The two basic mindsets that shape our lives: Which one do you have?

Have you ever wondered why some people approach life head-on while others are convinced that you can only succeed by sticking to what you are good at?

This contrast in mindset was studied extensively by Carol Dwek, a Stanford University psychologist who wrote the influential book Mindset.

According to Dwek in her book Mindset, there are two basic types of people in this world, those with a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset.

The category that you fall into can have drastic effects on the course of success you will experience in your life.

So, which mindset best describes your perspective on life?

Here we explore the defining traits of a fixed vs growth mindset.

Fixed Mindset: A Predetermined Approach to Life

People with a fixed mindset approach the world with a belief that our intelligence and abilities are predetermined from birth.

They go through life believing that their innate skills, talents, and mental capacity are static and cannot be changed or expanded upon.

Due to this belief, those with a fixed mindset have several defining characteristics, including:

  • Inability to hear negative feedback or criticism
  • Strong drive to prove their intelligence by avoiding failure
  • Tendency to avoid challenges and tasks that require extra effort
  • Easily gives up when things do not go as planned
  • Feels threatened by other’s success

These characteristics ultimately lead to the person being held back from reaching their full potential.

By avoiding experiences that will allow them to grow as a person, they often “peak” early in life.

Carl Dweck says that one of the “clearest findings” she has seen is that “praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance.”


Because, according to Carl Dweck, praising talent and intelligence encourages a fixed mindset.

While children “especially love to be praised for their intelligence and talent…the minute they hit a snag, their confidence goes out the window and their motivation hits rock bottom. If success means they’re smart, then failure means they’re dumb. That’s the fixed mindset.”

Dweck says that as soon as children “become able to evaluate themselves..they become afraid of not being smart.

“I have studied thousands of people from preschoolers on, and it’s breathtaking how many reject an opportunity to learn.”

An inability to accept failure will prevent those with a fixed mindset from pursuing information or tasks that do not come naturally to them.

In essence, those with a fixed mindset find it impossible to approach the world with a sense of possibility as they cannot see the value in open-minded growth.

Growth Mindset: A Dynamic Approach to Life

In stark contrast to those who see life as static and predetermined, those with a growth mindset are open to experiencing the constant evolution of life.

These people believe that intelligence and innate ability are something that is in a state of constant development and growth.

They tend to seek out opportunities instead of running from them in an effort to improve and evolve their life.

Those with a growth mindset often exhibit traits such as:

  • The ability to see failure as an opportunity to learn
  • Perseverance and determination to overcome setbacks
  • The desire to seek out challenge in order to grow
  • Open-minded approach to negative feedback and criticism
  • Finding inspiration in others achievements

Carol Dweck says that sticking at it even when things aren’t going your way is the key trait of someone with a growth mindset:

“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

When changes in life are experienced by those with a growth mindset, they have an innate ability to see opportunity in the face of hardships.

In fact, according to psychologist Angela Duckworth, her research suggested that one of the most important factors in someone becoming successful wasn’t intelligence or confidence, it was grit.

“In all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.”

Those with this mindset tend to reach higher levels of success than those with a fixed mindset, simply because they have the desire to learn and put in the extra effort required.

Those with a growth mindset refuse to accept that intelligence is a static trait.

Their core belief is based upon the idea that everyone has the ability to constantly learn and develop high-level skills.

There are times where everyone finds themselves trapped in a fixed mindset approach to life.

However, it is important to understand that a static view of the world only hinders you from achieving your full potential.

If you keep persisting and learning even when you’re faced with setbacks, then the sky is the limit for the success you can achieve.

According to Duckworth, grit is all about sticking at it and living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint:

“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Here is Carol Dweck talking about the growth and fixed mindset in her popular TED talk:


(To learn more about growth mindset, check out our growth mindset quotes here)


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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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