Growth Mindset Vs Fixed Mindset

As we age it get’s easier and easier to become set in our ways. It doesn’t always mean that we’re permanently stuck, but rather, temporarily halted. It may be that you’re too closed-minded, you say NO to new opportunities, or you’re afraid to step-out of the box and try a different, more unfamiliar method of approaching a challenge.

Your mindset is so powerful it can revolutionize your life. Cultivating a growth mindset can propel you into personal, professional, and even athletic growth, to achieve more success, and to in turn, become a happier and healthier person. How to cultivate a growth mindset, what a false-growth mindset is, and how to grow and expand their personal potential isn’t always clear.

We’ve lined out the basic foundations upon which you can understand the importance of mindset, what the best type of mindset is to have, how to implement it into your life, and ultimately raise the bar on your daily quality of life!

What Is Mindset

Did you know you can achieve anything you set your mind and heart too? No really. Think about it! From fitness to work, having children or taking on a new task during the day, attuning your mindset to support your goals and overcoming your adversities can have a profound impact on your outcomes.

Mindset is more than just natural talent; it’s a cognitive decision and way of thinking that gives you the fundamental belief that you can achieve positive outcomes with the development and advancement of your abilities. When you have a positive influencing mindset and outlook on your life, you tend to stand out from the rest. You consistently are looking for ways to improve yourself, your life, and the lives of those around you. Best yet? You don’t need any kind of fancy award or recognition to do so because you understand this – you’re doing it for you.

What Is Fixed Mindset

From the previous paragraph, you may think that mindset is always positive. Alas, it is not. Introducing: the fixed mindset. The Fixed Mindset is a firm belief that you can achieve what you wish based on your natural abilities. This type of mindset, as you can probably imagine, is limiting in nature, as it is innate to you.

Ever heard that quote “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”? This is the very concept that the fixed mindset brings to light. Instead of working hard and consistently to achieve goals in life, fitness or otherwise, we fall victim to comparison, failures and even shortcomings.

Ever find yourself watching a documentary on the CrossFit Games and think to yourself, “wow, she just failed, anyone could have done that!”. You head to the box the next day and attempt the same workout, and fail before you even get through round one. You have a fixed mindset and approach. What you negated to realize is this: you’re both talented athletes, but one has taken those talents and fostered them greatly where you just expected to succeed. Guess what? It doesn’t work that way.

While you may have a multitude of natural talents and may very well be a gifted athlete, but if you’re not willing to work hard and ‘play the cards you’re given’, you will lose. Fitness or otherwise, the fixed mindset undermines success. The greats were not great because they were born that way. But instead, because they worked hard, really, really hard. Which brings us to our next point – a false sense of confidence, or what we’ll refer to it as, a false growth mindset.

“The difference between the master and the beginner is that the master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried”

What Is False Growth Mindset

A false growth mindset is essentially a misunderstanding of a growth mindset’s core message – you can achieve anything you put your mind and heart to. It’s the idea that if you just told yourself to try hard, it would be enough to succeed. So why would people settle for a false perspective or false growth mindset?

Well, think about it – it’s actually a lot easier than perceived to be. Insert complacency and false confidence. Have you ever watched a workout demo for let’s say, a new movement you’ve never tried before, in which you jump to the conclusion that you can the perform the full movement right off the bat? You load up your bar, the 10-second countdown has to tick, and you’re ready to tackle that new movement even though you don’t quite understand the technicality of it.

After all, you’ve been doing great lately, improving your weights, jumping up to new levels, moving faster and sweating even harder, so what’s keeping you from it? Your comfort zone. You’ve been triggered. You’ve established a sense of confidence and pride and instead of taking the slower, maybe less exciting and controlled level below it, you jump right in. You attempt the movement and you can’t do it. Your form is poor. You try it again – the same thing. Your coach is watching. You feel like the whole class is watching and judging (they’re not, BTW). You’re embarrassed, frustrated, maybe even a little defensive. 

This is the false growth mindset – the one that keeps us from developing our skills with hard work and perseverance rather than jumping to conclusions or establishing a false perception of growth. You might claim to have a growth mindset, but it doesn't reflect it your training preparation [4]

“The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.”

What Is Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck, a world-renowned psychologist at Stanford University, challenges that “a fixed mindset is the belief that one’s abilities were carved in stone [whereas] a growth mindset is the belief that one’s skills and qualities can be cultivated through effort and perseverance”.

Scientific research has even proved that the promotion of a growth mindset can nurture individuals to learn as they understand that intelligence is malleable [1]. Intelligence is not a fixed quality [2]. You are more than capable of developing a growth mindset, and we can honestly tell you, the more you adopt this mindset in various aspects of your life, the further you will ultimately go and the more you will accomplish.

The conceptualization of growth mindset is similar to that of intrinsic motivation [3]. When you’re able to understand that your natural talents are good and that with a little time and effort, you can develop those very same good talents into great talents! When you stop comparing yourself to others around you and start focusing on intrapersonal growth, you’ll end up feeling more committed to yourself, your goals, and your aspirations. Not to mention you feel more empowered to do so. Do understand this through – a growth mindset is not about just rewarding effort, ‘oh but I tried and failed, but at least I tried’. Not really.

