“Growth mindset” is the name given by psychologist Carol Dweck to the idea that your self-belief, intelligence and basic abilities can develop through dedication and hard work.

What are mind-sets?

A mind-set is a series of self-perceptions or beliefs people hold about themselves, for example, believing you’re either “intelligent” or “unintelligent”.

Growth and fixed mind-sets

Someone with a growth mindset is likely to:

  • Be keen to learn from the people around them
  • Understand that to get what they want, they’ve got to put in the effort
  • Recognise that failure is an opportunity to learn
  • Be aware of their weaknesses, and be focused on improving them
  • Welcome challenges because of a desire to learn
  • Be open to new things and new ways of learning
  • Learn from criticism
  • Find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.

Someone with a fixed mindset is likely to:

  • Desire to look smart and therefore avoid challenges where he/she thinks he/she might fail
  • Become defensive or give up easily
  • Try to hide his/her mistakes
  • Be convinced that his/her abilities are limited to one area, for example, believing that he/she is a “creative” type, an “athletic” type, etc.
  • Practise negative self-talk by saying things such as “I can’t do it”
  • Feel threatened by the success of others
  • See effort as fruitless
  • Ignore useful negative feedback.

How to turn a fixed mind-set into a growth mindset

  • Engage in hobbies, interests and activities that elicit laughter, smiling, fun, play and positive feelings.
  • Identify your personal strengths and passions and put as much effort as you can into practising your skills and learning new ones.
  • Build healthy relationships and connections with others based upon shared interests, values and mutual respect for each other’s needs.
  • Set achievable and meaningful goals, linked to what is important to you. Celebrate both the process and outcome of these tasks.
  • Take responsibility for your health by increasing your physical activity, sleep quality and nutrition. Cultivate positive stress management techniques and an optimistic attitude.
  • Watch your self-talk and avoid negative thinking. If you tell yourself that you can do it, chances are that you will, even if it doesn’t happen straight away.
  • Put in the hard work. You’re unlikely to reach your goals if you’re not putting in the effort to match.
  • Practise your skills and make an effort to learn new ones.
  • Be open to new ways of doing things. You can never be sure of how something is going to turn out if you’ve never tried it before.
  • Don’t let setbacks get you down. Setbacks don’t mean you’ve failed, just that you need to try a different approach.

If your present mindset needs a boost, chat about it with someone whom you trust such as a friend or counsellor; he/she will work with you to help you understand what’s going on and figure out how to improve your growth mind-set.

Dweck, C. 2008. Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York, USA: Ballantine Books

Written by Life assist