Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset

In my opinion, getting your physique in prime shape (and in my case competing) is much more psychologically taxing than physically taxing.  Unfortunately, little attention is paid to the psychological component.  The terms “just do it”, “hardcore”, “do it or don’t”, “shut up and train” leave most of us to think getting in peak physical shape is a very simple decision one makes and that is that. How you view the process, your self talk, and overall mindset toward adopting a new regimen and making a transformation can very much be what makes or breaks your endeavors.

Decisions will come your way on a daily basis and obstacles will challenge our efforts to reach our goal.  How we handle these situations will dictate if we cross the finish line of our goal or if we falter and remain on the path either without moving forward, or even worse, taking more and more steps back causing more despair and frustration.

What kind of mindset provides us with the thought process we need to succeed?

Lets take a look at both the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

Story time:

When I was a child, I loved receiving praise for getting good grades on my classwork.  I loved being told I was smart.  Despite my mom saying to me, “I don’t care what grade you get on your tests, as long as you can tell me you tried your best.” (This is something that I now say to my son).  I still focused on those grades.  I was often rewarded for A’s which I think solidified my thinking that the best grade trumped effort and those that were born smart got those grades.  That coupled with having to dedicate very little time to honing my skills- able to achieve good grades without much studying- led me to believe I was born with these skills.  What about effort? Could I change my grade with effort? Grade school and high school classes came very easy to me. I finished 12th grade with perfect grades.  Now this story isn’t to toot my own horn, because then came college.  Duh duh dunnnnn.  No longer could I get away with minimal time studying.  I received my first non A grade.  I got a C on a biology test.  WHAT? A “C”? Is this a mistake?  They must not have added in the curve.  No, it was correct.  This grade literally made me completely second guess all that I thought I knew about myself.  I thought I was smart, I must not be.  I should choose another career path.  Health care is not for me.  How will I make it through school? How will I get a job? I became unglued. Talk about spiraling out of control.  Talk about having a fixed mindset.

With a fixed mindset, you are something or you are not and no amount of effort will change that.  You have a natural born talent or lack there of and you need to work with the hand you are dealt.  Should someone with more talent come along, that doesn’t motivate you to work on honing your skills, because in your mind your skills are all that they will ever be.  You will feel threatened, not adequate enough.  Should a challenge arise- like my freshman year college biology class- and the outcome be undesirable, the change in attitude toward self can be crippling.  If I hadn’t changed my mindset, I would likely have withdrew from the class, avoiding another instance that could shake how I viewed myself. Fixed mindset individuals avoid challenges for this reason.  It is more preferable for them to stay in the safe zone where they are commended for the skills they already have verse going out in the great big world and mastering a new skill- with inevitable peaks and valleys of learning- and possibly unraveling their belief system.

Carol Dweck is known for her work on the fixed mindset verse the growth mindset and here she describes their differences:

In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.

Lets take a look at the example situation if I had used a growth mindset.

A “C”, huh? Looks like I’ll need to reassess my study habits to ace the next one. The next test is in trouble! I’m going to knock it out of the park!

No discussion with myself in regards to if I am smart or not.  Of course I’m smart, and able.  I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.  A challenge? Bring it on.  I see some of the other students did well on the test, that means I can do well, too! I’ll go chat with them and see about studying together or possibly asking how they studied for this exam.  A few little adjustments, and I’m back, baby!

See how that mindset, with a “go get ‘em” attitude, allows us to move forward in the face of a “failure”, accept the challenge, and have a positive attitude about conquering it.  The growth mindset sees others being successful, is happy for them, and is motivated by that- if they can do it, we can too! We appreciate others paving the way and are inspired, not threatened.  As long as I keep trying, I can’t possibly NOT reach my goal.

As you can see, growing up, I had a fixed mindset.  At times now, as an adult, I have a fixed mindset.  The good news is that you can change your mindset from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset! After learning about these two mindsets, even the recognition that I am operating from a fixed mindset place when a challenge arises allows me to consciously reassess my attitude and make a decision to use a growth mindset.  As time goes on, I am able to operate from a place of growth far more than I used to.


What goal do you have that you may be approaching with a fixed mindset?

What beliefs do you have about yourself that are holding you back?

What can you do to change your mindset to a growth mindset?

Mindset is everything.  If you have a positive attitude, persistence, and an unwavering drive no matter the obstacle, you can accomplish anything you desire.  If you are deterred easily at the first sight of a challenge, you will never get to your goals as nothing worth having comes easy.  When we conquer challenging situations, we level up.  We continue to evolve into the person we are meant to be.  Human nature is to stay comfortable but all the magic happens when we get uncomfortable.

Today, try to assess sticky situations with a “can- do” attitude.  My path has a huge road block? No problem, I’ll make a new path.  Not sure how to arrange my schedule so I can meal prep and get a few quick workouts in? No problem, I’ll sit down with my calendar and find my “time wasters”, cut back on those and schedule in meal prep and training time.  You are the master of your destiny.  You can have what you want.  There is always a way.

You can change your beliefs about yourself as well as your mindset. Growth mindset for the win. 


Having trouble conquering your mindset to achieve your goals? I’d love to team up with you to work on it with you