One of the most common tasks we have as educators is trying to reach challenging students. It..
You may have heard the idea that what we think or how we feel is a choice. No one gets inside our hearts or heads and does damage unless we permit them, goes the story. Don't compare yourself to others, people proclaim. You were born with unlimited potential, and you need to adopt a better attitude about effort and success, so you've read.
These are some of the slogans of the growth mindset. And cliché or not, every one of them is correct. However, fixed vs growth mindset examples like the ones we'll be discussing here take more than just simple belief. They require effort, focus, and determination to turn around.
You have to know that more than one outcome is possible, even one that you didn't expect. Above all, these beliefs require you to realize that transforming them takes time, time, and then more time.
That's okay—we believe you're more than up to the challenge.
10 Common Fixed Mindset Examples to Get Fixed
1. Either I'm good at something, or I'm not.
This statement is limited thinking at its most basic level, so it's a great place to start. How can we possibly know we're bad at something if we don't try it? Additionally, how do we know we can't improve unless we attempt to do so? The thing about this statement—like most fixed mindset affirmations—is that it's based in fear. You'll find that's a common thread with all of these. Specifically, this one is about letting go of the fear of appearing bad at something.
If I'm not good at something, I can always become better at it through practice.
2. I can't learn now; it's too late.
It is never, repeat, never too late to become a learner. This is a notion back of not only the growth mindset but also the lifelong learning mindset. As an old saying goes, the day we stop learning is the day we stop living. By and large, this is how learning happens in the digital age. Thanks to the open Internet and the world of online ed, we can learn something "just in time" as opposed to "just in case."
I can learn whatever I want or need to, exactly when I need to learn it.
3. There's no point in trying if I'm going to fail.
True, you might fail. You might fail multiple times. You might fail so spectacularly that it paralyzes you and leaves you wondering what to do next. So here again, we are dealing with the face of fear, rearing its ugly head and laughing at our efforts with utter disdain. But every failure we face is an opportunity to look at the situation in a whole new light. So the question, in this case, is one that will determine every single move you make from then on: How bad do you want it?
I see failures as opportunities to learn, to reassess, and to do better next time.
4. I take feedback as a personal attack.
Here's the rub—depending on the person, it sometimes can be. Some people don't know how to criticize constructively (or don't care to) or are so profoundly resentful of themselves that they take it out on the others by denouncing all their efforts. Conversely, you may merely be perceiving what people are offering as harmful when they are only trying to be helpful. The thing you have to remember about any feedback is that, even when it's vitriol, it's still not specifically about you. You have to try to separate the words from the intent and learn to focus only on what you can take away that's useful to you.
I can find the value in every bit of feedback I receive.
5. I always struggle with ...
Arguably, the main driving principle of the new thought movement could be summed up in the famous words of Descartes: I think, therefore I am. What this means is that such a statement as the one above is self-affirming. If we believe that we always struggle with something, we permanently close off that part of our brain that could potentially help us understand it better. The limits we impose on ourselves through sheer force of cognitive will can be tremendously powerful when they drive us to either struggle or improve.
I can always do better at something if I want to, but it will take effort.
6. I feel threatened/intimidated by the success of others.
Why are we so determined to be put out by the prosperity of others? If anything, it's something we should be celebrating. Why? Because more often than not, these sensational stories are all about people just like us—average, everyday, ordinary folks who knew what they wanted and weren't willing to stop until they got it. This serves to remind us that such potential is an inherently human trait and something that is accessible to all of us, rather than a chosen few.
When I see others succeed, it makes me think that I can too. What did these people do that made them so successful, and how can it be my model?
7. I can't make this any better; it is what it is.
The growth mindset means always looking for ways to improve. Even the greatest minds in our history who have engineered the world around us asked themselves, "How could I make this even better?" It means that no matter how exceptional something turns out, those who debrief their processes and outcomes diligently are those who understand improvement is, indeed, all in our mindset.
What could I have done better? How can I carry this forward?
8. My current abilities are the measure of my outcomes.
This is similar to number 2, and it comes back to the eradicated notion of fixed intelligence. For a long time now, we've been researching the brain and how it works, and we understand how much it changes as we use it. Like a muscle, the mind needs exercise to stay vigorous and functional. We do this by continually finding ways to improve and enhance what we know and what we can do. In doing so, we shift our results dramatically.
My determination and effort are the measures of my outcomes.
9. I already know everything I need to know.
This sounds like a pretty dangerous assumption. However, what it sounds like more is someone who has decided to stop growing. Historically, how many times have we claimed everything that was ever going to be invented had been already? Remember back when you thought 128K of RAM was all you'd ever possibly need? Look at what's happened since then—my, how things have changed. It benefits us to approach life believing that no matter how smart we may be (or think we may be), we always have something new to learn.
I enjoy learning and growing, and learning is a lifetime pursuit for me.
10. I've always been told that I can't ______.
When a young impressionable brain is continuously bombarded with a specific notion, again and again, it can become an unconscious "truth" for that brain. Unfortunately, a destructive or limiting idea can also become true for that brain. We can't blame ourselves or others for being surrounded by the beliefs we were brought up with when we were young. What we need to understand right now is that someone else's opinion of us needn't become our reality. No matter what we believe about ourselves because of what someone else in the past has told us, we can change those beliefs into ones that empower us, rather than hold us back.
No one can know my potential. I must discover it for myself, independent from outside opinion and influence.
A Visual Reminder to Grow
Did you find these fixed mindset examples familiar? If so, we hope you now have an idea that, whether in yourself or someone you care about, we can transform them. It's up to you to discover how, but you'll find the way when you begin the shift.
If you need some encouragement, you can't go wrong with The Growth Mindset Poster from Future-Focused Learning.
This visually powerful poster demonstrates just how different the growth mindset is from the fixed mindset using a side-by-side comparison. Use it to inspire yourself and your learners, and have lively conversations about how to make the growth mindset choice every day, for better learning and living.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jul 11, 2019, updated September 23, 2021