Fixed mindset definition, and more. In this guide (and podcast) you will learn about the definition of a fixed mindset, as well as the characteristics that set apart a fixed mindset from a growth mindset.
Read on to learn more.
Last week I talked about what growth mindset is. This week I want to continue on that thread and touch on yet another frequently asked question about mindset – that about fixed mindset.
So what exactly is a fixed mindset?
Growth mindset, as you learned in last week’s episode, is a mindset that helps you move forward.
To refresh your memory, here is the growth mindset definition from last week’s episode: growth mindset is a belief system, a way of thinking that helps you move forward, and make good decisions, even when you are faced with challenges and setbacks.
That ability to move forward is a key characteristic of having a growth mindset. Because progress is important.
But why is progress so important, you might be wondering. What happens when you are not moving forward?
Before I answer that question, I’ll give you a moment to think about that and answer it yourself.
Got the answer? Let’s check if we are on the same page.
If your answer was to do with being stuck, then you are absolutely spot on.
To put it simply, when you don’t make any progress, you don’t move forward. In other words, you stay stuck.
Fixed mindset definition
Remember that phrase about an object in motion staying in motion? The opposite is also true – an object at rest stays at rest. That is not just a saying, by the way, it’s a fundamental principle of physics. It is, in fact, Newton’s first law of motion.
This is exactly why when a golf ball is resting, it will continue to stay put until it is moved, and then it continues to move again.
Fixed mindset, then, using Newton’s first law of motion as an example, is a mindset that’s at rest. It is a stationary mindset. It stays put, it doesn’t really move forward.
This makes fixed mindset the opposite of growth mindset, which is a mindset that’s all about moving forward and progress.
Someone with a fixed mindset is geared to not moving forward if moving at all. They are people who are perpetually stuck.
That is, until their mindset changes.
When talking about fixed mindset and the definition of fixed mindset, one factor that absolutely needs to be explored is that of abilities.
Now, here is one of the most fundamental characteristics of people with a fixed mindset – they believe their abilities are “fixed”. That is to say that they believe they either can, or they can’t.
Fixed mindset is the mindset that leads to beliefs like how people are born with talents, and they cannot be developed. When someone is absolutely convinced that they either have it or they don’t, that their abilities and talents are fixed, they won’t even try since there isn’t any point in trying.
Let me put it like this – if a person believes that they do not have the talents to be a good student, they won’t even try to be a good student, because as far as they are concerned, what would be the point? Since they were not born with the talents of a good student, why would working at it make any difference? That would be the thought process of someone with a fixed mindset.
That is the very definition of fixed mindset.
Because, based on their beliefs, they just were not born with the necessary talents! This might seem unreal to you, but lots of people think like that. If you don’t, however, then I’m sending you a virtual high-five, because that means you are clearly on the right track.
As for that limited way of thinking that fixed mindset embodies, here is the reality – it is never that black and white. It is never as simple as some people being born with talents while others are not. If it was that simple, most of the people that we read about today would never have made their mark or gotten into the pages of history books.
For example, if Abraham Lincoln believed that he did not have the talents to be a politician, he never would have become one of the greatest politicians the world has ever known. It’s not as if he did not have reasons to believe he did not have what it takes. Quite the contrary.
He had many, many setbacks – setbacks which could have lead him to believe that he did not have what it takes to be a politician.
Thankfully, though, he had a growth mindset, so he did not believe his abilities were set in stone.
He worked at it despite the challenges. He kept at it, and that hard work and perseverance ultimately helped him create history.
Then there’s Edison, the poster-child of perseverance. He famously failed nearly a thousand times while creating the light bulb. He could have given up after the first 5 or even 10 attempts. By general standards, 10 tries are plenty of tries, right? Surely after ten failed attempts, it would be reasonable to think that it just is not meant to be? But that is not what he believed. He believed it could be done, so he kept at it.
And he got it done.
If he had a fixed mindset, we might not be in the age of technology that we are enjoying right now.
What a difference mindset makes…
They are not the only ones by the way. History is full of examples like that. The record books are full of people who have gone and done the impossible because they did not believe that their abilities and capabilities had limits.
They had a growth mindset, which meant they kept going despite challenges, and setbacks, and obstacles, and often lots of them.
This is the mindset, after all, that resulted in Colonel Saunders creating one of the biggest fast-food franchises in the world right now (yes, I am talking about KFC), and is also the mindset that was instrumental in Henry Ford revolutionising transportation.
It’s not that they did not face challenges, because they did, and a lot of them.
But their mindset was not fixed.
They never believed it could not be done, they never believed they were not good enough, they never believed their talents were defined at birth.
Quite the opposite.
They had faith in their abilities and their ideas, they believed it could be done, they believed that setbacks were opportunities to learn from, and that mindset enabled them to keep going until they achieved what they set out to achieve.
Having a growth mindset is what enabled those who created history, to create history.
And that, by the way, is a key difference between those with a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset rarely, if ever, achieve any goals or accomplish anything great.
On the other hand, those who accomplish great things always have a growth mindset.
Because without having a growth mindset, it would be impossible to keep going when the obstacles crop up. Which they always do, for the road to achieving anything worthwhile is never without obstacles.
