One of my favorite lines ever written is from an Australian poet named Erin Hanson. It goes:

“There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask "What if I fall?". Oh but my darling, What if you fly?”

The first time I read it, I asked myself: How much does self-doubt really influence our inaction? If the first thing we tell ourselves when we face a challenge is, "I can't do it," how many opportunities for growth have we lost?

I think the idiom "mind over matter," while deeply moving, is an oversimplification of the importance of perception. It's remarkably more nuanced than that, considering the amount of hard work it takes to develop the mindset that thrives in adversity.

That's what we'll be aiming for today: recalibrating your frame of mind. In the struggle between a growth mindset vs fixed mindset, the most important thing to remember is this: It's all in the mind. Let me show you what I mean.

The Science Behind Your Learning Process

It's literally in the mind.. or, more precisely, in the brain. There's a science behind the growth mindset, just as there is with almost every profound concept that develops our character.

To understand it, you need to familiarize yourself with two significant areas of the brain: the anterior cingulate cortex, or ACC, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, or DLPFC.

The ACC is partly responsible for reward-based decision-making, while the DLPFC is responsible for monitoring errors and adjusting our behaviors to correct these mistakes.

Here's where it gets interesting. A study conducted by Samantha DePasque aimed to determine which part of the brain is active when an individual is receiving positive and negative feedback.

The result? The brains of individuals with a growth mindset tend to be most active when the feedback includes how to improve themselves.

On the other hand, the brains of participants with a fixed mindset tend to be most active when receiving information about their performance. (See where I'm getting at?)

In other words, a growth mindset cares more about the process and improvement rather than the result. This is also why growth-minded individuals don't let imperfection get in the way of their success.

The Mind Behind The Mindset

The journey to unraveling what's behind fixed and growth mindsets began with a question. Dr. Carol Dweck, a psychologist from Stanford University, asked:

"Why do some people fail while others succeed?"

Part of her study was to give high school students a series of puzzles ranging from easy to difficult. While the results vary, several students approached failure as a learning experience. Dweck believed this to be the growth mindset view.

Dweck's research also found that while acknowledging talent is helpful, praising an individual's process is actually more beneficial to his/her personal and professional development or academic performance.

Commending someone's resilience, effort, and strategy is more rewarding for the brain than praising the results. These concepts are at the core of positive psychology.

Dr. Carol Dweck's book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, is also among our list of the top 10 positive psychology books you should read if you want to learn more about this subject matter.

Unboxing Growth Mindsets

Someone with a growth mindset views intelligence not as something you're born with but as something that evolves. It's something you can bend, flex, and stretch through practice and effort.

That's not to say that people with a growth mindset believe their brains to be infinitely expandable. It's actually how they perceive intelligence that matters.

By seeing intelligence as something malleable, you welcome constructive feedback, embrace challenges, and openly accept failure, as you believe these to be necessary for growth.

These qualities also boost your self-accountability, which is an indispensable aspect of personal and professional development.

Understanding Fixed Mindsets

People with a fixed mindset are the polar opposite of those with a growth mindset. They believe that intelligence is something that you are.

While you can try to expand and enhance intelligence, a fixed mindset assumes that you can only improve it within a finite range, even as you reach adulthood.

One of the biggest pitfalls of having a fixed mindset is self-doubt. Whenever a fixed-minded person fails, they immediately blame themselves, thinking they're just not smart or strong enough to do a certain task.

Someone with a fixed mindset might also actively avoid challenges out of fear that failure will expose their incapabilities. Learning how to bounce back from failure is the antidote to fixed mindsets.

"I Can" Power Vs. "I Can't" Limits

By now, you probably already have an idea of how vast the differences are between these two mindsets. But the contrast becomes even clearer when you recognize that their influence and limitations apply to so many aspects of your life.

Here's why stagnation starts with "I can't" and growth starts with "I can."

Developed IQ vs. Innate IQ

  • Growth Mindset: Sees IQ or intelligence like a muscle; it gets stronger the more effort you put into developing it. It's not the case that growth-minded individuals somehow don't face intellectual struggles, but they recognize that these could be overcome with practice.
    • "I can develop my cognitive function by learning more about the topic."
  • Fixed Mindset: Sees IQ or intelligence as a natural ability—either you're born with a lot or a little. Fixed-minded individuals believe that a person's cognitive potential is predetermined and will not significantly evolve despite deliberate practice.
    • "I can't overcome this challenge because I'm not naturally gifted. There's no point in trying."

Motivation vs. Resistance

  • Growth Mindset: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. A growth mindset allows you to see challenges as learning opportunities. This positive attitude when facing difficulties will keep you motivated because of the prospect of personal growth, overall making you a more positive person.
    • "I can approach this challenge with eagerness because I'll learn something new even if I don't succeed initially."
  • Fixed Mindset: Better safe than sorry. A fixed mindset causes people to stay inside their comfort zone and resist changes. These individuals also tend to stick to familiar tasks where they know they already excel, thus guaranteeing favorable results.
    • "I can't step out of my comfort zone because I'm not sure if I'll perform well outside of it."

