Cultivating a Growth Mindset

Mindset is a choice. People with a growth mindset—who choose to believe that talent and ability can grow—experience better performance, focus, and success. You have the power to change your mindset. The key is learning how to make the shift. This course shows you how.

Myths about the concept of growth mindset

Here are some common myths and truths about the concept:

Myth #1: The only people who need to develop the growth mindset are kids “who tend to have the fixed mind set already.”

Truth: Everyone needs this mindset—whether you’re 5 or 50 years old! It’s important to cultivate a growth mindset if you want to live, work, or learn in a more fulfilling way.

Myth #2: “It’s not that big of a deal.”

Truth: It is! If you believe your talents and abilities are fixed and can’t change with hard work (a fixed mindset), then you’ll be less likely to try new things—especially when they’re challenging. Over time, this failure to challenge yourself will hold you back from developing skills in many important areas of life. You may even lose confidence in your ability to reach your goals for the future. On the other hand, people who adopt a growth mindset will keep striving for success no matter how many times they fail. They don’t give up; they just continue to push themselves and try again.

Dr. Dweck’s research into the growth mindset has forever changed education.

As a part of the “fixed mindset” vs. “growth mindset” concept, Carol Dweck discovered that students thought achieving everything in life was through innate intelligence and despite working harder could only do so much to improve their grades. The theory spurred more research on brain plasticity due to connectivity among neurons being different for each individual encounter – this finding led Fiske Elementary School’s administrators who implemented mindsets as opposed to test scores as incentives for success in education. The results are apparent: math ranking exceeded state averages by up to 20%.

Growth mindset

Growth Mindset: Definition by Dr. Carol Dweck

A growth mindset is an approach to life that maintains that talent or ability can be developed. Individuals with a growth mindset take on challenging tasks rather than being fearful of failing. Growth happens through hard work, not luck.

Why do some people feel limited, trapped by their circumstances, and unable to succeed?  This happens when they have  a  fixed  mindset  or  when they believe that  talent  and  ability can’t grow.  If  you  have  a  fixed  mindset,  you  see  yourself  as  having  limited talents.

You believe that some people are smart or talented and others aren’t. You see yourself as one of the “others.” You think you can’t do much to change your intelligence or talents—even if you wanted to. You don’t try new things for fear of failure because it would mean proving what you’ve always believed about yourself: that you’re not capable at something important to you.


What do fixed mindsets look like?

Fixed mindsets usually show up when people don’t want to try something new.  They  don’t  want to reach for opportunities because they’re afraid of the chance of failure . They may think this about themselves, their children, or other people.

In school: If you have a fixed mindset you might not try hard in classes that challenge your beliefs about yourself. You would not want to go after difficult coursework or sign up for advanced classes as an adult because you fear failing and proving that you don’t have what it takes. As a result of avoiding challenges, you might not learn all there is to know and grow as much as possible from them.


Why do we fall into these traps?

Our brains are wired to notice differences more than similarities. And this sometimes means we don’t see our own potential or the possibility of getting better.  In fact, most people believe that talent and ability are things you’re born with—that you can’t do much to change your “natural” intelligence or talents.

So how do we break out of these traps?  One way is to start noticing all the ways in which our brains are like anyone else’s . What mental skills do you use every day? Focus? Attention?  Insight?  Curiosity? We all use similar skill sets , no matter what our level of intelligence appears for that one moment to be.

When we notice this kind of thing, it helps us recognize that we have a lot more potential than it seems like based on any one particular moment. And this gives us the confidence and motivation to change our mindset from a fixed one to a growth one.

 How do we move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?

The first step is being aware of your own thoughts about yourself and others.  Then, you can practice new ways of thinking that support your success in all areas of life: in school, at work, or at home with kids and family members. For example, you can think about your abilities as something you can grow through effort—instead of seeing them as something unchangeable that you either have or don’t have.

