Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset: Pros and Cons of Each

Imagine you are working on a difficult math problem and it’s already taken you about an hour trying to solve it, and when you finally submit your answer, it’s wrong. What are your initial thoughts? If you think along the lines of, “This is too hard, I’m not good at it, it’s not worth trying anymore” then you have a fixed mindset. However, if you think along the lines of “I need to try again, what do I need to do differently, how can I solve this?” then you have a growth mindset.

Growth mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

Our mind is like a sponge, it absorbs all kinds of information and is influenced by who we grew up with, who we surround ourselves with, what we see and hear every day, who we follow on social media, our experiences, and everything we ever did or see in our lifetime.

Whether those environments and experiences are good or bad, they shape how we think. As a result, it affects how we react to situations we encounter, how we handle struggles and difficulties, and how we solve problems (or don’t).

Identifying if you have a growth or a fixed mindset can help provide perspective or an explanation as to why or how you think and react the way you do.

Where did growth and fixed mindset come from?

The concept of a growth mindset and a fixed mindset came from psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck of Standford University in her 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., introduced a simple but revolutionary concept known as the power of mindset. Her idea brilliantly showcases how our beliefs about our talents and abilities can have a significant impact on our success in almost every area of our lives.

What is a Fixed Mindset?

Dweck’s definition: “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.” 

In other words, people with a fixed mindset believe they are what they are, and that their faith is determined and it can’t be changed. They don’t have any room for opportunities to move forward, once they are stuck, they give up and believe they weren’t meant to do it in the first place.

There is never any effort applied because it will feel worthless, so they give up easily.

They believe if you weren’t born with a natural talent to succeed, then you can’t possibly succeed. If they see someone else who is naturally good at something, they think it’s not even worth it because someone else is already so much better without even trying.

People with a fixed mindset care about their image and how they look because they don’t want to come across as unintelligent. They want to always look smart and are easily threatened by the success of other people. They also have a hard time accepting feedback or criticism without taking it personally.

A fixed mindset puts you in a victim mindset because you tend to always think “Why me”, or think things are unfair.

What is a Growth Mindset?

Dweck’s definition: “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” 

In other words, people with a growth mindset see struggles and setbacks as learning opportunities. When they are stuck or face roadblocks, they find a way through it.

They don’t believe that your inabilities are set in stone, but through effort and hard work, you can improve and succeed.

Failures are not stopping points, they embrace the challenge and use that opportunity to problem solve so they can apply it in the future. Failing doesn’t mean to give up, it means to find another way.

They don’t see other people’s success as a threat, instead, they see it as inspiration. A growth mindset doesn’t struggle to ask questions and they are not afraid to look “dumb” in front of others. They care about the learning experience more than how they look in front of people, and they even embrace feedback as constructive.

What is the difference between a Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset?

Growth MindsetFixed Mindset
Embraces challengesAvoid challenges
Overcomes setbacksGives up easily
Applies effortDoesn’t Apply Effort
Inspired by othersThreatened by others
Accepts and learns from criticismAvoids criticism
“How can I do this”“It’s too hard”
“Failure is an opportunity to grow”“Failure is the limit of my abilities”
“I can learn to do anything I want”“I’m either good at it or I’m not”
“I like to try new things”“I stick to what I know”
“My effort and attitude determine my abilities”“My potential is predetermined”
“When I fail, I learn”“When I fail, I’m no good”
The difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset

What are the pros and cons of a Fixed Mindset?

A fixed mindset has been painted in a bad light because it’s associated with unwillingness to learn and giving up at the first sign of hardship, while that may be true in certain situations, it can be beneficial to have a fixed mindset in other situations.

The Pros of a Fixed Mindset

A fixed mindset is stagnant in thinking and accepting things the way they are. Here are cases where a fixed mindset can be a good thing.

  • Accepting who you are. Sexual orientation and aging have been specifically mentioned by Carol Dweck when asked if she sees a fixed mindset ever being more beneficial than a growth mindset. With a fixed mindset, you are not focused on changing and improving, since you believe your faith has been predetermined, so you are more adjusted to blending in.
  • You are more focused on your abilities. If you have a fixed mindset, you know what you are good at and your limitations, so you hone in and focus on those skills.

