Fixed Mindset Vs Growth Mindset: Differences And Best Examples

Written by Peter Keszegh

Have you ever struggled with thoughts like "I'll never be good at this" or "I'm just not a math person"? These are classic fixed mindset examples, where you believe your abilities are unchangeable. But what if you could change that?

Psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck uncovered the power of mindsets, distinguishing between fixed and growth perspectives. Fixed mindset examples involve a belief in inherent talent, while a growth mindset sees skills as something you can develop.

This blog is your guide to understanding how mindsets shape your responses to challenges and your potential for improvement.

Fixed Mindset Vs Growth Mindset

The fixed mindset

A fixed mindset is rooted in the belief that your intelligence, abilities, and talents are predetermined. They're like an unchangeable label you wear: "smart," "creative," "athletic," or sadly,  the opposite.  

This mindset creates a world of limitations, where the fear of failure and looking less-than-perfect rule your actions.

A belief in fixed intelligence and talent

Think back to school. You might’ve heard some of your classmates say, "I'm just not a math person" or "I'll never be good at writing"? These phrases are classic hallmarks of a fixed mindset. They assume that some people naturally possess certain skills, while others are doomed to struggle.  

With this mindset, seeking challenges seems illogical. Why risk exposing your perceived limitations?  Instead, people with a fixed mindset often stick to things they already know they're good at.  This creates a false sense of security, but ultimately hinders their potential.

The fear of failure and avoiding challenges

In a fixed mindset, failure isn't a bump in the road – it's a confirmation of your shortcomings. This leads to a deep-seated fear of taking risks or trying new things. 

Every challenge becomes a potential threat to your self-image.  People focused on looking smart at all costs will avoid putting themselves in situations where they might fall short.

Instead of seeing challenges as opportunities for growth, fixed mindset examples involve avoidance. Maybe you shy away from taking a difficult class, put off applying for a challenging job, or avoid giving feedback for fear of messing up.

Hindered learning, growth, and resilience

A fixed mindset creates a vicious cycle. By avoiding challenges, you miss out on valuable learning experiences. Since you believe your abilities are set in stone, putting in effort often seems pointless – why try if you think you won't improve? 

This severely limits your growth potential and makes it difficult to bounce back from setbacks. When things get tough, those with a fixed mindset might simply throw in the towel, believing they lack what it takes to overcome the difficulty. 
The growth mindset

The growth mindset

The growth mindset offers a completely different perspective. Instead of seeing your abilities as fixed, it's based on the belief that you can develop your intelligence and talents through learning and effort. It's the understanding that your true potential isn't predetermined, but something you can actively cultivate.

The belief that you can learn

While a fixed mindset says, "I'm either good at it, or I'm not," the growth mindset says, "I can get better with practice." The focus shifts away from inherent talent and towards dedicating time and energy to improvement.  

This doesn't mean everyone will become a genius or a star athlete, but it does mean everyone can progress. 

Challenges as opportunities for growth

In a growth mindset, challenges aren't threats to your ego – they're springboards for development. Obstacles become puzzles to be solved, and setbacks are seen as valuable data points on the path to improvement.

A growth mindset encourages you to step outside your comfort zone and take on tasks that stretch your current abilities.

The importance of effort, perseverance, and feedback

Effort is the fuel of a growth mindset. Instead of believing success is merely a matter of natural talent, those with a growth mindset understand that hard work and persistence are crucial for development.

They aren't discouraged by difficulty or temporary failures;  they see them as an expected part of the learning process.

Feedback is also embraced as a tool for progress. Unlike in a fixed mindset, where negative feedback can feel like a personal attack, those with a growth mindset see criticism as a chance to identify areas for improvement. They actively seek out insights that can help them refine their skills and strategies. 

There are many ways fixed mindset examples and growth mindsets play out in real life

Fixed and growth mindsets in action

Far from being abstract concepts, fixed and growth mindsets show up in how we approach everyday challenges and opportunities. Your mindset isn't a label you wear, but a set of underlying beliefs that profoundly shape your decisions, behaviors, and how you experience the world. 

Students and learning

Imagine two students facing a difficult exam. The student with a fixed mindset might become overwhelmed by anxiety, thinking, "If I fail, it proves I'm not smart."  This fear of failure can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, hindering their studying efforts.

A growth mindset student, while acknowledging the challenge, thinks, "This is an opportunity to learn and see how much I've improved." They're more likely to seek help, study strategically, and persist through difficulties.

Athletes and competition

An athlete with a fixed mindset views losses as a confirmation of their limitations. After setbacks, their motivation might plummet, and they might shy away from future competitions.

