Fixed vs. growth mindset: definition and application at work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 11 December 2022

Published 5 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The differences between adopting a fixed mindset and a growth mindset can affect your development, your career and team success. Developed by the psychologist Carol Dweck, the concepts of fixed and growth mindset can influence the way you think about intelligence and your approach to learning and work. Fixed mindsets see innate intelligence and talent as the drivers of success, while growth mindsets see the possibility to improve yourself through work and dedication. In this article, we discuss the differences between the two mindsets and introduce some tips for developing a growth mindset in your career and workplace.

What is a fixed vs. growth mindset?

Fixed vs. growth mindsets are two distinct sets of beliefs and values that shape how you see the world and the way you think about yourself. The two sets of values influence many things relating to your education, work and development, including your attitudes towards learning, intelligence, skills and the capacity for improvement. The mindset you adopt can have a significant impact on your outlook in life and on your career trajectory.

A fixed mindset views talent, intelligence, skills and capabilities as fixed and unchangeable. This approach generally views these things as innate and in-built and it may lead to people not seeking to improve themselves, develop new skills or seek to advance their career through a promotion or gaining a new job. A growth mindset views talent, intelligence, skills and capabilities as things that you can develop and improve. This approach views these things as fluid, not fixed, and may lead to people taking risks, accepting new challenges or seeking to develop through lifelong learning.

Related: What is mindset? (And how to become more positive at work)

Fixed mindset characteristics

There are many characteristics to a fixed mindset, that can affect the way you see yourself and make a difference in your career and development. Here are some of the main characteristics that can indicate a fixed mindset:

Belief in innate intelligence

A fixed mindset may see intelligence as innate or something you're born with. People who view intelligence as innate generally believe in fixed intelligence. For fixed mindset thinkers, intelligence is something that you can't improve or develop over time or with application.

Opposition to challenge

People who adopt a fixed mindset tend to resist challenges and avoid taking risks. This can influence both their personal and professional lives. A fixed mindset can lead to a fear of making mistakes or a reluctance to take on challenges that may seem beyond your current ability because overcoming them might require you to grow and develop.

Related: 18 examples of personal development goals for your career

Lack of appetite for practice

A fixed mindset and a belief in innate intelligence can lead to a disregard and lack of appetite for practice. Practice involves steady improvement and learning through repetition, which both contrast with fixed mindset beliefs and values. A person with a fixed mindset might feel they're not suited to certain activities, such as writing, cooking or sports, and as such, they may shy away from trying to develop new skills.

Viewing obstacles as fixed

If you have a fixed mindset, you might struggle to see past obstacles and challenges in your life or career. These obstacles could be personal challenges or perceived failures in your professional life. A fixed mindset may concede that these obstacles are impossible to overcome, and as such, avoid trying.

Comparison to others

A fixed mindset can lead to comparison to others and feelings of frustration or jealousy. Because a fixed mindset tends to undervalue the importance of hard work, dedication and lifelong learning, the success of others can seem unfair or arbitrary. Comparison to others can also lead to resentment of your own situation and the obstacles you feel are preventing you from succeeding.

Related: 12 tips for personal growth (and why it's important)

Inability to take on feedback

Feedback is a critical element of growth and development, and the ability to accept feedback and build on it can help you to identify weaknesses and move on in your career and personal life. A fixed mindset is typically unable to receive feedback and act upon it. People with a fixed mindset may also feel attacked or wronged when they're offered feedback or suggestions on how to improve themselves or their work.

Growth mindset characteristics

A growth mindset is open to change and believes you can develop your skills and strengths over time. People with a growth mindset tend to display various characteristics that can lead to personal and professional advancement. Their approach can include the following:

Embracing challenge

A growth mindset accepts and willingly takes on challenges. People may see challenges as opportunities to stretch, grow and develop new skills. If you have a growth mindset, you may be willing to take more risks with challenges that may seem difficult or outside your comfort zone.

Belief in personal development

One of the fundamentals of a growth mindset is the belief that a person can grow, develop and improve themselves over time. This can lead to a commitment to lifelong learning. It can also lead to embracing change and challenges for the opportunities they present rather than fearing change.

Related: What is a positive working environment? (With benefits)

Valuing practice

The growth mindset values practice as one of the keys to personal improvement. If you have a growth mindset, you may believe that you can achieve anything if you're willing to put in the required practice. Practice leads to steady, incremental improvements in abilities.

Viewing obstacles as movable

Similar to challenges and change, a person with a growth mindset can view obstacles as opportunities to overcome, leading to growth as a person. Obstacles that may have held you back in the past aren't immovable. Rather, they present a challenge to overcome and an opportunity to learn something about yourself.

Taking inspiration from others

For a person with a growth mindset, the success and achievement of others can be an inspiration to succeed and grow personally. High achievement in others is a cause for celebration and provides an opportunity to learn from their example. People with a growth mindset may enjoy reading about successful people and learning from the approach they take.

Acceptance of feedback

Taking on feedback and using it to grow personally and professionally is a crucial element of adopting a growth mindset. If you're willing to accept that someone else may be well placed to assess your performance and you can recognise them as a valuable mentor, you're giving yourself an opportunity to grow and develop. Accepting feedback requires humility and openness towards growth and learning.

Related: What are adaptability skills and how can they benefit you?

How to shift from a fixed to a growth mindset

There are numerous ways to change your outlook from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Making the change requires you to reassess how you see yourself and the world, but it can lead to positive changes in your personal life and opportunities to advance your career. In reality, many people adopt elements of both a fixed and growth mindset depending on the situation, but there are ways to make the growth mindset more dominant. Here are some tips for shifting towards a growth mindset:

  1. Accept that you can change over time: One of the keys to adopting a growth mindset is to recognise that you can learn, develop and grow and that this can have a positive impact on your direction, both professionally and generally.

  2. View challenges as opportunities: Facing a challenge isn't always a negative situation. Some challenges provide you with an opportunity to grow, develop new skills or take you out of your comfort zone.

  3. Be open to learning from others: Listening to others and learning about the way successful people live and work is critical to adopting a growth mindset. Part of this process is accepting that sometimes other people know better than you.

  4. Commit to trying new things: Seeking opportunities to try new things and learning to take the occasional risk is fundamental to a growth mindset. Even small things, like trying a new food or changing your routine, can help you to move on from a fixed mindset.

  5. Don't let failure deter you: A fixed mindset can allow the prospect of failure to deter people, but a growth mindset sees failure as an opportunity to learn and adapt your approach to give a better chance of success next time. Failure or a lack of tangible progress can be a big obstacle or it can become an opportunity to develop.

Encouraging a growth mindset in an organisation

While adopting a growth mindset is primarily an individual responsibility, there are ways to instil it across an organisation. Organisations that display a growth mindset and culture are flexible, open to challenges and seek to innovate. You can take steps to bring a growth mindset to the workplace by introducing some of the following:

  • regular appraisals and 360-degree feedback

  • organisational planning days, involving the whole team

  • optional learning events and seminars

  • comprehensive training programmes

  • awards and recognition for innovation

  • evaluate projects and identify the opportunities from successes and failures

  • adopt key performance indicators and measures of success across your work

Related:

  • Q&A: describe a challenge you faced and how you overcame it



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