A Fixed Mindset Can Keep You Frozen in Place

Mindset is a strong determiner of long-term success in business and life. Groundbreaking research on mindset by Stanford University professor Carol Dweck showed that there are two kinds: fixed and growth. A fixed mindset limits your potential, whereas a growth mindset opens the door to opportunity.

“In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail — or if you’re not the best — it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues. Maybe they haven’t found the cure for cancer, but the search was deeply meaningful.”¹

How do you know if you have a fixed mindset, and how can you shift to a growth one? Here are some fixed mindset beliefs and the growth alternative.

I’m not good at {fill in], and I never will be

Fixed: Abilities are set and cannot be improved.

Growth: Abilities can be learned and expanded with effort.

Shift into Growth: Make a list of everything you have mastered in your life.

  • You didn’t know how to drive, now you do.
  • You earned a degree — high school, GED, college.
  • You mastered a trade or field of business.
  • You can use a computer and smartphone.

You have spent your life learning. If you can learn how to merge into a freeway where everyone is driving 70 miles per hour, you can learn something new.

Pick something easy and learn it. Then repeat.

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I made a mistake! Everyone will think I’m an idiot. Maybe I am.

Fixed: Mistakes are fatal and prove I can’t learn new things. I look like a failure. I’m giving up.

Growth: I’m not what I do, and my self-worth is not tied to my behavior. Mistakes are feedback for improvement. They challenge me to grow and do better next time.

Shift into Growth: Think of mistakes as a means for improvement, not as reflections of your ability or self-worth.

  • How many rimes did you tip over a bike before you learned how to ride it?
  • How many times did you have to pull the car in and out of a space before you could parallel park?
  • How many meals did you make before one was edible?

You have spent your life making mistakes and learning from them. They aren’t signs of failure or proof that you can’t learn or aren’t “good enough.” Mistakes don’t make you appear less than anyone else. Instead, they enhance your reputation as a professional who is invested in improving their skills.

“The promotion of a growth mindset can nurture individuals to learn as they understand that intelligence is malleable.”²

Other People Have All the Luck

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: Others are promoted, get a raise, land a lucrative client because they are lucky or know the right people.It’s not fair.

Growth: Wow! That’s great. If they can do it, I can figure out how they did it and do it to. That really motivates me.

Shift into Growth: Admit that you want what they have. Then admit that you can have it if you put in the work they did. You can learn from them.

This goes back to the beliefs that you’re unable to improve and mistakes are signs of failure.

Think about all the good things that you have in your life.

  • List everything that is working for you right now.
  • List everything that was good from your past.
  • Remember every job you got, every promotion, every raise, every client you landed.

How much of it was the result of luck or knowing the right person? How much of it was you doing something to achieve z

Time for a Change

“There will be times in your life when things simply have to be replaced because they are tired, broken, worn out, harmful, outdated, or irrelevant. Take an inventory of the things that no longer serve your best and highest good so you can replace them with things which do.”³

A fixed mindset limits how much you can achieve. It’s as if you are living life with blinders on, capable of seeing only what’s in front of you. Unstoppable success requires the cultivation of a growth mindset. When you take off the blinders, your field of vision opens up. You can see opportunities that were hidden before, and you have the belief that you can take advantage of them.

Shifting into a growth mindset will take effort, but the effort will be paid off a hundred-fold. Here are the steps Dweck recommends:⁴

  1. Listen to the fixed messages you tell yourself. Example: “This is too hard. I’ll never learn it.”
  2. Make a choice. You can agree with it and give up, or you can dispute it.
  3. Dispute fixed messages. Example: “You’ve learned a lot harder things in your life. Take a breath and figure it out. You have the ability to do this. Just take your time.”
  4. Take a growth mindset action. You only need to take one, small step to break the fixed mindset habit.

Additional Reading

If You Are Serious About Achieving Success In Any Area of Your Life, Master Your Mindset by Thomas Oppong

Shift Your Mindset by Saying Less of These 4 Things by @ToddBrison


  1. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, Ph.D.
  2. “The Neuroscience of Growth Mindset and Intrinsic Motivation by Betsy NgBrain Sciences 2018 Feb; 8(2): 20.
  3. Release the Power of Re3: Review, Redo & Renew for Positive Change & Transformation by Susan C. Young
  4. ‘How You Can Change from a Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset.” www.mindsetonline.com

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