An athlete with a growth mindset sees these setbacks as feedback, analyzing mistakes to fuel their training. They understand that even the most talented athletes have to work hard, embrace challenges, and learn from losses to reach their potential. 

Professionals and their careers

In the workplace, a fixed mindset might view negative feedback as a personal attack, becoming defensive and closed-off.  They might avoid taking on challenging projects out of fear of failure.

A growth mindset sees feedback as an opportunity for development, actively working to improve those areas.  This mindset encourages risk-taking, learning new skills, and confidently seeking out advancement opportunities.

Mindsets in our relationships

Mindsets shape how we communicate, resolve conflicts, and experience intimacy within relationships. Someone with a fixed mindset might blame their partner during arguments or see differences as fatal flaws, fueling resentment and a lack of connection.

A growth mindset promotes a sense of teamwork, focused on finding solutions together, viewing disagreements as chances to understand each other better, and ultimately strengthening the bond.

Mindsets and well-being

Our mindsets have a powerful impact on our emotional resilience and overall well-being.  A fixed mindset can lead to feelings of helplessness, making it harder to cope with life's inevitable setbacks and increasing vulnerability to anxiety and depression. 

A growth mindset fosters a sense of agency, the belief that even in difficult situations, you have the capacity to learn, grow, and adapt. This translates to a greater sense of optimism and a reduced risk of developing stress-related health conditions.

Fixed mindset examples and growth mindset examples

Here's how fixed mindset examples and growth mindset examples play out in common challenges, highlighting how your beliefs directly shape your responses.

A difficult math problem

A difficult math problem

Picture this: you're staring at a complicated math problem. It seems completely unfamiliar, and a sense of panic starts to set in. This is a pivotal moment where your mindset will dictate your actions.

A fixed mindset immediately declares, "I'm terrible at math. I'll never get this."  Overwhelmed and focused on their perceived limitations, the person quickly gives up.  They may blame their lack of natural ability and feel frustrated,  closing themselves off to the possibility of finding a solution. 

Someone with a growth mindset will acknowledge the challenge but respond differently: "This is tough, but I know I can improve with practice. Let me try a different approach." 

They view the problem as a puzzle to solve. If their first strategy doesn't work, they're willing to adapt and seek out help or additional resources.  

The key difference lies in perspective.  The fixed mindset sees difficulty as a sign of personal failure, while the growth mindset sees it as an invitation to learn and stretch their abilities.

Receiving negative feedback on a presentation

Giving a presentation can be nerve-wracking, and receiving critical feedback afterwards can be even tougher.  How you react to that feedback reveals a lot about your mindset.

A fixed mindset takes criticism personally. Someone with this mindset would likely say, "I'm a terrible presenter. I knew I'd fail." Instead of seeing the feedback as constructive, they view it as proof of inadequacy.  This often triggers defensiveness, a focus on excuses, or a complete disregard for the feedback altogether.

A growth mindset sees feedback differently: "This feedback is helpful. I'll focus on those points to improve my next presentation." They recognize valuable information within the critique, even if it's difficult to hear.  They might actively ask for specific examples: "Can you clarify what you meant about my pacing?"

The difference is in how feedback is perceived. A fixed mindset sees it as an indictment of their abilities, while a growth mindset sees it as a roadmap for improvement.  

Learning a new software program

Learning a new software program

Technology moves fast! Learning a new software program can feel overwhelming, especially if you don't consider yourself tech-savvy. It's here that your mindset makes a world of difference.

A fixed mindset immediately sees challenges as insurmountable: "This is too complicated. I'm not tech-savvy." Because they’re discouraged, they might avoid learning the software altogether or give up after minimal effort. The belief in fixed abilities creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A growth mindset approaches the challenge with patience and a problem-solving attitude: "It'll take time to learn this, but I'm capable. Let me break it down into smaller steps." 

They acknowledge that learning takes time and are willing to invest the effort. They might seek out tutorials, online resources, or ask for help from someone more experienced. 

The crucial distinction lies in the perception of the learning process itself. A fixed mindset avoids difficult tasks to preserve a sense of competence, while a growth mindset thrives on the challenge as an opportunity to expand their skills. 

Trying out for a competitive sports team

The prospect of trying out for a competitive sports team can be intimidating. It's easy to let doubts creep in, but how you respond to those doubts reveals your mindset.

A fixed mindset focuses on the fear of not making the cut: "I'm not good enough to make the team. Why bother trying?" They may not even try out at all because they’re so overwhelmed by the possibility of failure. Preemptively protecting their ego prevents them from any chance of success.

