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Fancy a fixed mindset?

Updated: Jun 3, 2019

This morning I would like to convince you of a concept that you may feel strange from a woman who professes to follow flamingos (wherever they may lead!). I reaped the benefits of having what it's called a fixed mindset for many years. I knew what I was good at, and what I was rubbish at and was raised by parents and a school system that rewarded this approach.

Given this view of myself was almost my undoing (more to come on another post soon) I want to see how many of you out there have adopted this fixed view of yourselves, your partners, children and/or others and whether you have had similar experiences.

Whilst I have firmly migrated from a fixed to a growth mindset in many ways, as Dr Carol Dweck, originator of the growth mindset concept and author of Mindset says it is not possible to have this view of yourself in all areas of your life, all of the time.

Instead of extolling the benefits I've experienced in my own transformation (excuse the pun) from non-learner to learner I thought I would try and play devil's advocate to if I can persuade you of the benefits of having a fixed mindset all the time (and also see if I am tempted to revert!).

If you have a fixed idea about what you are good at, your qualities, strengths and capabilities then you know where you are in life. In particular relating to skills, you’ve either got it, or you haven't and you believe this can be applied to everyone.

Most of the time you have it made, you stick to what you know and when things go well, you give yourself a nice pat on the back. You thrive and bask in others admiration of your achievements and talents and are really motivated by doing things just right.

Success is the end goal and you do everything you can to make sure that you succeed, time and time again, in the things you just know you are good at. You have always been good at certain things and not so good at others and are attracted to do more of the activities and tasks that can showcase your sometimes effortless natural skills. Each time you achieve, your self esteem gets that extra boost which spurs you on to do more of what comes easily to you.

You may also have a fixed mindset about your personal qualities and your character. You also consider others to either have certain aptitudes, or not, and there is no grey area. You probably value natural talent in others too, over hard won effort - in fact we are all primed to do so in some respects - think musicians, sportsmen and women, entrepreneurs and even leaders in business whom we admire.

You might even avoid things that involve effort as surely it's better to be able to do things perfect right now rather than risk putting in work without a guaranteed positive outcome.

Fundamentally you are likely deep down to believe that no amount of trying will actually change the basics of an individual - the building blocks of intelligence, personality, strengths and talents are immutable. You have to admit that even our future potential is fixed and defined once we enter adulthood or even before and we all need to make the most off what we are given.

However, when things don't go so well, this is a bit of a red flag to you. As you define yourself by your achievements, making a mistake, not being able to do something well straight away or failing (gasp!_ at something kind of means you are a failure. You can seek reassurance to ensure your self esteem be continually propped and this means showing others and yourself time and time again that you can achieve. You aim for perfection as you pin quite a lot on the opinions of other people, and in fact sometimes may place more weight on their judgement than on your own.

Your black and white view about abilities means there is no room for mistakes, and you can always give up rather than try your hardest and still fall short. You sometimes feel threatened by others' success which you take as a personal affront as you must either be the best now, or not bother. The more you are challenged by others criticism, the more you feel you want to rise to it and convince the world that you are the best at whatever it is that you do. Surely someday you will receive enough reassurance that you are perfect and then your job will be done.

Convinced? Me neither...

#PositivePsychology #SelfHelp #MentalHealthandWellbeing


Dweck, Carol S.. (2008) Mindset :the new psychology of success New York : Ballantine Books

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