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Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset: 9 Distinct Differences

Written by Leon Ho
Founder & CEO of Lifehack
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Whether you are leaping into learning through college, university, or on your own time, there is one thing that is key. That is your mindset.

While these experiences in life will challenge you, it is your mindset that will determine whether you will succeed or fail. But also how much you grow.

Ultimately, our learning capabilities boil down to two mindsets we must choose. Either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. This growth mindset vs fixed mindset relationship is everything and is your key to success.

What we might not be aware of is the fact that we had already selected that mindset years ago. So to help out, I’ve put together the differences between these two mindsets so that you can identify the problems and begin to grow yourself.

What Is a Fixed Mindset?

Coined by American psychologist Carol Dweck, a fixed mindset, as she explains, is a mindset where everything is fixed.[1] Whether it is your intelligence or your abilities, everything is the same.

If you’re not good at something, someone who has a fixed mindset will think you’ve never been good at it and will never be good at it. There is no opportunity for you to learn and grow at all.


Characteristics of a Fixed Mindset

Now that we know what a fixed mindset is, let’s uncover some of the characteristics of this mindset. Since someone with a fixed mindset believes individual traits can’t change, no matter the effort, they more than likely also believe that intelligence is static, and they avoid challenges as a way to avoid failure.

They also choose to ignore feedback and constructive criticism from others and feel threatened by the success of others. To avoid judgment, a fixed mindset person tends to hide their flaws and give up easily when any new challenge comes their way.

Fixed Mindset Triggers

Fixed mindset triggers are simply things that shift your mindset from thinking that your abilities can improve to thinking that your abilities are fixed or predetermined.

Here are some fixed mindset triggers that might cross your mind:

  • That’s not the way we are supposed to behave
  • I will most certainly fail
  • I am not talented
  • This is impossible
  • It would be best if I just gave up
  • I am too scared to do this

Have you said any of these statements? If so, you have experienced a fixed mindset way of thinking. The first step toward a different mindset is becoming aware of how this type of mindset can hold you back.

Once you have this awareness, you can work toward a growth mindset and become a more successful person who enjoys lifelong learning.


What Is a Growth Mindset?

Compare a fixed mindset person to one with a growth mindset, and it’s the polar opposite. Even when someone isn’t good at something or may not already have an innate ability, a growth mindset ensures that the person thinks they’ll get better over time with deliberate practice.

According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and her research, it is more beneficial not to praise talent or a natural ability but praise the learning process. She says effort, strategies, persistence, and resilience should be rewarded. This can significantly influence constructive feedback and create a more positive mindset.

While you can already see some differences on the surface between a growth mindset vs fixed mindset, there are more aspects to these than that.

What Are Mindset Interventions?

A good way to change to a different mindset is with mindset interventions. These are strategies focused on changing someone’s mindset to the idea that intelligence can be changed to improve academic performance and attainment.

Do growth mindset interventions work? According to research,[2] a brief growth mindset intervention was shown to improve the grades of lower achieving students by 0.10 points.

False Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck also explains a false growth mindset. This is when there is a misunderstanding of the idea’s core message. Many educators thought at one point that they could tell students to put in more effort and hard work, and that’s all that needed to be done to foster a growth mindset.

However, empty praise like applauding a student for trying even though they failed their test was causing the problems a growth minded person sets out to fix worsen.


In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck discusses this kind of false growth mindset.

She wrote:

False growth mindset is saying you have a growth mindset when you don’t really have it, or you don’t really understand [what it is]. It’s also false in the sense that nobody has a growth mindset in everything all the time. Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets.

To prevent false growth mindset, we need to praise the efforts that ultimately lead to our intended outcomes. Avoid praising ineffective efforts. Dweck says, “focus on the learning process and show how hard work, good strategies, and good use of resources lead to better learning.”

9 Differences Between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset

Digging deeper, you’ll find these mindsets to be different in all manner of things. This is a person’s way of thinking and viewing the world. When we change how we view things, our entire lives change.

fixed vs growth mindset

    Consider these differences.

    1. Differences in Challenges

    The first aspect is how they approach challenges.

    People who have a fixed mindset will do everything they can to avoid challenges in their life. If there is an easier solution that their talents can overcome, they’ll take it.

    Some examples of this are things like not studying for a test because they’re not good at the subject. That or only doing specific tasks at work that they know they can do with little issues.

    On the other hand, those with a growth mindset embrace challenges in their lives. Yes, some of the work or effort may come out short, but they understand failure is part of learning.


    What matters to them is that they have tried their best in those moments. After that, they learn and grow from the experience.

    2. Differences in Handling Feedback

    The second is how each one handles feedback and criticism.

