, the difference between the growth and fixed mindsets, how they relate to us, and finally she lays out different scenarios in which each of these mindsets apply!

Now in regards as to how this applies to us, I’ll explain in a little more depth, Social Skill development is obviously a skillset right? That means that it’s something that can be learned. Alongside your development is how you tackle it, your intentions behind it, and what you’re to get out of it. If you take Action on something, it causes more action on it. Behind everything we do, we have a mindset applied to our desire to do said action, either one of a fixed nature, or one of a growth nature.

Here’s one of the more intriguing things I discovered about the human brain and how it tackles challenges. I’ve always known that we tend to handle situations in different ways, but what I didn’t quite realize is that while that may be the case, one of the biggest factors is that we use different mindsets based on the situations! It isn’t the same mindset across the board like I thought it was (Maybe I just threw myself into a growth mindset right when I discovered it?) but something that’s cultivated based on the perception we have on our abilities regarding the situation.

When I read on all this, it felt like a light bulb got turned on in the room I was sitting in. Basically I realized that in order to give the best advice I could on this blog, I didn’t just need to give you a list of useful mindsets to use on a base by base situation, I need to give you a solid launching point for those mindsets to feed off of. That launching point however, is one of a nature that I’ll let you decide as to how to proceed and make a guess with both. Instead of sitting there giving you personal story after personal story from my own life and how these apply to me, I’ll just leave with that simply put I’ve gone through periods where I’ve had both a fixed and a growth mindset. That in my own experience I’ve found that the growth mindset is a much more long-lasting and useful tool.

An interesting point from the book that I found is the fact that our mindset is heavily influenced by the way people spoke to us and treated our experiences growing up. Think on that for a second! External influences working on us from when we were young? Sounds similar as to why people get Approach Anxiety, or why people try to swing into Cliques, doesn’t it? A lot of fixed mindset people were told things as they were younger like, you must be really talented, or you did your best. Things that while on the surface don’t sound limiting, but with repetition get stuck in the mind, while people that naturally proceed with the growth mindset were normally described as working very hard, and trying harder and harder to achieve what they want. Things that while they also imply that the individual is good at what they do, it’s talent built through hard work, not natural ability.

So remember that while our pasts are always going to be a part of who we are, you don’t want to allow that to hold you back when learning something new. Learning anything new is going to cause you to push back against limiting beliefs that developed from somewhere, so be sure to look at everything objectively as you start to work through your own mindset! Think about that for just one more second, when you learn new lessons, you’ll find that they force you to question ones you’ve learned in the past, it comes down to deciding as to whether you want something new, or to stay rooted in the past.

So then, what about all the different mindsets I’ve mentioned in my posts, aren’t those all valid mindsets as well? They are entirely, but they’re broken down into one of the two groupings here. They are almost like sub-mindsets, ideas that can be changed on a whim, and the growth and fixed mindsets are the actual backbone that these smaller mindsets rely on. But if you’ll notice, almost all of them are based on the growth mindsets, one that allows you to learn. Rather then becoming so ingrained in trying to be awesome always, the sets that I show you are based on your ability to adapt and learn, which isn’t something that you can do with the Fixed mindset.

But I ramble on, what are the fixed and growth mindsets, and how exactly do they affect us?

The Fixed Mindset

How nice would it be to just have the knowledge that you’re amazing? To be so assured in a few areas of you life that you just know that your intelligent, creative, and proud? I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to just know that people around you think your awesome at mathematics and things of that nature and know that you don’t need to proceed. Sound pretty amazing in my opinion. Allowing yourself the knowledge that you’ve proceeded as far as you need in a field and that you have natural abilities in would be one of the best feelings in the world for a time.

Now let’s try thinking of things from the opposite side of the river shall we? Imagine if you just the innate knowledge that you were dumb, a stupid person who doesn’t learn anything and therefore doesn’t even try. Think on how frustrating it is to just have a base knowledge, and it’s just your best. No matter how hard you try, no matter what you do, you always try your best, and get no further then that. Imagine if your social skills, your working skills, everything in your life was a set skill and that was that.

Welcome my friends to the world of the fixed mindset, there are no highs or lows in this state of mine, no periods of growth or retreat, there just is. Sure you can increase what you know, just not in a big way. If your awesome, then your awesome, but if you’re dumb, then your dumb. In my opinion there can be pros to this state of mind, after all if your someone of intelligence and wit your just awesome, you’re the best person for any situation. Feeling safe in the knowledge that your awesome and good can be a solid way to prop up your confidence, and self-esteem.

Think about it though, think about how often our confidence get perpetrated. How confidence in ourselves can be under assault almost daily! We’re constantly thrown into situations that aren’t confident in, and if you’re only confident in a few sections of yourself that you base yourself on things tend to…collapse now don’t they? After all, new environments mean new things, and new things that aren’t familiar with your current knowledge is usually a terrible combination for you. It’s not the best if you put someone who’s stuck in their ways into a new situation, they tend to freak out, or push it away.

Which does happen, someone with this mindset tends to push away difficulty in order to maintain their facade of confidence and amazing-ness (that’s a word right?). If not for anyone else other then themselves, remember that people HATE to have their illusions shattered, even though at times it is necessary. As an added point, if you already know and are amazing and that’s the best you get, you’re CONSTANTLY trying to prove yourself. It gets crazy exhausting if your always trying to prove how awesome you are, always proving that your BETTER then that dude. Especially socially, people with the fixed mindset are always trying to Demonstrate Higher Value, always swinging towards being subjected by Social Value.

