by Carol Dweck


Before we get started:

Read each statement and decide whether you mostly agree or disagree.

  1. Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.  
  2. You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are.  
  3. No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit.  
  4. You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.

The main idea

A simple belief about yourself guides a large part of your life.  In fact, it permeate severy part of your life. Much of what you think of as your personality actually grows out of your mindset

The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.  It can determine whether you become the person you want to be accomplish the things you value.

Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixedmindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.  If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them.  It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics. Every situation calls for a confirmation of 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?

The growthmindset is based on the belief that basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others.  Although people may differ in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.  The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it 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.

Which mindset do you have?  

Go back to the four statements: which did you mostly agree with? Statements 1 and 2 indicate a fixedmindset.  Statements 3 and 4 reflect a growthmindset.

It’s not only your abilities or intelligence; it’s your personal qualities too.  Look at these statements about personality and character and decide whether you mostly agree or mostly disagree with each one.  

  1. You are a certain kind of person, and there is not much that can be done to really change that.  
  2. No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially.  
  3. You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are can’t really be changed.  
  4. You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are.  

Here, statements 1 and 3 are the fixed mindset and 2 and 4 reflect the growth mindset.

Some key points

Mindsets are an important part of your personality, but you can change them.  Just by knowing about the two mindsets, you can start thinking and reacting in new ways.

All of us have elements of both — we’re all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets.

The way we praise people – the feedback we give them, affects their mindset and their performance.  In the fixedmindset, both positive and negative labels can mess with your mind. When you’re given a positive label, you’re afraid of losing it, and when you’re hit with a negative label, you’re afraid of deserving it.  When people are in a growthmindset, the stereotype doesn’t disrupt their performance. They don’t believe in permanent inferiority.  If they are behind — well, then they’ll work harder, seek help, and try to catch up.

The best way to develop a growthmindset set in others is to praise effortrather than ability; evaluate people based on their ability to learnrather than traits like intelligence;  reward perseverance and overcoming challenges rather than outstanding results. 

Companies have mindsets

Which of these statements best describes your company? 

  1. When it comes to being successful, this company seems to believe that people have a certain amount of talent, and they can’t really do much to change it.
  2. This company values natural intelligence and business talent more than any other characteristics. 
  3. This company genuinely values the personal development and growth of its employees. 

Statements 1 and 2 indicate a fixedmindset; 3 indicates a growthmindset

People who work in growthmindset organizations have far more trust in their company and a much greater sense of empowerment, ownership, and commitment; they feel that their organization supports risk-taking, innovation, and creativity; and they have more positive views of the company.

Supervisors in growthmindset companies have significantly more positive views of their employees; they see their team members as having far greater management potential than did supervisors infixedmindset companies.

Changing your mindset

Just learning about the growth mindset can cause a big shift in the way people think about themselves and their lives.

Begin by accepting your fixed mindset. We’re all a mixture of growth and fixed mindsets and we need to acknowledge that.

The second step is to learn what triggers your fixed mindset. It could be… 

  • when you’re thinking about taking on a big, new challenge.
  • when you’re struggling with something and you keep hitting dead ends.
  • when you feel like you’ve failed decisively.
  • when you encounter someone who’s better than you in an area you pride yourself on.
  • when you encounter certain people and judge or label them.

Now give your fixed mindset a name – pick any name you like – but name it.  This makes it easier to manage and change your mindset. 

Now, educate that mindset. 

When you hit a setback, don’t suppress your fixed mindset.  Let it do its thing, and when it settles down a bit, talk to it about how you plan to learn from the setback and go forward : “Yes, yes, it’s possible that I’m not so good at this (yet), but I think I have an idea of what to do next.  Let’s just try it.”

Remember that your fixed mindset was born to protect you and keep you safe.  But it has developed some very limiting ways of doing that.  So educate it in the new growth mindset ways that it can support you: in taking on challenges and sticking to them, bouncing back from failure, and helping and supporting others to grow.  Understand the persona’s point of view, but slowly teach it a different way of thinking, and take it with you on your journey to a growth mindset.

Discussion questions:

  • When we praise people here, whatdo we praise?  Are we promoting a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?
  • How did you answer the questions about this company’s mindset?  Do we have a fixed or growth mindset here?  Why do you say that?
  • What about yourself?  We all have some amount of fixed and growthmindset.  Which one do you use most often here at work?
  • What are some areas where you’ve got a fixed mindset?  It might be about yourself (“well, I am what I am and this is the best I can do”) or about others (“that’s just who they are – and they’re not going to change”)?
  • Think about the best boss you’ve ever had… what type of mindset did they have?  How did they show it?
  • Think about the best team you’ve ever been on… what was the mindset there?  How was that mindset established?
  • What would it take for us to establish a growth mindset within this team?  What would we have to do?  How can we support each other?