The Growth Mindset

The Growth Mindset“Growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.  Although people may differ in every which way in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments, everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”  Carol S. Dweck, PhD from her book MINDSET. Before we delve more deeply into how to develop the growth mindset, let’s briefly examine both the fixed mindset and the growth mindset, and how these different attitudes are formed.

The Fixed Mindset

A fixed mindset views intelligence, talent, character, creativity, etc., as static traits that one is born with and that cannot be changed or improved through effort.  Simply put, you either have “it” or you don’t. A fixed mindset seeks approval, validation, or praise for inherent ability and avoids challenges, so that any fundamental flaws are not exposed.  Hindered by fear of judgement or criticism and fixated on the outcome more than the process, this attitude can be equated with a success-failure mindset, which, when faced with situations with potential for less-than-successful outcomes, triggers feelings of deficiency.  These imperfections incite feelings of shame, and those with a fixed mindset will give up after trying something new and failing a few times. This behavior is often justified by making statements such as, “I’m just not a natural born dancer”. The fixed mindset thwarts the process of self-actualization, as one is discouraged by “failure”, leading to lack of desire or outright refusal to try new things, and is only interested in going for the easy “win” to receive feedback that validates feelings of self-worth.  A fixed mindset cultivates an attitude that identifies with competition, separation, “either/or”, and self-centered consciousness; envious of the success of others, this attitude is often masked by expressions of congratulatory and celebratory remarks or gestures, giving the outward appearance of being team oriented.

The Growth Mindset

A growth mindset believes that any ability or talent can be cultivated through effort and persistence.  This attitude values effort, learning, and is stimulated by “the process”; a growth mindset focuses on expanding skills, knowledge, application, and gleaning wisdom from experiences.  Those with a growth mindset are action-oriented, cultivating their abilities, talent, and character through perseverance, dedication, and learning new strategies, which is considered to be success, regardless of the outcome.  There is no shame in failure, failure is viewed as a stepping stone in the learning process. A growth mindset asks, “What have I learned from this experience?”, and is motivated by feedback that helps them to hone their skills or to improve in any way.   A growth mindset can be equated with the path to mastery. Those with a growth mindset are inspired by the challenges, successes, failures, and experiences of others; these lessons are treasured and integrated into their process of self-development. A growth mindset cultivates an attitude that identifies with cooperation, unity, “and/both” and “we” centered consciousness; celebrating the success and good fortune of others with genuine enthusiasm and joy, as if it were their own.


How can one shift their paradigm from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?  Here are four key steps outlined by Carol Dweck:

Step 1. Learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice.”

Step 2: Recognize that you have a choice.

Step 3: Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice.

Step 4: Take the growth mindset action.

Scarcity Mindset and Abundance Mindset

Similarities exist between the fixed mindset and the scarcity mindset.  Scarcity mindset believes that we live in a world of fixed assets and limited resources, focusing on fear, competition for resources, and survival.  This attitude stems from core issues around self-worth, and feelings of being fundamentally unlovable. Like a bottomless pit, scarcity mindset never feels satisfied.  No matter how much wealth, knowledge, love, fame, power, or material goods one acquires, it is never enough and one lives in the shadow of the fear that one day it may all vanish.

There are also parallels between the growth mindset and abundance mindset.  Abundance mindset believes that we live in a world of endless possibilities and boundless resources, to be shared by all; it is an attitude that engenders altruism.  Abundance mindset stems from love and compassion, for self and others. It is an attitude that is focused on thriving and embracing unseen potential. Abundance mindset anticipates the “good” in life and accepts the flow.

In order to shift paradigms from fixed-scarcity mindset to growth-abundance mindset, I look to the work of Dr. Stephen R. Covey (the following is paraphrased from his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Habit 4: Think Win-Win)

  1. Integrity: sticking with your true feelings, values and commitments.
  2. Maturity: expressing your ideas and feelings with courage and consideration for the ideas and feelings of others.
  3. Abundance Mentality: believing there is plenty for everyone.

Shifting Paradigms

Our predominant mindset is formed by the types of feedback we received from our parents and educators during our developmental years.  Children who receive praise for perceived success and criticism for perceived failure, develop a fixed mindset. Children who receive praise for their effort and action, develop a growth mindset.  However, we all have a mixture of both the fixed and growth mindsets, in different areas of our lives. The great news is, no matter what type of environment we grew up in, or how many years we have lived with a particular paradigm,  we can change our minds!

Neuroplasticity is defined as the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.  When we are learning a new skill, such as driving a car, playing a sport or musical instrument, that initial feeling of awkwardness is due (in part) to neurons in various parts of the brain beginning to make new connections.  These connections grow stronger with practice and the application of effort. As the neural connections become stronger, an insulation called myelin builds along the axon; the axon is the tube that connects neuron to neuron. A thicker myelin sheath around the axon allows signals to travel through the neurons with increased timing and at a more rapid rate.  A positive feedback loop is created; effort, practice, and repetition, develops stronger neural connections in the brain, which in turn increases the speed and proficiency of any activity that we are performing. Isn’t that amazing? How encouraging is it to realize that anything can be learned and mastered, with enough patience, practice and persistence?

To sum it up… we all have areas of our lives where we exhibit either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.  We all have the capacity to shift our paradigm from fixed mindset to growth mindset, at any point in time. A growth mindset cultivates love, compassion, altruism, abundance, and mastery.  We all have the ability to continue to learn and grow throughout our lives, regardless of our age or essential character.

If you are interested in learning more on the subject of neuroplasticity and would like the opportunity to study with Brook we have a 2-day certification class being offered in Los Angeles and New York. This class is will serve you in expanding your way of working on the brain and body with brilliant results.  Click on the Banner below for more information.

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