What is a Growth Mindset?

What is a Growth Mindset? December 2, 2019

For most of my career as a therapist and college teacher, I’ve been looking for a theory that explains how people can adjust to change, not give up easily on themselves, and embrace challenges. In my early training as a therapist, I learned that personality was rather fixed because a person’s temperament rarely changes.

Then in 2010, I read a cutting-edge book titled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck and my thinking was transformed. What Dweck posits is that our thinking doesn’t have to be fixed. In fact, our brain acts like a muscle and the more we use it, the stronger (and smarter) our brain becomes.

For example, Katrina, 42, is a client of mine who personifies a growth mindset. She decided to return to college after 22 years of working in the hospitality industry and being laid off.

She explains, “I thought about applying for a job at another hotel chain and was feeling pretty down until I realized that I’m young enough to finish my college degree and then got accepted at a college in my state that offers an excellent degree in Hotel Management. I knew having a four-year degree would help me excel at a new job and look great on my resume.”

After decades of research, prominent Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but revolutionary idea: the power of mindset. In her inspiring book, she shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human effort can be intensely influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities.

For instance, people with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to prosper than those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be advanced.

Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to foster brilliant accomplishment.

Consider this these two lists and choose which mindset you would prefer:

A person with a fixed mindset may do these things:

  • Avoid challenges
  • Give up easily
  • Ignore feedback
  • Become threatened by other people’s success
  • Try hard to appear as smart or capable as possible

A growth mindset looks like this:

  • Embraces challenges
  • Gives their best effort
  • Learns from feedback
  • Becomes inspired by other people’s challenges
  • Believes their intelligence can change if they work hard

More recently, with a 2016 edition, Dweck offers new insights into her now famous and broadly embraced concept. She introduces a phenomenon she calls false growth mindset and guides people toward adopting a deeper growth mindset. She also develops the mindset concept beyond the individual, applying it to the cultures of groups and organizations. In other words, with the right mindset, you can motivate those you lead, teach, and love—to change their lives and your own.

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com. Her book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Feel free to ask a question here.

Terry’s forthcoming book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, will be published by Sounds True in February of 2020.


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