What is a Growth vs Fixed Mindset?

You ever heard that phrase, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? If so and you find yourself immediately disagreeing and/or defending the heck out of the hypothetical dog, you may already have a growth mindset.


On the other hand, if you do feel that you do tend to get stuck in your ways, you may gravitate toward a fixed mindset. Bonus points if you have sat in a rocking chair on your front porch and hollered at kids to get off your lawn.


Jokes aside, a growth mindset is a belief that your intelligence, skills and talents can be practiced and improved upon over time. Growth mindsets are learning and adaptive mindsets—it makes it easier to learn and grow from our mistakes and gives us some motivation for becoming better and better versions of ourselves.


A fixed mindset is a belief that your intelligence, skills and talents are fixed, unchangeable traits. What this looks like in practice is not being good at something, let’s say gardening. A fixed mindset would find learning how to garden either from books, online, etc., to be a waste of time because there is a core belief that no matter what amount of effort is put into the task, we will never be good at it.


The type of mindset that you have will impact multiple facets of your mental health ranging from daily motivation and resilience to even a sense of self-worth.


Is a Fixed Mindset Detrimental?

A fixed mindset can hold you back in life on many levels. If we feel that we are only stagnant beings with no capacity to grow or improve our skills, we likely won’t. We need that hope of being better to help spur our motivation. Having light at the end of the tunnel helps us accomplish tasks and hit our goals, but if our mindset is telling us it’s pointless, it’s much harder to work toward goals or achieve anything past the status quo.


Not only can a fixed mindset make it hard to stay motivated, it can also deter us from trying new things or learning skills. A fixed-mindset person may find it hard to build confidence and self-esteem, feel overwhelmed by change or even cause a spike in negative thoughts.


These effects can also lead to coasting, which can cause drained mental health, fatigue and more in the long term.


5 Ways to Reshape Negative Thoughts

Unlearning a fixed mindset and shifting to a growth mindset can take some time, but reframing negative thoughts is a great place to start. If you find that your mind has some less-than-kind advice for you at times, here are some ways to nourish some healthier self-talk.

1.      Identify Types of Negative Thoughts

The first step toward building more positive thoughts is recognizing and understanding the negative ones you’re experiencing. When something doesn’t go according to plan, what is your first thought? Is it unhelpful self-talk? A feeling of hopelessness that makes you want to give up? A lot of expletives that we can’t publish on this site? Building awareness of these internal reactions can help you recognize them and work through them as they arise.

2.      Test Your Negative Thoughts

After identifying negative thinking, we can challenge those thoughts. Are there positives you can pull from a less-than-ideal situation? While you can’t always turn lemons into lemonade, sometimes there is a positive takeaway that can improve your mindset or give you a new perspective.


What areas of your life tend to cause the most stress or spark negative thoughts? It could be work, family, finances, etc. Try to focus on one area at a time and try to highlight the positives where you can… even if it means you got out of bed without hitting snooze.


Little victories are worth celebrating—don’t sell yourself short for the accomplishments you’ve made, both big and small.

3.      Use Positive Affirmations

Positive self-talk is a powerful way to improve self-esteem and confidence and help manage stress. Positive affirmations are a way to gradually build up optimism and a more positive way of thinking. Just as negative thoughts can be formed over time, reframing your thoughts will take some time. Positive affirmations work best in repetition and also help you show up for yourself in a healthy way.


You may find that some affirmations work better for you than others, or maybe some are more fitting for what the day is throwing at you. You can start small with short phrases like, “you’re okay,” “you can do this,” or even dip into some longer ones with inspirational quotes. Next thing you know, you might find that your self-love and care skills can get you through a lot of tough times.

4.      Practice Journaling

Everyone needs an outlet, but sometimes we also need some help knowing where to start unpacking our mental baggage. Journaling is an effective technique you can use to better pin down any negative thoughts and figure out where they’re coming from. If you find that you’re struggling with less-than-helpful thoughts sneaking through to you, try writing down what you’re feeling and what you think you need to feel better.


Journalling prompts:

  • What negative thoughts am I feeling right now?
  • What can I learn from this tough or challenging situation?
  • What is something I’ve accomplished recently to celebrate?

5.      Be Patient

If you find that you’re frustrated with your pace, just remember that good things take time and you’re doing a lot of work unlearning old patterns and implementing new ones. That’s groundbreaking and you deserve as much time as it takes to treat yourself with the care and compassion that you deserve.


Take this day-by-day and one step at a time. You’re doing amazing things out there, be sure to celebrate your victories and be kind to yourself when the going gets tough.


You got this.
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