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Fixed vs. Growth: How a Growth Mindset Can Change Your Life

Have you ever felt like you’re stuck in a rut, unable to move forward or make progress in certain areas of your life? Maybe you’ve thought “I’m just not good at this” or “I’ll never be able to learn that.” 

If so, you’re not alone. Many of us have experienced doubt and frustration when faced with challenges or setbacks. But what if how you approached these challenges could make all the difference? What if your mindset – how you think about your abilities and potential – could determine whether you succeed or fail? 

It may sound too good to be true, but decades of research have shown that our mindset plays an important role in shaping our behavior, achievements and overall happiness. 

With the help of Sierra Dimberg, PhD, a sports psychologist with Banner Sports Medicine Scottsdale, find out the difference between growth and fixed mindsets and how to approach challenges, learn from failures and ultimately achieve your goals.

Difference between growth and fixed mindsets

Developed by psychologist Carol Dweck, PhD, growth and fixed mindsets are two different beliefs about our skills and abilities. A fixed mindset is like a closed door, while a growth mindset opens doors to endless possibilities. 

“A fixed mindset is the belief that your basic knowledge, intelligence and talents are set in stone – you’re either born with it, or you’re not – and nothing is going to change,” Dr. Dimberg said. “But a growth mindset is the belief that knowledge and talents can be improved through hard work, practice and dedication.”

Fixed mindset: “I can’t do it”

In a fixed mindset, mistakes and failures are a disaster and should be avoided at all costs. This can lead to a hyper-focus on perfectionism, insecurity and procrastination.  

If you have a fixed mindset, you might:

  • Avoid challenges because you’re afraid of failing and looking bad.
  • Get discouraged easily and give up when things get tough.
  • See effort as a sign of weakness because you think you shouldn’t have to work so hard if you're talented.
  • Feel threatened by, jealous or envious of the success of others.
  • Ignore feedback from others.
Growth mindset: “I can’t do it…yet”

“Connected to a growth mindset is grit or a perseverance of effort and passion to reach your goals,” Dr. Dimberg said. “Grit and a growth mindset are especially recognizable in people who play in competitive sports. Setbacks don’t stop them from becoming better.”

When you adopt a growth mindset, you might:

  • See challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, even if you fail at first.
  • Keep trying even when things are difficult because you know that abilities can be developed and that’s how you improve.
  • Understand that putting in effort is important for getting better at something.
  • Get inspired by the success of others and see it as a chance to learn from them. 
  • Embrace mistakes as a part of the learning process and use them to improve.

Tips to develop a growth mindset

Don’t let your fixed beliefs about yourself hold you back from making positive changes that can benefit your life and your health. Dr. Dimberg shared these growth tactics to help you in your daily life, on the playing field and at work:

  • Use the power of yet: Your thoughts have a powerful impact on your mindset and behavior. Cultivate a positive inner dialogue by challenging negative self-talk and replacing it with positive affirmations. Instead of saying, “I’m not good at this,” say, “I’m not good at this … yet.”
  • Embrace challenges: Don’t shy away from trying new things or doing something out of your comfort zone. Whether tackling a new task at work or trying a new sport, approach it with enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. 
  • Learn from feedback: View feedback as valuable information that can help you improve rather than as criticism. Whether it’s feedback from a teacher, coach or colleague, use it as a tool for growth and development.
  • Celebrate effort and not just results: Effort is celebrated just as much as – if not more than – results in a growth mindset. Praise your hard work, focus and determination, no matter the outcome. 
  • Persist in the face of setbacks: Setbacks and failures are a natural part of the learning process. Instead of giving up when things get tough, use setbacks as an opportunity to learn, adapt and try again.
  • Develop a love of learning: Cultivate curiosity about the world around you and a desire to learn new things, whether reading books, taking classes or trying new hobbies.
  • Practice, practice, practice: Whether learning a new skill at work or kicking a soccer ball, deliberate practice is important to improving. Don’t get upset if you don’t see results right away – keep practicing and you’ll get better over time.
  • Set flexible goals and take action: Set small, realistic goals for yourself but remain flexible in your approach. Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable steps and be willing to adapt and adjust your plans as needed. Take consistent action towards achieving your goals, and celebrate each milestone along the way.
  • Practice self-compassion: Last but not least, be kind to yourself. Instead of being overly critical of yourself, remember that everyone makes mistakes. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend.


In life, the way we think really matters. It affects how we handle challenges and what we achieve. Whether we’re excited to face challenges or scared and avoid them, our thoughts guide us. 

By thinking positively, learning from your mistakes and trying your best, you can do amazing things in all areas of your life – whether at school, work, sports or daily life. If you need a little help along the way, don’t hesitate to speak to a licensed Banner behavioral health specialist who can help you work through challenges.

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