Growth vs. Fixed Mindsets: How They Differ and Why it Matters!

Growth vs. Fixed Mindsets: How They Differ and Why it Matters!

As a guest writer for Dr. Louis (and also her sister), I want to thank you all for reading this article. I am honored to write a segment about growth and fixed mindsets, especially regarding my field, which is Secondary teaching. I have taught growth mindset to many classes especially 9th grade English and 7-8th grade summer school camps.

I am moderately confident you have heard of a “Growth Mindset” and a “Fixed Mindset” or that you could correctly sort examples of both into their categories. This article will explain parts of growth and fixed mindsets that you may not have considered before and offer advice about how to teach it to younger people or just benefit from it yourself. As an adult, the more often you can choose a growth mindset, the more often you’ll feel calm and determined simultaneously. It is motivating to remind yourself that goals can be accomplished through sustained effort. The growth mindset is all about motivation and how rigorously and patiently you can work toward your goals.

People with the fixed mindset view failures as evidence that they are dumb. People with a fixed mindset believe people cannot change how talented they are. When people with a fixed mindset fail, they tend to give up or blame someone or something for their difficulties. People with a growth mindset view failures as opportunities to learn. People with the growth mindset believe people can grow by working hard. People with a growth mindset believe putting in effort is a way to get better at something.

Everyone is constantly learning and there is always a goal in mind: to be improved. The growth mindset is the understanding that effort is what brings ability to achievement. The growth mindset can be defined as a person’s belief in their capabilities and willingness to pursue the goal with perseverance. The fixed mindset can be defined as a person’s withdrawn attitude that success comes from talent or luck instead of effort and apathy about learning from mistakes or trying again once failure has come. A person’s mindset in the face of failures, big and small, can determine the motivation a person has toward options for how to react and move forward. On the one hand, a person may practice determined solution-seeking such as asking for help or actively re-designing goals to match with new information; on the other hand, a person may be in the habit of underestimating their potential and experience insecure feelings which may persuade them to react by withdrawing effort or blaming others.

A younger person’s mindset is really important at school because when students believe in their ability to grow, they are more likely to put in effort, persist through obstacles, seek help, and make productive choices. There are many obstacles to overcome for a younger person and additional challenges outside of school often make studying, focusing, or setting high expectations for oneself difficult. At any point in a school year, many teachers are presenting growth mindset to students through modeling, instruction, quotes, videos, historical stories, etc. The goal of teaching mindset is to encourage students to choose a growth mindset and recognize when they are acting like or feeling like they are in a fixed mindset. There are also explicit tools for teaching growth mindset, such as charts contrasting the two, posters about how to change your language in order to change your mindset, and even kid-friendly articles and videos on the topic. Google “You Can Grow Your Intelligence” to learn more.

When a younger person believes that they can meet goals with sustained effort, they are more likely to use their actions to invest effort toward the goal. Instead of offering an external motivator, try to help younger people choose a growth mindset so they are determined from inside. Teachers and parents can remember to make sure all younger people experience a win and feel proud of an accomplishment or improvement so they can have the feelings of success and want more! Teachers and parents can discuss the growth mindset with younger people in order to foster a belief that dedication instead of escapism will allow a younger person to be in control of their learning and goal-acquisition. Remind young people to set goals at a realistic level and then work patiently, actively seeking help, applying individual determination, appreciating all their accomplishments and improvements, and growing from constructive feedback and guidance from their peers and adults. No one has a growth mindset all the time, but by learning about it, a person may be more able to choose a growth mindset when an obstacle arises and gradually become a more determined person and student.

Be perseverant in the pursuit of your goals. Choose a growth mindset!

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