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Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset: Are you Limiting Yourself?

One of the things I’ve found to be so powerful as it relates to capacity for success and positive growth in people’s lives is this intangible idea of mindset…so much of what limits us (or allows us to be able to propel ourselves forward in life) has to do with our thinking alone.  Whether not we can do the things we want to do in our lives has more to do with whether or not we think we can do those things than our actual potential.

Have you ever found yourself held back from learning something new, making a big move in life, or advancing in your career because you didn’t think it was possible?  Perhaps there’s this idea floating around that only “other people” do those things you’d love to be able to do….after all, you know yourself best and you’ve set what you think are some reasonable limitations for yourself based on perceived weaknesses and on all of the things you have and have not been able to do in your life leading up to this moment.  Well, what If I told you that your own self-imposed limitations might be the only thing standing in your way of advancing in your career, making more money, starting that new business, learning that new language, reaching those fitness goals, or finding and maintaining healthy and happy relationships? Might that change anything?

Here, I’ll describe the difference between a fixed mindset and growth mindset, and how your success and happiness might hinge on shifting from a fixed (self-limiting) mindset to a more growth-oriented way of thinking.

Fixed Mindset

People with a fixed mindset have an underlying core-belief that they were born with a certain set of skills and capabilities. They believe they understand what they are capable of and may only believe that change/growth is possible up to a certain limit…that attributes and abilities are “fixed” and unable to be changed.  One might believe they are limited by intelligence, talent, socioeconomic factors, personality, athletic ability, or another broad range of factors or traits that keep us limit what we believe we are capable of achieving.  

Growth Mindset

People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, may recognize personal limitations and barriers but have a different kind of belief about what is/is not possible.  They are more flexible in their thinking and believe that change is possible…that one can learn new things from others and develop new skills.  They believe that growth is possible by applying oneself, investing time, and working hard.  Becoming better, smarter, or more successful rely on cultivating the skills or traits necessary to do so.

Here’s an example that illustrates the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset:

Let’s say an employee at a company has found out that an opening for a promotion (perhaps a management position) has become available.  This employee would like the opportunity, but isn’t quite sure they have what it takes to take on a leadership role.

With a fixed mindset, this person might find themselves thinking or saying the following things:  I don’t have enough experience. I am not a “born leader”. I don’t have the skills required.  Other people are managers/leaders and I am not. I am destined to follow and to work for other people.  I can’t do it.

If this person were to shift to a growth mindset, they might find themselves saying these other things instead:  I don’t have much experience, but I can learn.  I don’t find that leadership skills come naturally, but I can develop leadership skills through reading, seeking mentorship, and practice.  I might make mistakes, but I’ll learn from them. I am capable of learning, growth, and change. If I apply for the position, I may not get it, but I’ll work on doing some of the things I need to do to develop professionally so that I can ultimately reach my goal of leading a team.  It will depend on the effort I’m willing to put forth.  This is a challenge I’m ready to embrace.

As you can see from the example above, the difference between the two mindsets is everything and is the difference between settling/complacency and growth/change.

What areas have you limited yourself in due to a fixed mindset?  What might you be willing to take on if a shift in mindset was possible?  What’s standing in the way of being who you want to be?  Are your abilities really fixed and without possibility for change?  Or have your own self-imposed limitations really been the only thing getting in your way?  There’s only one way to find out…and that starts with testing it out! Think about what it is you might do or try if you only believed it were possible…and get started today!

Joel Schmidt, MA, LMHC

Float on Counseling, LLC is located in the Carrollwood area of Tampa on North Dale Mabry Hwy. We offer solution-focused therapy services that promote quick and lasting healthy changes.  Send us a message or call/text 727-258-5231 for a free consultation. 


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