A growth mindset sees the opportunity differently: "This will be a challenge, but I'll give it my best shot. I can use this to improve my skills." 

They acknowledge the difficulty but focus on the possibility of growth, even if they don't make the team. They focus on the process of training, putting in their best effort, and using the experience as a learning tool.

The difference lies in the emphasis on potential vs. limitations. A fixed mindset seeks to avoid the discomfort of failure, while a growth mindset uses challenges to push themselves further. 

Starting a job in a new field

Starting a job in a new field

Starting a new job, especially in an area where you lack experience, can be daunting. It's a situation where your mindset significantly shapes how you approach this transition. 

A fixed mindset immediately focuses on limitations: "I have no experience in this. I'm going to mess up."  This leads to overwhelming anxiety and a feeling of being in over their head.  Instead of seeing the opportunity to learn, they may become paralyzed by the fear of making mistakes. 

A growth mindset views the situation as an exciting challenge: "This is a great learning opportunity. I'm excited to develop new skills.” 

They approach the job with curiosity, proactively asking questions and seeking out the knowledge they need to succeed. While they recognize it won't be easy, they trust in their ability to learn and adapt.

The core difference lies in perspective. A fixed mindset sees a lack of experience as a barrier, while a growth mindset sees it as a starting point for development. 

Attempting to paint a picture

The idea of painting a picture can spark excitement in some and dread in others.  This is often a direct reflection of your underlying mindset.

A fixed mindset declares, "I'm not artistic. It'll look terrible."  They may avoid even attempting to paint or give up quickly if it doesn't match their unrealistic expectations.  The belief in fixed talent prevents them from enjoying the creative process itself.

A growth mindset focuses on the journey: "It might not be perfect, but I'll enjoy the process of learning."  They embrace experimentation and understand that growth takes time and practice.

Instead of being discouraged by early results, they focus on improving brushwork, understanding color, and learning different techniques. 

The crucial difference is in how they relate to their own potential. A fixed mindset seeks to protect the idea of inherent talent, while a growth mindset embraces the joy of learning and the potential for development over time.  

Dealing with a strained relationship

Dealing with a strained relationship

Relationships can be complex, and conflict is inevitable. How you approach those challenges highlights whether you tend toward a fixed or growth mindset.

A fixed mindset sees difficulties as insurmountable: "This is never going to work. We're just too different." When issues arise, they give up on finding solutions, believing the relationship is inherently flawed.  They may withdraw or become resistant to change. 

A growth mindset recognizes challenges but remains hopeful: "This is difficult, but I care about this relationship. Let's see how we can communicate better." They acknowledge that relationships take work and are open to trying different approaches, seeking compromise, or even outside help like counseling. 

The key difference lies in seeing potential versus permanence. A fixed mindset views conflict as a sign of incompatibility, while a growth mindset sees it as an opportunity to understand differences, develop better communication skills, and strengthen the relationship. 

Learning a new language

The idea of learning a new language can be both exciting and intimidating. Your mindset will play a significant role in your motivation and potential for success.

A fixed mindset creates limitations: "I'm too old to learn a new language. My brain isn't wired for it." This may cause someone to quickly abandon learning the language altogether.  They might see language learning as a talent reserved for the young or naturally gifted.

A growth mindset views the challenge with optimism: "This will be challenging, but it's possible! I'll start with small steps and be consistent." They recognize that language learning takes dedication but believe their ability can develop over time. They celebrate even the smallest successes along the way. 

The difference lies in the belief in potential. A fixed mindset sees language ability as fixed, while a growth mindset sees it as a skill that can be cultivated with time and effort. 

Facing a major health setback

Facing a major health setback

A significant health setback can be a life-altering experience. How you respond to this immense challenge is heavily shaped by your mindset.

A fixed mindset can lead to despair: "Why me? This is how I’m going to go."  This person might become consumed by negativity and lose hope for recovery or improvement. Focus may shift towards what has been lost rather than the possibilities that remain. 

While acknowledging the difficulty, a growth mindset fosters resilience:  "This is a huge challenge, but I'm resilient. I'll focus on what I can control and celebrate every step of progress." They adapt to the new reality, focus on rehabilitation, and seek out the support they need.

The crucial difference lies in how they cope with adversity.  A fixed mindset sees the setback as a defining feature of their life, while a growth mindset sees it as a difficult chapter they are determined to work through.  

