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Last Updated on April 9, 2020

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset: 9 Distinct Differences

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset: 9 Distinct Differences

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.

In the end, our learning capabilities boil down to two mindsets that 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’ve already selected that mindset years ago. So to help out, I’ve put together differences between these two mindsets so that you can identify the problems and begin to grow yourself.

What Is a Fixed Mindset?

Coined by 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.

What Is a Growth Mindset?

Compare this to a growth mindset and it’s the polar opposite. Even when someone isn’t good at something, a growth mindset ensures that the person thinks they’ll get better over time.

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.

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 persons way of thinking and viewing the world. When we change how we view things, our entire lives change. Consider these differences.

1. Differences in Challenges

The first aspect is how they approach challenges.

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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

Second is how each one handles feedback and criticism.

For those with a fixed mindset, they will react in a negative way. Some will hate you and harbor disdain while others will ignore or avoid it as much as possible.

For those with a growth mindset, they 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 of intelligence.

As I mentioned above, a fixed mindset is fixed. So when it comes to intelligence in a topic or 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 if they put in enough effort, things will move along.

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4. Differences in Tolerance

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

For those with a fixed mindset, these are people who give up too easily. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise as I mentioned already they like to avoid problems and challenges. Any sort of 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 growth mindset vs fixed mindset view success.

For a fixed mindset individual, they are often jealous of those who succeed in anything. Deep down though, these individuals experience self-doubt which turns in jealousy but also 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 in 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.

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For those with a fixed mindset, they stop learning after post-secondary. They think that the learning 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 though. 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 touches on in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is the desire for confirmation between the 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? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? 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 a fixed level, but that belief stemmed from how they were raised.

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

Compare that 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.

Final Thoughts

Being able to recognize the differences between 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.

More Tips About Growing Your Mindset

Featured photo credit: Adolfo Félix via unsplash.com

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on July 29, 2020

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

Have you been thinking of how you can be a more strategic leader during these uncertain times? Has the pandemic thrown a wrench at all your carefully laid out plans and initiatives?

You’re not alone. The truth is, we all want some stability in our careers and teams during this disruptive pandemic.

However, this now requires a bit more effort than before and making the leap from merely surviving to thriving means buckling down to some serious strategic thinking and maintaining a determined mindset.

Is There a Way to Thrive Despite These Disruptions?

Essentially – yes, although you need to be willing to put in the work. Every leader wants to develop strategic thinking skills so that they can enhance overall team performance and boost their company’s success, but what exactly does it mean to be strategic in the context of the times we live in?

If you happen to be in a leadership position in your organization right now, you are most probably navigating precarious waters given the disruptions caused by the pandemic. There’s a lot more pressure than before because your actions and decisions will have a much greater impact these days not just on you, but also to the people who are part of your team.

Companies often bring me in to coach executives on strategic thinking and planning. And while pre-pandemic I would usually start by highlighting the advantages of strategic thinking, nowadays, I always begin these Zoom coaching sessions by driving home the point that this pandemic has now made strategic thinking not just an option but an absolute must.

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Assessing and making plans through the lens of a good strategy might require significant work at first. Nevertheless, you can take comfort in the fact that the rewards will far outweigh the effort, as you’ll soon see after following the 8 strategic steps I have outlined below.

8 Steps to Strategic Thinking

As events unfold during these strange times, you’re bound to feel wrong-footed every now and then. Being a leader during this pandemic means preparing for more change not just for you, but for your whole team as well.

As states and cities go through a cycle of lockdowns and reopening, employees will experience the full gamut of human emotions in dizzying speed, and you will often be called on to provide insight and stability to your team and workplace.

Strategic thinking is all about anticipation and preparation. Rather than expending your energy merely helping your company put out fires and survive, you can put the time to better use by charting out a solid plan that can protect and help you and your company thrive.

