Today, I watched a video that talked about “the growth and the fixed mindset”. The growth mindset is one in which you understand that growth and ability is developed through hard work. On the other hand, the fixed mindset is one in which you believe that you are born a certain way – with fixed character, intelligence and creative abilities.
It turns out that if you have a growth mindset and believe that your abilities are malleable, you are also more likely to take on challenges and persist through difficult circumstances. This is because you don’t see failure as evidence of unintelligence but more as an inevitable step in developing yourself. Here is how Carol Dweck describes it:
“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — 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.”
I had previously heard about the notion of fixed and growth mindset before. However, I had never looked into it because I believed that I had a growth mindset already. This year, I have understood that my mindset used to be far from a growth mindset in a lot of areas.
I used to believe that I was and would always be weak. For example, I never thought that I would be able to do a simple push up. It might seem strange to a lot of people because becoming stronger isn’t rocket science. But, I had not experienced real difficulties in other areas in my life. Studying or making friends had always been easy. Physical activities, however, weren’t so easy. Executing them seemed to be harder for me than for my siblings or for the people that were around me. I therefore labelled myself “weak” and, didn’t believe that this would ever change.
The thing is, I have always loved doing sports. It’s super fun. But, I never did much of it because I thought I wasn’t good at it and would never be.
Last year, I suddenly decided to start doing Ashtanga yoga 6 days per week. Later on, as I became stronger, I also decided to start climbing on a regular basis. Both these activities have changed me completely. I believe that becoming stronger is one of the best things that I have accomplished. Not only because it has allowed me to do sports that I love. But, mostly because, as I was able to overcome a huge, insurmountable obstacle for me, my mindset changed in other areas as well. For example, I’m less afraid or discouraged whenever I face a challenge in maths. I’m also more excited to learn and to take on new challenges because I have realised how rewarding it is to understand new things and discover new worlds.
My mindset was also fixed when it came to the idea of intelligence. School used to be fairly easy to me and I was often praised for being smart. Doing well on a test without studying was seen as impressive and the more time you spent studying the less smart you seemed. Of course, this doesn’t make any sense. Being born with an ability to learn fast should be praised less than the effort and progress you make along the way.
But, I think that this stupid belief often discouraged me when things became harder. If I tried to solve a problem a few times and didn’t do well, I would immediately drop it. I would think that the problem was too hard and I wouldn’t want to spend too much time thinking about it (because thinking that you are stupid isn’t really nice). This, of course, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and inhibits growth.
Here is a study about it. It’s interesting because brain scans show increased brain activity in students with a growth mindset as they make mistakes. In other words, it has been shown that people with a growth mindset pay attention to the mistakes they make. On the other hand, people with a fix mindset don’t.
I am sure that there are still other areas in my life where my mindset is fix. Hopefully this will change with time, the more I learn and overcome challenges.
Painting: Vincent Van Gogh