“No matter what anyone tells me about my ‘ability’ or talent level at doing something, if I’m willing to develop a growth mindset and the work ethic to go with it, then I can become great at anything.”   ~ Andrea Kuszewski

 Fixed Mindset or Growth Mindset

Einstein quote : “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”

Reflection on your own mindset: Take an inventory of how you feel about your ability to learn and grow smarter over time .  Do  you  feel like you can improve?  If so, why?   How have  your  past efforts at change been helpful to you ? If not, what might be standing in the way of feeling different? Is there anything from this article that could help you change your beliefs? What are some things that people who think they can’t really do anything about their intelligence have in common? How can you help a friend or family member who might share similar fixed mindset beliefs?

Give yourself credit for any kind of positive change you’ve made and continue to cultivate the feeling of pride that comes with success.   Even  thinking  of  yourself  as a person who changes and grows makes it more likely that you’ll keep on moving forward. That’s why finding some way to give yourself social support will increase your chances of success.

Reflect on times when someone else has doubted themselves (or even said flat-out “I’m not smart enough”) and how, specifically, did they change their mindsets in order to overcome perceived limitations? What strategies well have worked for them?

Take a moment to consider the role of repetition in building new habits and changing mindsets.  Where might you need to do more repetitions?  How could you guarantee yourself success by doing so?   (Hint: think about how our environment plays a big part in shaping our mindsets!)

Remind yourself often that people who doubt their own abilities are usually even harder on themselves than other people are.   Be patient with them—and be especially forgiving if it takes them a longer time than others to see the light!

Remember:  You don’t have to keep a fixed mindset!  There’s no shame in trying and failing; just look at it as one more thing you can learn from.

Remember too that the fear of failure (or rejection) is no reason not to act.   Act anyway; take small steps if necessary, but make sure to take action towards your goals every single day. This will give your brain an opportunity to practice and re-wire itself towards change .

In the long run, this process might feel uncomfortable , strange or even downright scary. If so, that’s OK! Give yourself credit for facing up to what’s hard for you instead of running away from these feelings. Remember: growth may be uncomfortable but it’s the only way to get better!

If you ever find yourself saying or thinking “I just can’t change my mindset,” ask yourself: what is so scary about changing a mindset?   Maybe you’re worried that by letting go of your fixed mindset beliefs, you’ll be judged in some way as being “less intelligent” than others. What could happen if people told you that you were less smart after they saw all the ways that you’ve changed and grown over time?   If  you  are  worried  about  being judged, it’s worth asking how much stock are  you putting into other people’s opinions . Do these thoughts match up with your core values about who you want to be and what you want to stand for?

In the end, remember:  You can change your beliefs whenever you like.  Your mindset is yours and yours alone; no one else has a say in whether or not you grow and develop.

Fixed Mindset or Growth Mindset

Here’s some help as you start practicing positive persistence :

Even if it doesn’t feel like it at first, every time we push ourselves out of our comfort zone into new challenges , we make our brains stronger . This means that even if at first something seems impossible, pushing through this sense of “I’m not good enough” can actually lead to making real gains in learning more quickly in the future. If I’ve learned anything about how to learn over the years, it’s this: the best way to get good at something is by trying, and failing, and correcting our mistakes over time . It can be discouraging when we’re not naturally gifted in a certain area. But if you think about it, those aren’t necessarily “bad” things. In fact, I’m going to say that anyone who has ever learned something new is inherently “gifted.”   Every time we learn and grow through change ,  we are practicing what I call positive persistence :  the habit of pushing past failures into bigger challenges until we achieve more of our goals .

It’s true that each one of us is born with unique talents and abilities—but some people just tend to believe they won’t have what it takes to succeed in certain areas. Sometimes we don’t; sometimes we’re just not cut out for something, and that’s OK too! But sometimes our perceived lack of ability is simply a matter of mindset ; it might be due to all the times someone told us we weren’t good enough . We can work on changing these assumptions about ourselves—and develop new abilities and momentum when it comes to reaching goals—by applying positive persistence :

This strategy works best if you frame it as “we” instead of “I.”   This way, if you or your partner are struggling with some kind of challenge in your life, then the solution becomes two-fold:  not only will you deal with your own personal fears and doubts (because hey! seeing someone else admit they’re afraid or challenged is a great way to remind ourselves that we’re all human!), but you’ll be able to take on the fears and doubts of those around you as well.