Effort vs. Inertia

  • Growth Mindset: Michael Jordan once said, "I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." Recognizing the value of effort and dedication is an integral part of a growth mindset. It's the belief that success is driven by hard work and not fate or circumstances that characterizes an "I can" attitude.
    • "I can put in the effort to overcome this obstacle, and with perseverance, I will succeed."
  • Fixed Mindset: Since a fixed mindset makes people assume that their abilities are predetermined, it may also cause them to view effort as something futile. What makes this worse is that some fixed-minded people tend to attribute their success to luck instead of hard work. Focusing on yourself and respecting your achievements is how you silence self-doubt and boost confidence.
    • "I can't continue facing this challenge because my limited abilities will eventually lead me to failure."

Acceptance vs. Guilt

  • Growth Mindset: Recognizes that failure is part of success, not its opposite. It's the personal development that you want to achieve ultimately. So, even if the outcome is not the best, accepting failure as a tradeoff for growth is untroubling. The first step, always, is learning how to forgive yourself for your mistakes.
    • "I can accept failure and not let it define me, using the experience to refine my pathway to success."
  • Fixed Mindset: Views setbacks as reasons to feel guilt or shame. Regardless of the circumstances, fixed-minded individuals see mistakes as testaments to their inherent limitations. Aside from low self-esteem, the negative self-perception may also prevent them from taking risks in the future.
    • "I can't move forward and face new challenges because this one mistake proves I'm not good enough."

Inspiration vs. Comparisons

  • Growth Mindset: If others can do it, so can you. Growth-minded individuals see others' success as a source of inspiration and motivation. By adopting this mindset, you will see how resilience, perseverance, and effort work for others, which means they should also work for you.
    • "I can become successful because others have already faced challenging times and emerged victorious on the other side."
  • Fixed Mindset: There's not enough success to go around. A fixed mindset may lead people to feel threatened by others' success. Some of them may even think that the achievements of their colleagues or competitors are a reflection of their inadequacies. This is sometimes evident in someone's tendency to downplay others' (or their own) accomplishments.
    • "I can't be successful because the limited pool of recognition means there's no room left for me."

Feedback vs. Personal Attack

  • Growth Mindset: A growth mindset person will never ignore feedback. They understand that constructive criticism is essential to growth, as it highlights areas where they can improve. Some of them would even actively seek feedback because they want to be better at what they do. It's the failure to learn from a mistake that's deplorable, not the mistake itself.
    • "I can appreciate this feedback because I know it's how I can address my shortcomings and become a better version of myself."
  • Fixed Mindset: A fixed mindset sometimes causes an individual to assume that feedback, regardless if delivered positively or negatively, is a personal attack. They think any form of criticism is an assault on their character and capability. Changing your perception of constructive criticism will form feedback loops that transform your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
    • "I can't listen to their feedback because it shows that I'm not good enough and that my effort is unappreciated."

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Growing A Growth Mindset

Of course, there's no point in understanding what a growth mindset is if I don't teach you how to integrate it into your life. Unlocking your full potential is all about shifting your perspective toward the importance of personal growth.

If you're prepared for the constant process of birth and rebirth, continuously seeing newer (and better) versions of yourself, here are some key steps you need to take.

The Power Of Yet

Here's a secret I'd like to share with you. "Yet" is one of the most powerful words in the English language. Attaching it to the end of some of your statements can significantly impact your perspective. For example, instead of saying, "I can't do this perfectly," say, "I can't do this perfectly yet."

"Yet" promises that you'll eventually get there with time and practice. Acknowledging your current state while shifting to a more positive narrative prevents you from imposing permanent limitations on your capabilities.

As the saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day." Romans had to start somewhere, and sometimes, starting somewhere means ending your sentences with "yet."

Recognize Your Capacity To Improve

Some people are born with natural talents. There's no denying that. And a person's natural abilities can give them a generous head start, but that's almost always all they can provide.

The long haul requires more than just your predetermined abilities. The capacity to adapt to changes, build a dynamic system within you, and hone your skills is how you unlock your ultimate potential.

How do you start recognizing that capacity? For starters, you should continuously challenge yourself with new experiences. If something seems daunting and unfamiliar, face it head-on anyway.

Watch yourself become someone you've always wanted to be as soon as you step outside your comfort zone. It doesn't always have to be a disturbing experience. Even something as laidback as watching self-improvement videos like TED talks is enough to initiate your improvement.

Silencing The Fixed Mindset

Reframing. If a fixed mindset is the arch-nemesis of a growth mindset, then reframing is the bane of a fixed mindset's existence. It's like channeling your inner Yoda to silence the negative thoughts in your head.

