Why Moving From a Fixed Mindset to Growth Mindset is Harder Than You Think

Changing from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset has been all the rage the last few years.

Lots of popular bloggers, authors and other gurus that make the conference circuit has taken amazing academic research from Stanford professor Carol Dweck and made it their own.

However, is a growth mindset actually achievable? Or is an inspirational and motivational speech enough to power you through?

Let’s take a closer look at what a growth mindset really entails and how you can shed the fixed mindset once and for all.


The Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset Standoff

A fixed mindset is about preservation. You think that your traits, skills, and abilities will stay the same no matter what. You don’t want to look dumb, so you don’t try anything new.

A growth mindset entails understanding that through practice, hard work and effort you can improve on your abilities and learn new things.

Here’s how Dweck describes it: “People believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work — brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

What We Miss About the Growth Mindset

1. Effort is not enough.

Most of Dweck’s work has centered around students and how they learn, specifically in the school system. The best teachers will incorporate a variety of methods to engage their students–and you have to do the same thing for yourself.

For example, if you want to learn a new language or a new skill at work, you may have to try a few different approaches before you find one that sticks.

Of course, this takes time.

Discovering your learning style and finding ways to fit into that learning will take a lot of dedication. Sheer effort won’t be enough. You can get praised for making an effort, but did you actually learn?

2. Growth is a journey.

With a journey, not everything goes up. Sometimes you go around, get lost and come back again. It’s the same with growth.

A growth mindset will recognize that and adapt to the situation. Mistakes aren’t harmful. They’re part of how you learn. A fixed mindset will focus on the mistakes and errors, rather than creating an environment for better learning.

3. Fixed and growth mindsets aren’t binary.

There’s no way you automatically jump from a fixed mindset into a growth mindset. You probably have a growth mindset with some experiences and a fixed mindset in other areas.

Your fixed mindset may stay and we shouldn’t dupe ourselves into thinking it will go away. Part of the growth mindset is acknowledging that the fixed mindset may still exist.

4. Focus on approval rather than learning.  

A fixed mindset only wants to go after the right answer, rather than actually understanding how things work and develop. The fixed mindset wants approval over experience. When driven by approval rather than learning, you’re more likely to fail when the approval stops. The growth mindset sees it as part of the experience.

Indications That You’re Falling Into a Fixed Mindset

If you find yourself with thoughts in these areas towards others, you may be sliding back into a fixed mindset. Remember, a growth mindset isn’t only about effort; it’s about how you perceive the situation.

  • Anxiety. You become overly anxious about a situation, circumstance, project or opportunity
  • Negativity towards feedback. Do you feel defeated when criticism is offered to you? Or do you want to learn from their comments and feedback?
  • Jealousy. How do you feel towards those that are more successful than you or gaining more praise? Are you judging them fairly? In what ways could you learn from them?


How To Go From A Fixed To Growth Mindset

1. Habits must change.

To be the person that works out, you have to work out more. Which means that your habits have to change. To show how hard this is, just evaluate a gym in January compared to July. The attendance will be remarkably different. And the habit didn’t stick for lots of people.

The problem?

We often think about what we want to do instead of the steps to help us accomplish the thing. This is a big principle in the Get Things Done system. You must create smaller tasks and action steps to break down a bigger item.

Sometimes changing the habit is identifying the smaller steps to make the habit a reality.

ClickUp is perfectly set up to help you with action steps. It’s easy to create tasks, due dates, and even recurring tasks to keep your tasks top of mind.

With ClickUp, you’ll always have a place for reminders, notes on your progress and ways to break down your big goals into smaller tasks.

2. Focus on identity before outcomes.

Say you do want to work out more to get stronger. But then the results don’t come as fast you’d like and you lose hope. You don’t meet the goal so you quit.

Now, you’re back into the fixed mindset. The outcome was your goal and when the habits didn’t bear fruit, you stopped.

Yes, there could be instances where you should stop something or give up. But take your results to a deeper level. Were you ever really a person that worked out and lifted weights? Was this a core part of your identity? No. You were focused on the outcomes rather than the identity.

“Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe,” says James Clear in his new book about habits.  

Identity defines who you are. For habits and a growth mindset to become second nature, they have to be an integral part of your perspective as a person.

3. Recognize the small wins.

Another reason why it’s hard to capture the growth mindset is that we expect too much too soon. Remember, fixed and growth mindsets aren’t binary. Everyone is in process.

“I am a woman in process. I’m just trying like everybody else. I try to take every conflict, every experience and learn from it. Life is never dull,” says Oprah Winfrey. This is definitely a growth mindset. She hasn’t settled on who she is as a person, as a final product, even amid lots of success.

To be comfortable with the ups and downs of the growth mindset, you must be comfortable with the small wins and building upon them. Some days will be harder than others; some minutes will be more trying than others.

The growth mindset accepts those difficulties along with the small wins that they bring.

In ClickUp, you can track your big wins (Goals) along with breaking them down into smaller wins (key results). Celebrate, as a team, as you go.

Conclusion: Next Steps for a Growth Mindset

A growth mindset isn’t about neglecting your talents and abilities for something completely new every time. You may be born with certain interests, predilections, and quirks. But that doesn’t mean that new skills are beyond your reach. There are many skills that could fit your interests and talents that you may be afraid to cultivate.

To identify those, think about…

  • Your fears related to your career, success or lack of success.
  • The outcomes you want and if you’re willing to be that type of person.
  • How you are learning from your failures

Do you find it hard to have a growth mindset? What’s holding you back? What old patterns are you sliding back into?

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