    Those with a fixed mindset will react in a negative way. Some will hate the person who give them feedback and harbor disdain, while others will ignore or avoid it as much as possible.

    Those with a growth mindset view these talks as opportunities to grow. While it’s about their work and efforts, they don’t see it as an attack on their abilities. Provided that the criticism is valid, these individuals will take it to heart and incorporate it into their lives.

    3. Difference in Intelligence

    In particular, the belief in intelligence.

    As I mentioned above, a fixed mindset is fixed. So when it comes to intelligence in a topic or new skill, you either have it or not.

    On the other hand, someone with a growth mindset believes that intelligence isn’t an inherent skill and can be developed. They believe that things will move along if they put in enough effort.

    4. Differences in Tolerance

    What I mean by tolerance is how long people can tolerate something before giving up or stopping.

    Those with a fixed mindset are people who give up too easily. As I mentioned already, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise; they like to avoid problems and challenges. Any roadblock will destroy someone if they think this way.


    Those with a growth mindset, though, are persistent and try harder. They’re not ones to shy away from challenges. And even if they fail, they try again later.

    5. Differences in Viewed Success

    It’s also worth looking at how the fixed vs growth mindset views success.

    A fixed mindset individual is often jealous of those who succeed in anything. Deep down, these individuals experience self-doubt, which turns into jealousy and insecurity.

    Compared to a growth mindset individual, they get inspired by seeing others succeed. In many cases, they even help others around them succeed. That’s because they believe in themselves and feel they can help others too.

    6. Differences in Failure

    To no surprise, by this point, those with a fixed mindset will shield themselves from failure. If they ever experience it, it’s often a negative experience. In fact, many people get stuck on one failure for their entire life.

    It’s as if one failure has barred them from ever putting effort into that area again.

    But those with a growth mindset don’t have the word “failure” in their vocabulary. They see these as setbacks or opportunities to learn. They’re more eager to learn from their failures and are willing to grow as a person.


    7. Differences In Learning

    Their attitude about learning also is a key difference too.

    Those with a fixed mindset stop learning after post-secondary. They think the learning process ends after that point, and you have to use that knowledge for the rest of your life.

    Those with a growth mindset, though, know the truth. They know industries, people, and the world changes around them. We live in an information age where more information is being put out every day. They recognize that learning doesn’t stop after college or university. It’s only starting.

    8. Differences In Confirmation

    One aspect that Dweck also touches on in her book is the desire for confirmation between mindsets.

    She writes:

    I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves — in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?

    For those with a fixed mindset, this is a constant element for them. They need to prove to themselves and to others that they are valuable. It’s akin to our kids posting on social media for validation. Their attitude about themselves is judged by how many likes or comments they get.

    It all boils down to numbers.

    For those with a growth mindset, this aspect doesn’t exist. Sure there is some confirmation, but it stems from inside rather than from outside sources.

    As Dweck explains in her book:

    Why waste time proving over and over how great you are when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? … The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.


    9. Differences in Effort

    While this is an obvious one on the surface, there is more to it than that. After all, a mindset is developed through events and how we interpret those events in our lives.

    For the fixed mindset, while they will do anything to avoid any negative events, that desire stems from deeper beliefs. Yes, they think everything is at a fixed level, but that belief stems from how they were raised.

    In the end, those with a fixed mindset believe that effort stems from their own abilities they have already.

    Compared to a growth mindset, their belief system is that effort stems from their current effort in developing something. They believe that effort stems from the action of doing something and learning from those experiences.

    Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset Quiz

    Do you want to know if you have a fixed mindset or are more of a growth mindset person? Take the quiz below.[3] Read through each statement and decide which answer best suits you. Circle the number in the appropriate column.

    When done, total and record your score. You can then use the score chart at the end of the quiz to record your mindset.

    fixed mindset growth mindset quiz

      Final Thoughts

      Being able to recognize the differences between a growth mindset vs fixed mindset is key because it shapes our reality.

      Even if you have a few of these aspects in the fixed mindset category, they can cause some problems.

      People have given up doing something all because they experienced one failure or major setback in life.

      If you think you need the approval of your talents, it suggests a lack of confidence in your skills. This can translate to how much you want to challenge yourself and develop yourself in that area.


      A mindset shapes our view of the world and the people that are in it. When we change our mindset to that of growth, we clearly see the world in a different light. By developing yourself in this area and adopting this mindset, you, too, can change your life and grow more than ever.

      Featured photo credit: Adolfo Félix via unsplash.com


      [1]Farnam Street: Carol Dweck: A Summary of Growth and Fixed Mindsets
      [2]National Library of Medicine: When Do Growth Mindset Interventions Work?
      [3]Academic Advising Programme: Mindset Quiz
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