Carol Dweck: Fixed and Growth Mindsets

The fixed and growth mindsets are beliefs about our own capabilities and abilities. They end up defining an individual's destiny. But, how do they operate? Find out here.
Carol Dweck: Fixed and Growth Mindsets
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 02 March, 2023

Dr. Carol Dweck argues that there are two types of mindsets that define thinking: the fixed and the growth mindsets. The first corresponds to a crystallized idea of what we are and of the potentialities that we’re capable of developing. The second refers to the approach by which continuous development and change are possible.

Dr. Dweck is a professor of psychology at Stanford University. In fact, she’s considered to be an authority in the field of personality, motivation, and psychosocial development. Her concepts on the fixed and the growth mindsets were first disclosed in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

We all adopt certain perspectives regarding our potentialities. Some of us think that we possess innate abilities and that this is decisive. In these cases, the fixed mindset applies. Others assume that work, training, and perseverance increase their capacities. This is the growth mindset.

Often, if we feel pressured when we don’t have a growth mindset, we tend to focus on what we can’t control. It’s much more useful to focus on what we can influence .”

-Isabella Venour-

The fixed mindset

Dr. Carol Dweck points out that people with fixed mindsets believe that their intelligence, personalities, and characters are inherent and static traits. They start from the idea that they’re determined at birth and that this doesn’t change over time. In effect, they reaffirm themselves.

This premise has important consequences in the way the individual approaches reality and directs their existence. The most decisive thing is that they end up not looking for any change or improvement, as such. In fact, they tend to focus on avoiding failure, rather than promoting progress.

Therefore, if they don’t achieve something on the first attempt, they abandon it. They don’t persevere, because they think that they’ll never be able to cross certain boundaries. Likewise, they reject criticism and feedback, since they see it as a reproach and an attempt to minimize them. This leads the individual with a fixed mindset to reject challenges.

Woman thinking
People with fixed mindsets tend to avoid failure, instead of promoting progress.

The growth mindset

On the other hand, those with growth mindsets have flexible ideas of their own abilities and skills. They assume that development is a continuous process and that individual potential is unknown territory. They discover through learning, work, and perseverance.

All of the above motivates them to want to progress. They strive to increase their potential and don’t give up easily in the face of setbacks. Furthermore, they’re convinced that an error or a failure shouldn’t be interpreted as a definitive fact, but as a necessary link in an endless process.

These individuals are also open to new challenges and aren’t paralyzed by uncertainty. Moreover, they’re not afraid of failing. That’s because they rely more on personal effort than on supposed innate abilities. Hence, they’re always more motivated to continue working to achieve what they’re looking for.

Woman with glasses thinking
People with growth mindsets often strive to increase their potential.

A defining belief

The fixed and growth mindsets are different beliefs that an individual possesses regarding their own identity and performance. They’re also decisions that, for various reasons, we all make. Obviously, both are associated with the perceptions of sufficiency or insufficiency we have about ourselves.

Each mentality becomes much more evident in difficult situations. It’s at these junctures that individuals decide whether to choose a fixed mindset and say “I can’t do it” or “I’m not good enough to overcome this obstacle”. Or, they choose a growth mindset and accept the challenge to face the problem and start looking for solutions.

The ‘I can’ approach is typical of the growth mindset. It doesn’t guarantee good results but it’s based on the idea that it’s important to try. After all, any kind of effort will always contribute something positive. For example, experience and learning.

In her book, Dr. Carol Dweck observed that children who receive praise such as “Great job! You’re so smart!” tend to develop more of a fixed mindset. On the other hand, those who are recognized with phrases such as “Great job! You’ve made a terrific effort”, tend to develop a growth mindset. In effect, the key is to highlight the work more than the result.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Claro, S. (2020). Resiliencia en el Aprendizaje: propósito, sentido de pertenencia y mentalidad de crecimiento.
  • Núñez Paula, I. (2004). La gestión de la información, el conocimiento, la inteligencia y el aprendizaje organizacional desde una perspectiva socio-psicológica. Acimed, 12(3), 1-1.
  • Sahagun, M., & López Vázquez, F. (2021). Nueva escala de medición de mentalidad fija y aprendiente: desarrollo y validación. Project Design and Management, 3(2), 37-54.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.