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What is A Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset?

I recently read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck, which helped open my mind to the stubborn areas in my life.

Last Updated: January 26, 2023

The Two Mindsets – What is a Growth Mindset vs fixed mindset?

  1. The fixed mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities (ie, intelligence, talent, character) are natural and fixed traits.
  2. The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. A person’s true potential is unknown and unknowable, and it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil & training. 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.

As much as our culture talks about individual effort and self-improvement, deeps down, we revere naturals. We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary. – Malcolm Gladwell

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset in My Life

I noticed that I have a growth mindset in some areas of my life, while in others, I have a fixed mindset. This is particularly true for a lot of my right-brained activities. I get frustrated with myself when I’m painting, drawing, or playing piano and can’t get it right the first time. Instead of telling myself that I will improve through hard work and effort, I often put it away for good.

I had played piano ever since I was a little kid and had lessons for over ten years. I quit during college and couldn’t pick it back up as easily after years of hiatus. My piano became a stranger to me and was tucked away in my parent’s basement collecting dust. I never touched it again. Maybe I just didn’t want to face the reality that it might take a lot more effort and practice to get where I used to be. Or worse, I was bad at it. I secretly believed that if I was naturally good at something, I didn’t have to try as hard.

Learning Piano with a Growth Mindset.Pin

Starting Over

To adopt a growth mindset in more areas of my life, I decided to kick some old habits. Last week, I started reteaching myself piano. Some say it’s like riding a bike, and you never really forget. Well, THIS GIRL forgot how to ride a bike. Fo’real.

It felt frustrating when starting back at square one, but with enough practice, I began seeing the fruit of my labor. Even Jacob was telling me he sees a vast improvement. I taught myself how to play the UP song last week to warm me up, and now it’s time to roll up my sleeves! I am determined to finish the last piece I had worked on before I quit. It has been a bucket list item FOREVER. Does anyone recognize this piece?

Learning Piano with a Growth Mindset.Pin

A few other areas of life that the growth mindset can be applied to

  • Relationships: “Your qualities, your partner’s qualities, and your relationship’s qualities can be developed with a growth mindset. A good, lasting relationship comes from effort and working through inevitable differences. In the fixed mindset, the ideal is instant, perfect, and perpetual compatibility.”
  • Marriage: “Every marriage demands an effort to keep it on the right track; there is a constant tension between forces that hold you together and those that can tear you apart – John Gottman (BTW, we love his marriage book, and we look back at what we highlighted every so often).
  • Children: Instead of praising your children for their talents or abilities, you should praise them for their efforts. “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is teach them to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves to praise.”
  • Drawing: I’ve seen a lot of people use this book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards, and drastically improve their skills. I ordered this, and it should be on its way!

In what areas of your life could you begin adopting the growth mindset?

This is week 37 of practicing gratitude. 15 more weeks to go! I’m grateful that we all have the capacity to grow and that a change in attitude/mindset can help you grow in so many areas of life.

This Post Has 56 Comments

  1. Laura Elizabeth

    I’m always one of those “growth” mindset kind of gals except for relationships. I’ve been single for so long, I’m feeling like I’ll always be. Which isn’t the end of the world, but still!

    1. Relationships are always a tough one. I think we naturally want things to be fixed because that makes it easier. It’s always tough when it doesn’t involve just you. :) I think I had so much fun being single.. Grass is always greener on the other side ya know. ;)

  2. Ashley

    I think I need to take that mindset and apply it to all areas of my life, haha. There is SO much more that I want to do and I know I could be doing it if I just put my heart in it.

    1. Exactly! :) I know I need to continue telling myself these things to push forward. It’s almost a daily lesson.

  3. Amberly

    I love these thoughts!! I definitely agree, every marriage requires effort, as do the other areas in your life like you mentioned :) Thanks for sharing!

  4. Lauren

    LOVE this post!! Thank you for sharing it :)

  5. Betsy Gettis

    this is such a great post! i’m pretty sure i’ve totally forgotten everything that i learned in piano lessons as a kid! haha….but i love this idea of having a growth mindset!