But reframing your mind is just a concept. True victory lies in the execution, or at least, in the attempt. What do I mean by that? The mindset reframing strategy wouldn't work if you don't actively address the negative self-talk and self-perception.

So, the next time you feel as though you're holding yourself back, take the time to analyze your thoughts. "What are the things I'm saying to myself? How can I turn these into a more positive outlook?"

Learning how to break your bad habits should give you a head-start in silencing the harsh critic within you.

The Power Of Rewards

The promise of transcending the best version of yourself through a growth mindset should be profound enough to keep you looking forward.

However, abstract concepts such as this aren't something that's always in your field of vision, especially when you're in the middle of your transformation.

As a result, some end up losing sight of why it's important to develop a growth mindset in the first place. That's where tangible (or immediate) rewards come in, it's one of the many strategies that keep you motivated to finish what you started.

Every time you overcome a challenge or exert enough effort into something that you feel fulfilled after, be sure to reward yourself. Buy your favorite dessert. Get a cup of coffee. Go to the cinemas. Whatever gets you into a positive mood!

These rewards refuel your think-tank, keeping your wheels on the road towards a growth mindset.

Embrace Discomfort

"A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." This quote perfectly encapsulates your comfort zone. Staying inside it keeps you safe from failure, but is that how you really want to live your life?

Learn to love the discomfort. It may not seem like it initially, but underneath the awkwardness and uncertainty are the cogs of your inner machine rectifying how you perceive challenges.

So, how do you amplify it? Gradually, continuously, and intentionally seek out situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Volunteer for that presentation. Try public speaking. Meet new people. Ask questions.

Let the experience take you apart, then let it build a new you out of the pieces that work—a new you whose foundations stand on a growth mindset.

Enjoy The Process. Make Mistakes. Accept Failures.

I've always heard people say, "Just trust the process." But above that, I think a more grounding perspective for transformation is to enjoy the process.

Have fun, even when you make mistakes. Have fun, even if you fail. The setbacks, doubts, and detours are inevitable, so you might as well embrace them with open arms!

Real success is when you keep moving forward despite the failures while finding joy and excitement amidst the process. Remember: You are slowly becoming the best version of yourself, and that's always a cause for celebration.

So, keep your head held high and take control of your life! And if you need a sprinkle of motivation always helps to read some inspiring and insightful quotes to feed that growth mindset.

Food For Thought

  • When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone? How did it feel before and after it?
  • How often do you reward yourself after a job well done? What impact does it have on your motivation?
  • Do you easily forgive others for their mistakes? Can you extend the same courtesy to yourself?
  • What steps are you taking to develop the courage to embrace uncomfortable changes in your life?


What is the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset?

A growth mindset believes that a person's intelligence, will, and character are evolving. A fixed mindset believes that these traits are predetermined. These differences are all about self-perception, which inevitably affects how a person navigates through life.

Why is it important to have a growth mindset?

Perhaps the most crucial benefit of having a growth mindset is how much it empowers you. Success has always been the ultimate goal, and a growth mindset equips you with resilience, wisdom, motivation, and adaptability to get there.

What causes a fixed mindset?

Parents who are overprotective and prevent their kids from exploring and expressing their ideas tend to build a hypothetical box inside their kids' minds. This box soon becomes their comfort zone and eventually develops into a fixed mindset.

It takes conscious effort and possibly a mentor or a personal coach to tear down these lifelong ingrained beliefs and allow the individual to develop holistically.

What are the similarities between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset?

  1. Both mindsets co-exist in everyone. We just apply them in different aspects of our lives.
  2. Both mindsets can be activated through practice and effort. You can learn how to have a growth mindset and vice versa.
  3. Both mindsets influence how we see ourselves.
  4. Both mindsets are affected by our social circles, upbringing, and the environment we expose ourselves to.

How do mindsets influence teaching and learning?

An educator who adopts a growth mindset will see the same qualities in his/her learners. Teachers, coaches, and trainers will see the capacity of a student to learn, paying more attention to the progress than to the result.

Are there benefits to having a fixed mindset?

To a degree, someone with a fixed mindset might see his/her success as a source of confidence. When you take fewer risks, you're exposed to fewer avenues for failure. The success-to-failure ratio could lead to minimal self-doubt. However, it could also hinder personal growth.


Remember that quote at the start about falling and flying? Here's my antithesis: Instead of wings to fly, what you need are roots to grow.

Adopting a growth mindset is not just about choosing the lofty, grandiose concept; it's about rewarding yourself with the tangible benefits of personal development that permeate every aspect of your life.

"You are both the marble and the sculptor," Albert Camus once said. The person you become is the product of your choices.

If you think the process of growing that growth mindset is taking way too long, it's probably because you haven't downloaded our accountability app... yet.

We'll see you there. Today, we plant the seeds of personal growth in your mind. Tomorrow, we reap the benefits.