Life just is not a bed of roses, and it is just the reality of things.
Doing the impossible
Let’s examine the limits of possible, and impossible, now for that is a major construct of a fixed mindset.
Napoleon famously said that the word impossible does not exist in his dictionary. That was a testament to his mindset, his operating system. He had a growth mindset, and that mindset enabled him to achieve incredible feats. Now, don’t get me wrong – I am not commenting on his actions – wars are never good. What I am commenting on, rather, are his achievements, which were extraordinary by anyone’s standards.
And he is not the only one. Of course.
Ever heard of Roger Bannister? In case you have not, he is the guy who first ran a mile in 4 minutes, the guy famous for the 4-minute mile. He did this in 1954, at the age of 25, in under 4 minutes (3 minutes and 59.4 seconds to be exact). Before he achieved that feat, it was widely believed that it was impossible for a human being to run that fast, to run a mile in 4 minutes, or less.
But then he did it.
If he believed in the claims of what was possible and what was not, if he believed that he just was not capable of achieving such a feat, he never would have done it. He never would have even tried. There were plenty of reasons to believe it too, to believe that he just did not have what it takes since according to the experts of the time the human body was not capable of running that fast. But his mindset refused to accept what was not possible, and that helped him achieve the impossible. His is an extraordinary case, but it does prove the point.
Since then his record has been broken, multiple times. The current record stands at 3 minutes and 43.13 seconds. So much for humans not being capable of running a 4-minute mile.
People who created history by doing the impossible, people like Roger Bannister, they believed that even if things seemed impossible, they could be done. That it was still worth giving it a shot and giving it their best. And that helped them achieve the impossible.
Let’s face it – impossible, at the end of the day, is nearly always a matter of perspective. What we often believe to be impossible is simply a matter of imperfect knowledge or information or even a matter of what we have learned from society about what’s possible and impossible.
Impossible, at the end of the day, is nearly always a matter of perspective. What we often believe to be impossible is simply a matter of imperfect knowledge or information or even a matter of what we have learned from society about… Click To Tweet
In the early days, people believed it was impossible for the Earth to be round, for if it was then we would literally fall off! But then it was proven, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the Earth was, in fact, round.
People believed it was impossible for humans to ever reach the moon. Then humans went to the moon.
People believed it was impossible for humans to ever climb Everest. Then Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed it.
People believed it was impossible to ever go far into space or land on another planet. Then the Rover landed on Mars.
What was once thought impossible have been proven to be possible, over and over.
The boundaries of impossible are always changing. What was believed to be impossible 5, 10, 50 years ago is not impossible today.
And the same will happen to what we believe to be impossible now, they very likely will not be impossible a few years from now.
We might very well have a transporter technology like the one in Star Trek, and immortality might become a reality. Who knows. But the point isn’t about how far science and technology will go, but rather, about what we believe. Because, the technologies and scientific breakthroughs that make the impossible possible to start in someone’s mind, and those people can not come up with such ideas if they believe their ideas are impossible.
All the breakthrough discoveries and inventions we have had, if their inventors had a fixed mindset, they would have labelled the ideas “unrealistic” and moved on to more “realistic” pursuits. We are living in the world we are today thanks to the fact that those people had growth mindsets.
How we think matters, people, a lot. THAT is ultimately what makes the impossible possible.
So, to sum it up here is the fixed mindset definition again: it is a belief system where people believe that reality, abilities and qualities are fixed. They believe that what’s impossible is absolutely never possible and that their capabilities and talents are set in stone and can never be improved or changed. That’s the mindset that leads to beliefs like “you are either born with it, or you are not”.
A fixed mindset limits people’s abilities, as they never really scratch the surface of their true potential. That’s the mindset that gets people to give up too soon, and the mindset that holds people back, and leads to a life of regrets.
It should be abundantly clear by now why having a fixed mindset is bad for you. In case this hasn’t quite sunk in yet, have another listen of this podcast. Sometimes listening to something multiple times deepens our understanding, as repetition helps our minds consolidate the information better.
So, to summarise the fixed mindset definition – a fixed mindset leads to the belief that we cannot grow and improve, while a growth mindset establishes the opposite belief.
Now before I go, I have something I would like you to do today, a self-introspection/awareness exercise of sorts: I want you to examine your mindset. Ask yourself: do you have a growth mindset or a fixed one? Ask yourself about what you believe you can achieve, about what you believe about your talents and capabilities. Jot down the answers, think about them – examine how true they are, and if they are helping you or harming you.
If your beliefs, your mindset, if harming you then it’s about time to change them and replace them with beliefs that will help and empower you.
These exercises and questions will help you build self-awareness, which is key to upgrading your mindset. So the next time you want to do something and hear that small voice at the back of your mind saying “it is impossible”, don’t just listen to it and accept it. Instead, question it.
That’s it for today. I hope you found today’s episode useful. If you haven’t subscribed to the podcast yet, remember to do so, as that way you can be in the loop about new episodes and updates. If you have any feedback or questions, drop me a comment on my blog, at mhasalek.com.
As always, thank you for being with me. It is always great to have people listen in, and I really do appreciate it.
Have a great week!