We don't all have fixed or growth mindsets, neither do we all have a mixture of both
I have been studying the fixed and growth mindsets in depth since 2015. While I do not purport to be an expert, and I have not yet published my findings in journals and books, I have conducted hundreds, even close to 1,000, studies on individuals in my search for quantifying the growth mindset, and it is with this understanding that I have come to certain conclusions about the fixed and growth mindsets. Here is a brief summary of what I know thus far, and this is certainly an evolving topic. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this...
the fixed and growth mindset is not a binary concept, but a continuum.
(1) We are not ALL fixed, growth or transitional
We are not ALL fixed or growth, as the current literature seems to suggest. In my research, I have indeed found people who exhibit consistently fixed or growth mindset tendencies, where their behaviours over a range of situations correspond to these mindsets. But these numbers are not large. Most of them are what we call transitional, where they can exhibit both fixed or growth tendencies, depending on context. What this further informs us is that the fixed and growth mindset is not a binary concept, but a continuum.
our growth mindset tendencies change along five different continuums, not just one!
(2) There the 5 Dimensions to the growth mindset
The growth mindset is not a simple concept. We learnt that there are 5 Dimensions to it. A dimension is like a factor or a determinant. This means that our growth mindset tendencies change along five different continuums, not just one! The 5 Dimensions are Learning, Bounce Back, Risk Taking, Forward and Pride. Each of these dimensions adds a layer to our growth mindedness, and while one can have growth tendencies in one Dimension, that same person can have fixed tendencies in another. This can lead some people conclude that we have both growth and fixed mindsets all the time, when in actual fact we have a myriad of different tendencies at the same time.
(3) They are all tendencies
If you have noticed, I have been writing about tendencies with regards to the different mindsets. This means that all our behaviours are not set in stone; and if one is fixed today, it does not mean that one will remain fixed tomorrow. If the behaviour has been deeply set into a person's psyche, it becomes more difficult to be dislodged; but it does not mean that it cannot change. Change is the key element of growth and if one were to adopt a growth mindset, one adopts the learning mindset. Therefore, the growth mindset is a learning mindset, and hence, a change mindset. A friend just shared on LinkedIn what Einstein once said; that if one keeps on doing the same thing, one can only expect the same outcome. Doing the same thing, preferring the status quo, are fixed mindset behaviours. But when one is willing to challenge the status quo, to risk being wrong, to confront one's own convictions, one is adopting growth mindset tendencies, aiding the move from fixed to growth.
If I am working to protect my fragile sense of self-importance, of self-knowledge, of self-intellect, I will be shackled by the fixed mindset even if I purport to be of growth mindedness
(4) Flipping of mindsets can come with a catastrophic event
I can recall a time when I was extremely fixed in my mindset because of all the successes that I had accumulated up until that time in my life. After all, I was a government scholar and when I left the service, I started my first business that quickly generated more than $1M in revenue - not in years, but in months! I revelled in my intelligence, in my ability to run businesses, in my control of the whole empire. Little did I know how wrong I was! That was in 1996, and by 1998, when the Asian Financial Crisis hit, I went from prince to pauper overnight! And suddenly, what I had believed all along - that I was the master of my own fate - came crashing down! I finally realised that I did not know a lot more than I did; and what I didn't know was the thing that is causing me to fail. I had to kill that part of me, and rebuild my psyche, my behaviours, my self concept. Today, I do not presume to know better; I am always in experiment mode. If one thing does not work out, I move on to another. I am not stuck on my own sense of self-worth, my own sense of intelligence, my own PRIDE. I realise that everything I had known to be true can be wrong with the next catastrophic event. If I am working to protect my fragile sense of self-importance, of self-knowledge, of self-intellect, I will be shackled by the fixed mindset even if I purport to be of growth mindedness and the catastrophic event can come and wipe me out. So I now I go with the flow and allow the situation to take me to where I should be. I am mindful of how Covid-19 has impacted many businesses; but I am flowing with it and it has taken me to places far beyond what I ever imagined. Over the course of the last 9 months, I have created at least 4 new businesses with early signs of success. I have hired more people in a short period of time than I have done over years. Indeed, my business has grown in many ways that might not have been without Covid-19! Yes, behind every catastrophe is an opportunity or more, we just need to realise that! So let's use this catastrophe to flip the fixed for growth - otherwise it might flip your "growth" for fixed!
when one is exhibiting fixed tendencies and calling them growth, they will justify their fixed behaviours as growth and constantly remain fixed!
(5) Everybody thinks they are growth-minded
When we ask people if they think they are fixed minded or growth minded, they will naturally say that they are growth. No one can wilfully admit to being fixed even though there is nothing inherently wrong with the fixed mindset. (we will discuss that shortly). But without really understanding what makes up the fixed or growth mindsets, and without a way to assess that, we can all claim to be growth, and happily go through life with that notion. However, that person may be living under a false impression. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with the fixed mindset; but when one is exhibiting fixed tendencies and calling them growth, they will justify their fixed behaviours as growth and constantly remain fixed! This leads to increasingly fixed outcomes in their life, all while they believe themselves to be growth. The worst outcome is that they push all the truly growth people from their life, reinforcing a fixed set of circumstances. It is therefore important for one to objectively assess one's mindset, not as a means to judge but as a starting point of growth, because everyone thinks they are growth minded.
By treating fixed and growth as a binary concept, we have also unfortunately created a good-bad culture.
(6) But the fixed mindset has its usefulness
But let us not vilify the fixed mindset. By treating fixed and growth as a binary concept, we have also unfortunately created a good-bad culture. That is far from the truth. The fixed mindset is a good one to maintain in a stable environment. This means that what worked before will continue to work now. Certain industries will also benefit from the fixed mindset. When bankers moved away from their fixed mindset bent into more growth-minded experimental nature, we got the 2008 Global Financial Crisis! And in the area of semi-conductor manufacturing or medicine and health care, we certainly want to maintain the status quo. We don't need a surgeon to go experimenting on our heart during surgery, do we? And who wants to fly in a plane with a captain who is not sure of himself or his route? So the fixed mindset works for certain conditions and for certain jobs. But for those outside of these situations, then the growth mindset is key.
at every lap (Hamilton) was testing, hypothesising, trying, adjusting and doing. For 58 laps! This is the mark of a true champion - the mark of a growth minded person.
You just work at it until you win
For all that we know collectively about the growth mindset, we are only just scratching the surface. It is showing itself to be a very complex topic, one that cannot be nailed down by a binary concept. Indeed, I am sure that there are a couple more dimensions to the growth mindset just itching to be uncovered. So I believe we are just skimming the surface of what makes one growth minded and what makes one fixed. As of this writing, Lewis Hamilton just won his 7th World Championship title in Turkey. The interesting thing about this is that Hamilton started the grid at 6th position on a wet track. Yet, against all the odds, Hamilton kept his cool, tweaking his drive along the way, looking out for drier racing lines and nursing his cold tyres to life. And when they finally got the heat in, he maintained the tyres and the temperature to go on to win the race and the championship. But at every lap he was testing, hypothesising, trying, adjusting and doing. For 58 laps! This is the mark of a true champion - the mark of a growth minded person. He does not know he will win, he just works at it until he does.
Congratulations to Lewis, to Mercedes and to F1! Here's to more growth minded people!