Applying for a job that seems out of reach

Finding your dream job listing can be incredibly exciting...and a little daunting.  It's that moment when your inner voice might kick in, and your mindset will directly influence whether you seize the opportunity or let it slip away.

A fixed mindset immediately focuses on perceived shortcomings: "I'm not qualified enough. They'll never pick me."  This leads to inaction, deciding not to apply at all.  The fear of rejection prevents them from even taking a chance.

A growth mindset sees potential instead: "This might be a long shot, but it's worth a try! Even if I don't get it, it's a good learning experience." They carefully tailor their application to highlight relevant skills and experiences. 

While they recognize it might be a long shot, they're willing to step outside their comfort zone and embrace the possibility.

The difference lies in the belief in development. A fixed mindset focuses on current limitations, while a growth mindset sees the application process itself as an opportunity to improve and gain valuable experience for the future.  

How to develop a growth mindset

How to develop a growth mindset

Mindsets are powerful lenses through which we view the world. While deeply ingrained, they aren't permanent.  With conscious effort and practice, you absolutely can cultivate a growth mindset. This shift sets you up for greater resilience, success, and overall well-being. 

Here's a comprehensive strategy to get started:

Self-awareness is key

Start paying close attention to your inner voice – that stream of thoughts and self-talk running in the background of your mind. Do you often tell yourself things like "I'll never get this" or "I'm just not good at this"? Do you give up easily after a setback? 

Recognizing these fixed mindset thought patterns is the first step toward changing them.

Challenge negative thoughts

Actively question the beliefs that limit you. When you find yourself thinking those fixed mindset phrases, don't let them slide unchecked. Reframe them!  If you think "I'm bad at math,"  counter it with: "Math is difficult, but my skills can improve with practice."  Focus on the potential for growth, not the perceived limitations.

Embrace the power of “yet” 

This is one of the simplest, most transformative tools for growth.  Instead of saying "I can't do this," tell yourself, "I can't do this yet."  This subtle addition changes your focus from a sense of finality to the infinite possibility that lies ahead with effort. 

Celebrate effort, not just outcomes

Recognize that success comes from the process as much as, and often more than, the final outcome. Did you work diligently, even without getting the perfect grade? Did you try a new approach, even if it didn't fully succeed? Celebrate the journey, the dedication, and the progress made, big or small!

Seek feedback strategically

View feedback as fuel rather than a threat. Ask your teacher, mentor, or coworker for constructive criticism and specific suggestions for improvement.  Instead of becoming defensive, actively seek information that will help you grow.

Learn from role models

Identify people who embody a growth mindset. These could be historical figures, current leaders, people in your community, or even fictional characters. Observe how they approach challenges, learn from mistakes, and persevere. Their examples can be truly invaluable in shaping your own mindset. 

Practice, practice, practice

Developing a growth-oriented vocabulary is key. Replace "I can't" with "I'm learning to" or "I'll use a different strategy." Consciously apply these strategies in various areas of your life, especially when you feel challenged. The more you practice, the more ingrained this perspective will become.

Practical exercises for growth

  • Set learning goals: Instead of aiming solely for perfect performance, focus on developing a specific skill or expanding your knowledge in a particular area.

  • Keep a "wins" journal: At the end of each day, take some quiet time to reflect and note your accomplishments. This trains your mind to notice your progress and reinforces a sense of capability.

  • Reframe fixed mindset phrases: Write down common fixed mindset thoughts you have. Next, rewrite them in a way that reflects a growth mindset. Post this list somewhere visible as a daily reminder of your commitment to growth.

  • Try something completely new: Go beyond your comfort zone! Sign up for a class, learn a new hobby, or try a skill you've always wanted to develop. Embrace the awkwardness of being a beginner, and focus on the satisfaction of making progress. 

  • Reflect on past challenges: Think back to a time you overcame a difficulty. What did you learn about yourself?  How did you grow from the experience?  What mindsets helped you succeed? This helps reinforce your belief in your resilience and potential.

Shifting your mindset takes practice and patience. Don't be discouraged if you revert to old patterns – it's natural. Be kind to yourself as you learn to unlearn these behaviors. By embracing the idea that intelligence and abilities can be developed, you unlock unlimited possibilities for yourself!

Takeaways: Fixed mindset examples vs. Growth mindsets

The difference between fixed mindset examples and a growth mindset is the difference between stagnation and limitless possibilities. Remember, your potential isn't predetermined.

By recognizing the limitations of fixed mindset examples and cultivating a growth mindset, you set yourself on a path toward lifelong learning, greater achievement, and the ability to thrive in the face of any challenge.

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