Take the following steps to build solid initiatives and roll out successful projects:

Step 1: Step Back, Then Set the Scope

One of the things that leaders get wrong during their first attempt at strategic thinking is expecting that it is just another item on a checklist. The truth is, you need to take a good, long look at the bigger picture before anything else. This means decisively prioritizing and stepping away from tasks that can be delegated to others. Free up your schedule so you can focus on this crucial task at hand.

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Then, proceed with setting the scope and the strategic goals of the project or initiative you plan to build or execute. Ask yourself the bigger question of why you need to embark on a particular project and when would be the right time to do so.

You need to set a timeline as well, anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. Keep in mind that your projections will deteriorate the further out you go as you make longer-term plans.

For this reason, add extra resources, flexibility, and resilience if you have a longer timeline. You should also be making the goals less specific if you’re charting it out for the longer term.

Step 2: Make a List of Experts

Make and keep a list of credible people who can contribute solid insight and feedback to your initiative. This could range from key stakeholders to industry experts, mentors, and even colleagues who previously planned and rolled out similar projects.

Reach out to the people on this list regularly while you work through the steps to bring diverse insight into your planning process. This way, you will be able to approach any problem from every angle.

Bringing key stakeholders into this initial process will also display your willingness to listen and empathize with their issues. In return, this will build trust and potentially pave the way for smoother buy-in down the line.

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Step 3: Anticipate the Future

After identifying your goals and gathering feedback, it’s time to consider what the future would look like if everything goes as you intuitively anticipate. Then, lay out the kind and amount of resources (money, time, social capital) that might be needed to keep this anticipated future running.

Step 4: Brainstorm on Potential Internal and External Problems

Next, think of how the future would look if you encountered unexpected problems internal and external to the business activity that seriously jeopardize your expected vision of the future. Write out what kind of potential problems you might encounter, including low-probability ones.

Assess the likelihood that you will run into each problem. To gauge, multiply the likelihood by the number of resources needed to address the problem. Try to convert the resources into money if possible so that you can have a single unit of measurement.

Then, think of what steps you can take to address these internal and external problems before they even happen. Write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Lastly, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different possible problems and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

Step 5: Identify Potential Opportunities, Internal and External

Imagine how your expected plan would look if unexpected opportunities came up. Most of these will be external but consider internal ones as well. Then, gauge the likelihood of each scenario and the number of resources you would need to take advantage of each opportunity. Convert the resources into money if possible.

Then, think of what steps you can take in advance to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Finally, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different unexpected opportunities and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

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Step 6: Check for Cognitive Biases

Check for potential cognitive biases that are relevant to you personally or to the organization as a whole, and adjust the resources and plans to address such errors.[1] Make sure to at least check for loss aversion, status quo bias, confirmation bias, attentional bias, overconfidence, optimism bias, pessimism bias, and halo and horns effects.

Step 7: Account for Unknown Unknowns (Black Swans)

To have a more effective strategy, account for black swans as well. These are unknown unknowns -unpredictable events that have potentially severe consequences.

To account for these black swans, add 40 percent to the resources you anticipate. Also, consider ways to make your plans more flexible and secure than you intuitively feel is needed.

Step 8: Communicate and Take the Next Steps

Communicate the plan to your stakeholders, and give them a heads up about the additional resources needed. Then, take the next steps to address the unanticipated problems and take advantage of the opportunities you identified by improving your plans, as well as allocating and reserving resources.

Finally, take note that there will be cases when you’ll need to go back and forth these steps to make improvements, (a fix here, an improvement there) so be comfortable with revisiting your strategy and reaching out to your list of experts.

Conclusion

A great way to deal with feelings of uncertainty during this pandemic is to anticipate obstacles with a good plan – and a sure road to that is practicing strategic thinking.

In the coming months and years, you’ll need to continue navigating uncharted territory so that you can lead your team to safe waters. Regularly doing these 8 steps to strategic thinking will ensure that you can prepare for and adapt  to the coming changes with increasing clarity, perspective, and efficiency.[2]

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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