If you can’t better at social skills and your stuck where you’re at, then why did you even stumble upon this blog huh? Think about using the fixed mindset when learning this skillset. Sure if you have confidence in your skill it’ll help, for a little while at least. But as soon as you hit that first wall things are going to fall apart, your going to reject everything you made progress on and then sit in your den of “comfortable awesome-ness”. But isn’t one of the biggest tenants of learning to get good with people the pillar of breaking out of your comfort zone? Ego-Death and breaking down your walls is one of the biggest things to face in this skillset.

The biggest thing that I found about the Fixed mindset in the area of social development is thinking on having to prove yourself at every. single. interaction. Ugh no thanks, that sounds like your adding SO much more pressure then you need to deal with. If your approaching group after group of people, you don’t need to deal with that, let your mind shape itself! After all, it’s called the learning process right? If you stall out too soon, you aren’t going to make very far, now are you? So if that’s the fixed mindset, what entails the growth mindset?

The Growth Mindset

The growth mindset is one that seems pretty self-explanatory in nature. If a fixed mindset is one that says your abilities are ones that have been natural talent, then a growth mindset is one build off the back of hard work. Essentially the way it works is that you come from a mentality that your accomplishments were done through the process of building your talent and abilities, and that even your weaker subjects can be worked on. So obviously, a growth mindset is the complete opposite of a fixed mindset even in its very nature, allowing for growth.

One thing that is of note is the mentality of those with the growth mindset, when people with this mindset hit a wall; it’s never the end of the world with them. Sure it may fluster and boggle them, but most of the time, you’ll see these people’s minds run with different scenarios on how to get through, above, or around said wall. Ultimately what allows these people to proceed isn’t that they see the wall necessarily, they simply see an obstacle that can be overcome by improving on their knowledge and skills. So one of the biggest assets to the growth mentality is the fact that they aren’t just a finished product and they can improve, pick up new skills, and increase their stock.

For those who don’t swing into the growth mindset, it can be hard for them to understand the point of being able to change, they tend to get stuck in their ways, unable or unwilling to move forward in their progression. Such isn’t a problem for those with the growth mentality, they use fall backs and weaknesses as challenges to increase their knowledge and become stronger in those areas so they struggle less. So in a sense, they aren’t even being held back, they simply haven’t reached the place the need to in order to cross the next barrier.

Of course for all the pros, there has to be cons. One of the big cons for the growth mindset is that at the start, when you first start into this mindset, the assured confidence that can come from having a fixed mindset isn’t present. You aren’t sure of everything in your life, so that comes with the burden of growing that confidence yourself. But as I’ve stated several times in this blog, Confidence is a process, it comes from growth.

So when you do develop that confidence, you are assured of it in a way that the fixed mindset can’t give you. Instead of it just being present all the time and having to live up to that standard that’s in nobody’s head but your own, that confidence was fought for, it was hard won through learning and growth and as a result, anytime that confidence comes into question they simply brush it off. It becomes a matter of them needing to increase their knowledge and keep working on things if they can’t do something rather than a battle to keep up the appearance of greatness.

So then, how does this relate to social skills? Think on how someone with a Growth mindset is going to react to any setback while learning to do all this, if someone reacts poorly or they have a few bad encounters they aren’t just going to shut down content in the knowledge that there’s no way to figure out what went wrong. They’re going to learn what’s going wrong, and how to fix the issue they’re having, then keep moving forward. Such is the mindset of someone with the basis of growth on their mind.

Here’s a little secret about a surprising amount of naturals when it comes to social skills…they tend to Bogart the rules of social interaction. Not because they don’t need them (because everyone follows the rules), but because they don’t want to think they need them. To them, social skills were something that just happened, so they don’t think that the rules apply to them, and that they are just good with everybody and therefore need no further knowledge on the subject.  The look at people who learn and are super supportive, but they also think that it’s different for them, and when you challenge that confidence they stonewall you to protect their own sense of confidence. It’s the same reason why people who aren’t naturals can usually compete with naturals well, learners are willing to fix the issues they’re having, whereas a natural or a fixed mindset individual will either ignore it and just stay in the mindset of “I’m as good with people as I’m going to get”.

The Final Word

In the end, how you decide to tackle this skill-set is up to you, but as you can see it’s by far a much easier transition and learning process if you swing into the grown mindset. After all, what is actually going to benefit you more? Sticking to your guns and learning very slowly that this is something that can be learned, or just starting at the gate with that knowledge in hand? I can tell you from personal experience that the first option is a much more frustrating and drawn out process then the second. So allowing yourself to get into that mindset will help you change into all the other mindsets that come with learning this stuff.

In the end, every tool that can be taught is only as good as the person using it. So technically, building things from the ground up is the most efficient way to get further along in this skill set. And honestly, tackling things from the position of growth in any area of your life has been proven to be vastly more effective than just assuming your abilities in any such area are just there. Not only does it allow you for room to grow, but it also gives you the ability to screw up without it being the end of the world.

Think about it like this, with the fixed mindset, what happens if you’re confident and the best at something and then you fail, you fall apart at the seams. Chances are then you back pedal, make excuses as to why something happened and then keep yourself from trying again so that you can stay confident. But then what happens if you tackle something with the growth mindset and it doesn’t pan out? You’d be bummed for a while, but then considering you’re trying to learn and accomplish goals in said field, you aren’t just going to collapse. You’re going to get back on the horse, keep moving forward, and find a way around that obstacle, keeping the lessons you’d learned in your mind.

So then, what is the better mindset to use when learning anything new, is it one where you have confidence in yourself in certain areas and all you have to do is prove yourself? Or is it a mindset where no matter the situation, you don’t only have confidence in yourself, but in your ability to get over the obstacles thrown your way because you know that you can learn to overcome them? My point exactly!


Stevenson Grey