  6. Miranda Ronevich

    I definitely love this idea. I like to think I have a growth mindset, but as I sit here, I think there aspects of my life where I have a fixed mindset. Very interesting.

    1. I think that’s definitely all of us. But it’s interesting to hear stories of those people who really succeed.. ie like Michael Jordan.. or really successful entrepreneurs. They all push to have this growth mindset.

  7. Raewyn Smith

    I love this idea! I like to think that I have a growth mindset, but now I should reevaluate – especially in my relationships and marriage! Thanks for sharing Esther!

    1. I think I tend to fluctuate too. Sometimes I may have a growth mindset.. but it’s easy to go back and have a fixed one because that’s how most of the world operates.

      1. Raewyn Smith

        exactly! You have to constantly push yourself to have growth

  8. Kristine Foley

    I can see me having a little bit of both too, depending on the situation.

    1. :) Same here. I know everyone could always use a little more growth mindset.. but it’s a lesson I need to teach myself over and over again.

  9. this is a really fantastic post. I think our blog is our chance to really work on our growth mindset; especially because it can be difficult to get it up and going and progress can sometimes be slow. Your blog is great, and this post is definitely food for thought :) thank you!

    1. esther julee

      Thank you! I know blogging has been helping me grow in so many ways. :) So glad we can connect this way!

  10. Miranda (Myrabev)

    I like to think I have a growth mindset but sometimes I am guilty of practicing a fixed mind set which I am working on

    1. esther julee

      Even in the book, they say most people are usually not just one or the other.. it’s that they have both mindsets for different areas of their lives. I think I see that in myself too that I’m more willing to grow in certain areas of my life but it’s harder to change the mindset in others! :) It’s just always nice to know you’re never alone and many people around you have the same experience when dealing with growth.

  11. Deidre Emme

    I like this a lot. I need to be more in tune with my growth mindset. Lots of times I hold back, but that isn’t helping anything!

    1. esther julee

      What areas do you think you would like to have more of a growth mindset?

  12. Laura

    I love this idea. I tend to be the same way with myself – since some things come naturally (baking), everything else should too (drawing, writing, piano), and so I am not as forgiving with myself as I should be when I’m not instantly great at them. It’s always a process though and I’m learning to enjoy the growth!

    1. esther julee

      I’m exactly the same way! I think being a perfectionist has something to do with it also. It’s a process for me too, but hopefully I’m making some improvement the more I try to have a growth mindset. :)

  13. Rebekah

    We focus really hard on using that mindset with our son (and daughter once she understands) but not so great at using it ourselves. Great post!

    1. esther julee

      haha Isn’t that always the case. So hard to practice what you preach! I think these are life lessons that we need to remind ourselves over and over again. Even for me, it baffles me how quickly I forget these lessons.

  14. Logan Cantrell

    I took 4 years of piano in high school and I miss it so much. I really need to relearn it, but I don’t have a piano anymore. Great post!

    1. esther julee

      We didn’t for the longest time either! I just recently got a weighted keyboard so I can teach myself to play again.. but I know for the longest time the thought was in the back of my head to relearn at some point in my life. I think for a mobile lifestyle, keyboard is the way to go!

  15. Jordan

    I absolutely adore you and your blog. I just recently took up lap swimming and spanish again, and I feel like that’s an effort to ‘grow’ in itself. This totally pumped me up.

    1. esther julee

      Thanks so much Jordan! Ooh what are you using to learn spanish?

  16. This is a wonderful post! I’m going to look for that book. Wonderful that you are playing the piano again. I absolutely love your blog!

    1. esther julee

      Thank you! I know reading the book helped me change my mindset in different areas of my life, so it was so worth it.

  17. Christen

    I am pinning this to remind myself to get some of these books. Excellent post!

    1. esther julee

      Thank you Christen! :) Let me know how you like the books and if you would recommend them yourself! I really love the concept behind both.