Just because you’ve become more optimistic about your mindset and growth doesn’t mean it just going to happen. You have to take actions, small steps, and establish small goals to keep moving forward.

A growth mindset isn’t just lip service. Even if you don’t reach your big original goal, committing yourself to growth and constantly reevaluating, planning, and acting on your small goals to get to the top of the mountain will ultimately fuel your development and advancement opportunities even further. For the growth-oriented individuals, it is not the outcome but the process that is the most important [5].

How Do You Foster A Growth Mindset?

Goal Setting

Goal setting isn’t just for fitness, it’s for every single aspect of your life. Which is why we also have the belief that your growth mindset can start in your workout while transcending into every other aspect of your life. Goals are simply an objective you wish to achieve. Whether it’s doing a full pull up on your own, obtaining a new position within your company, or climbing the top of Mt. Rainier, it’s something you wish to do in the future. So what can you do in the present to obtain the bigger picture? Set goals. Big, small, medium-sized, super tiny, super big. All of them count towards a growth mindset and living a well rounded and fulfilling lifestyle.

Setting goals, the focus is on self-development, which means the goals should be compared to oneself (better performance than e.g. last week). Furthermore, when a previously set goal seems to be unachievable, one should put forward more effort or consider changing one’s strategy before giving up or setting a lower goal [5].

An important question to ask yourself, with regards to a fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset, is how bad do you want the goal and what kind of adversities, pain, and time are you willing to exhibit in an effort of achieving the goal? [6]. 

Establishing the goal is the easy part. Take losing weight and getting physically stronger, for example. It’s not the 1-hour workout a day that is the hard part (If you said yes, this is a fixed mindset). The hard part is controlling what goes on your plate for the remaining 23 hours of the day (this is establishing a growth mindset – you’ve taken your physical talent and used it, now you have to take what you know and put it to work the rest of the day).

Which brings us to our next question – what cost are you willing to endure for the reward?

Rudder & Oar Mentality

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, explains this mentality in which you have a small boat. The rudder on the boat is your goal, setting the direction of your journey and determining ultimately where you end up. If you have one solid goal, you’re going to head straight in the same direction. If you start flip-flopping around between a multitude of goals, you may very well end up rowing in different directions, or even in a circle (we call this floundering). 

More importantly than the rudder though, are the oars. The oars (the funny little things you row) are going to be the processes in which you point your rudder, align your direction, or you pursue your goals. The rudder alone isn’t going to get you where you want to go, you’ll have to use the oars and row.

“Goals determine your direction. Systems determine your progress”


A goal without a plan is just a wish. Goals help us properly align our values with our priorities while SMART goals establish a criterion for achieving your goals. 

Specific: Define the goal as much as possible, keep it simple and to the point. Establish who is involved, what you want to accomplish, where it will be done, why you are doing it, and which constraints will you face or anticipate facing?

Measurable: How are you going to track the progress and measure the outcome of your goal? How much, how many, how will you know when the goal is accomplished?

Achievable: Is your goal achievable? It is reasonable? How so? Make sure that the goal isn’t completely out of reach or too far below standard performance. 

Relevant: Is the goal worthwhile and will it meet your needs? Will it matter next week, next month, or next year? Is it going to make you better in the long run? Is each goal consistent with other goals you’ve established? 

Timely: Goals should have a time limit. When will you complete this goal and what is your timeline? Establishing a sense of urgency and promptness will encourage you to have better time management.

Translating a Growth Mindset into Your Life

Achieving goals through a growth mindset ultimately is a sense of perspective and illusion. It takes persistence, failure, and even sacrifices to achieve goals. It’s not a linear process and it takes wrong turns, right turns, highs and lows, and perseverance. What people see is success. What people don’t see is the dedication, hard work, and good habits and all the steps that one must have to achieve such successes. So ask yourself, and ask often, is the mentality and approach that you have to whatever task is at hand, rooted in a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

Are you going to try your very best or are you going to hate every step of the way? Are you going to make a mistake and fix it, or give up when you fail, saying you don’t care? While failure isn’t fatal, failure to change might be. So change your mindset. Set SMART goals. Inspire yourself and on your journey towards empowering yourself from the inside, you’ll be able to empower others to do the very same on the outside.


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  1. Ng B. The Neuroscience of Growth Mindset and Intrinsic Motivation. Brain Sci. 2018;8(2)
  2. Aguilar L., Walton G., Wieman C. Psychological insights for improved physics teaching. Phys. Today. 2014;67:43–49. doi: 10.1063/PT.3.2383.
  3. Aronson J., Fried C.B., Good C. Reducing the effects of stereotype threat on African American college students by shaping theories of intelligence. J. Exp. Soc. Psychol. 2002;38:113–125. doi: 10.1006/jesp.2001.1491.
  5. Rijksoverheid (1963). Wet op het voortgezet onderwijs [Law on Secondary Education].
  6. Growth Mindset Interventions: Lessons from Across Domains. Available from: [accessed Oct 16 2018]

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