The Cons of a Fixed Mindset

  • Poor confidence and self-esteem. Accepting that you’re not good at something and being threatened by the success of other people can be detrimental to your morale.
  • Prevents you from taking important risks. Sometimes getting to where we want to be requires stepping out of our comfort zones. With a fixed mindset, there could be missed opportunities when you don’t go after them.
  • Unhealthy competition. Because you feel like your skills are limited, you always have to prove to yourself or other people that you are good at what you do.
  • Adds negativity. A fixed mindset can see the world as unfair since they believe people’s destinies are predetermined and can’t be changed. They tend to compare themselves more which will lead to unhappiness and negativity.
  • Lack of self-awareness. When you have a fixed mindset, you tend to stay in your own bubble. Your unwillingness to change can affect those around you. You don’t take the time to learn about yourself since you constantly search for external validation and rewards.

What are the pros and cons of a Growth Mindset?

A growth mindset is more desirable because it promotes problem-solving and willingness to learn and explore, however, too much of a good thing can cause problems in other areas as well.

The Pros of a Growth Mindset

  • Accepting failure as a learning opportunity. Understanding that failure is a temporary stop is crucial in achieving goals and having success.
  • You don’t have to stay in your lane. When you have a growth mindset, you learn a lot, which means you know more so you can do more. You’re not restricted to a bubble and have to stay in your lane. When you encounter a situation you are unfamiliar with, you don’t hesitate to take that as a new challenge.
  • More opportunities. The more chances and risks you are willing to take, the more unexpected opportunities you can run into. You are no longer limited by anything because you believe things will come with the right attitude and mindset.
  • You are not threatened by anything. Nothing rubs you the wrong way because you are confident in yourself and your abilities. You take criticism well, you are not afraid of new things, and other people’s success inspires you to keep going.

The Cons of a Growth Mindset

  • Obsessing over effort. A growth mindset is often associated with putting in a lot of effort, but doing so without focusing on the process and the results, can deter from the learning process. Getting effort confused with learning can waste time and energy and make you feel unsuccessful.
  • Use learning as procrastinating. Having a growth mindset means you are always learning, and being addicted to labeling yourself with a growth mindset means you’ll learn something for the sake of learning and lose focus on the real task at hand. Taking the time to learn something is also an excuse for not starting something.
  • Can lead to arrogance. There is a certain prestige that comes with having a growth mindset and that can lead to arrogance in some people. Having a growth mindset has many perks and some can experience great success from it, and it can make them feel like they have an advantage over everyone around them.

Can a Person’s Mindset Change?

Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset

The brain is forever changing even through adulthood as we continue to absorb information from our life experiences. We learn and we change and the same can be applied to the kind of mindset we have.

When we go to school and take classes, we leave with a different perspective as we have gained new information we didn’t know before. Additionally, you can choose to live a different lifestyle (or not) based on that new information. The same principle is applied to changing your mindset.

You now have this new information about mindsets that you didn’t know before and it is now your choice with what you want to do with it.

If you feel that you’ve been stagnant in life and haven’t branched out to do new things, you might have a fixed mindset and now it is your choice if you want to start thinking in the ways of a growth mindset.

Our mindset is simply our beliefs, we are controlled by the thoughts and inner voices in our heads that we have created. So if you want to change, make the decision to change.

Is it better to have a growth mindset?

A growth mindset has been glorified to be the superior mindset to adopt, but in reality, it will depend on what area of your life you want to apply it to. It’s best to create balance in your life and choose to apply the correct mindset at the right time.

A growth mindset requires a lot of energy as it requires effort, learning, and thinking. This kind of mindset is best applied to achieving goals, entrepreneurs, and ambitious things of that sort. Things that lead to new ideas, new opportunities, and chances to improve and grow.

Think of it this way, a mindset is a way of thinking about something in a certain situation. People make about 35,000 decisions a day, not every decision needs to lead to “How can I learn and improve on this”. It requires a lot of energy to think all day long, so it’s better to conserve that brain power for important things that are more meaningful for our growth.

There is no one mindset or the other, in many ways, we are a mix of both. On some level, we all know what we can’t do, but having a reminder like a “growth mindset” helps us analyze the situation and determine if we are giving up because we truly are not capable or if we are choosing the easy way out.

The next time you hit a roadblock and are faced with a challenge, what are you going to choose to do?

Now with the right mindset, read next: How to Achieve Your Goals in 6 Steps.

Hong Singer

I'm the creator of Ambition Forward. I keep things simple by focusing on the goal and being consistent in my actions to get the results I want, and I'm here to help you do the same. I encourage you to look for the things that bring you joy and go for it!

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