  18. Hima

    Although I haven’t read your blog a lot, it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite. I love how thoughtful and well=written your posts are. Last year, when I was teaching summer school, we talked about creating growth mindsets vs fixed mindsets in the kids, and how different kinds of praise (I love how hard you worked on that problem vs. You’re so smart!) can contribute to different mindsets!

    xo, Hima

    Hima Hearts

    1. esther julee

      Thank you so much! That makes me really happy. I’m so glad that these days they are changing the way that kids are educated. I know when I was growing up, it was really normal for people to label you as smart, talented, pretty or not.

  19. Margo

    I’ve learned so much from your blog but this post might be my favorite- I even shared it with Dan and our immediate families. Malcolm Gladwell’s quote is particularly thought-provoking, but I especially love this notion that perhaps you can excel at something with hard work, not just born talent. Interesting. Perhaps this is the crutch I’ve been lazily holding on to for years.

    > Anddd I just ordered the 7 principals to making marriage work on! Yay for marriage and for books in English! :)

    1. esther julee

      Awesome!! :) You will have to tell me how you like 7 principles of marriage. I found the book to be extremely helpful.

      And thank you for your thoughtful comments. The concept was intriguing for me too, and I thought I would put it to the test. :) Maybe we are capable of so much more than we think. I know it’s a common saying.. but I feel like they laid it out in a more practical sense.

  20. This is a great post! It’s so cool that you’re playing piano again! That’s one thing that I have wanted to start again, but I don’t have a piano anymore. The one that I played growing up is now being used by my niece and nephew. I also want to start playing my flute again and I still have that. :) I love that drawing book. I feel like I’ve been too critical of my drawing lately so I actually purchased the newest edition of that drawing book (I still have an older edition that I’ve had for quite some time) so that I can go through it again. It’s a great book!

    1. esther julee

      We ended up buying a keyboard, so I am practicing on that. I think if I start getting really serious about piano, Jacob would get me a real piano.. I have always dreamed about having a home with one room dedicated to having a grand or a baby grand!

      I think I go in and out of phases of feeling good about myself and then being critical.. BUT i do think that it does have to do with having a fixed mindset in that area.. (or don’t let me assume for you) For me, I feel like it should be a natural trait that flows out of me, and if it’s more challenging than I like.. I start feeling like I’m not talented anymore… instead of thinking.. ‘hey i should try to work harder at it, because i will always just improve’. It’s challenging in changing your mindset too!

  21. Erica Alferez

    I played piano as a child, and I completely forgot everything I learned! I think I would like to learn again as well :)

    1. esther julee

      You should!! :) It’d be nice to know other people who are trying to do the same thing as I am! It’s always good to see a community effort instead of feel like you’re doing things on your own.

  22. ooh!!!! you’re picking up piano again? awesome! let’s learn some duets and then when we meet again we can play them! =D =D =D

    1. esther julee

      Let’s do it!! I’m down for anything.. classical, modern… anything! :) ooooh i’ve always wanted to learn jazz!

  23. Shannon Kennedy

    You draw too? Goodness, what don’t you do? How is the new piece going?

    1. esther julee

      Well…. I try! :) The piece is going… slowly. It can be very discouraging at times. I’m a pretty impatient person, so I want to see results right away.. but I am having to learn to be patient with these things.

      1. Shannon Kennedy

        Well, even if it’s going slowly it’s still moving forward and that’s all that counts, right? I’m not sure if it will help you, but I wrote a post on Teen Jazz about hitting plateaus with a few suggestions on how to work past the frustration. Not sure how you feel about links, so I’ll leave it at that :) Good luck and happy practicing!

  24. Love this post Esther! Good for you, picking back up the piano…that is awesome! I’m going to look at the drawing book you suggested, ‘m still trying to work by way through “You Can Draw in 30 days”.

    1. esther julee

      Thanks Mariah! :) I always thought that drawing was a fixed talent, but it’s crazy to think that there is so much that can be learned. Can’t wait to see the progress. I’m still waiting on the book, but I have always heard good things about it.. I’ll have to let you know what I think once I get it! :)

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