And what’s even better than bringing new behaviors into your life?   Changing other people’s mindset  about ability too! Remember: when it comes to our goals and challenges, positive persistence isn’t just about reaching heights we never thought possible for ourselves. It’s also about turning others’ fixed mindsets into growth mindsets—and in turn, helping them reach their own goals.

Finally, remember this: there are countless ways that you can apply positive persistence . The key is not perfecting some one technique or method; it’s simply about trying every day to change one belief or behavior. This way, you’ll be able to practice positive persistence over and over again—and make your brain stronger than ever before.

So get out there and try something new today! Maybe it will be uncomfortable at first; but keep in mind that discomfort can lead to some of our greatest achievements. Who knows? By pushing yourself today, maybe tomorrow the next time someone tells you something  will always be difficult for you, you can look back and say: “No way.”

 How do growth mindsets view obstacles?

Growth mindsets view obstacles as challenges –they are things that help you grow your brain . This is the key difference between growth and fixed mindsets.  The person with a growth mindset will make sure he or she keeps learning from their failures (not getting down on yourself for not being able to do something), whereas someone with a fixed mindset might be deterred from trying if they fail at an early stage.

How do growth mindsets view obstacles?

 How can I develop a growth mindset?

Although it’s never too late to change your mindset, starting right now will put you in the right direction.

First, notice ways in which you’ve already developed a growth mindset. Maybe you have friends who keep pushing you to learn more about what interests them, or maybe you’ve started taking on new challenges at work.   Both of these are signs that you already have a growth mindset!

Next, take steps to reinforce your growth mindset by looking for small challenges and facing them head-on. Each challenge is an opportunity to learn something new—so that the next time you are faced with that same challenge , it’s not as big of a deal .

The only way to really grow your brain is to keep pushing past the obstacles in front of you, and if you do this, then soon enough everyone will start to think: ” Why didn’t I think of that?!”

People with a growth mindset want more from life and more from  themselves.  People  with a  fixed  mindset  don’t  need to be fixed but they do need  to develop their  growth  mindset.

What does this mean?

What is the process for developing a growth mindset?

The process has five basic steps:

 Five Mindset-Shift Steps

  1. Mindset Question:   Are you interested in changing your mindset?
  2. Activate Your Motives :   Know what you’re aiming for
  3. Seek Knowledge : Learn about what it takes to change mindsets
  4. Find Role Models : Watch how other people make the shift
  5. Work Through Immediate Challenges  (taking  action  steps  to  make  the  shift)

It takes time and energy to change your mindset, but you have more control over it than you might think. With the right knowledge, motivation , and support, you can make a shift that improves performance in any area of life— academic success, career success , or personal well-being . Let’s look at each step for cultivating a growth mindset.

 Activate Your Motives :   Know what you’re aiming for

What’s the right motive to cultivate a growth mindset? There are many! Think of life as full of possibilities. Learn new things and discover your ability to learn and grow. Imagine who you would be if you had confidence that your abilities could get better with time, effort , and practice . Believe that today is the day when you can make a change just by deciding to do so.

Start with something simple. Change one thing about yourself or your situation.

 Seek Knowledge : Learn about what it takes to change mindsets  (how to make the shift)

There’s a lot to learn about mindset, and you can’t know it all at once. Practice ways of thinking that will help you make the shift. Learn how to let go of limiting beliefs and self-defeating thoughts . Receive instructions from an expert in performance psychology who is familiar with mindset concepts.   Many people experience incredible success when they read The Mindset Advantage by Shawn Achor and Succeed by Heidi Grant Halvorson. Some find it hard to get through these books—they’re written in dense academic language—but if  you  can  read  them  and  understand them ,  they  will  help you learn more about mindset and how to change mindsets.

 Find Role Models : Watch how other people make the shift.

Reach out to your academic or career role models and ask them what do they think about mindset? Observe the way that they explain difficult problems in a way that shows confidence.

Work Through Immediate Challenges (taking action steps to make the shift) If long-standing assumptions are holding you back, write down all of your old beliefs—the ones that aren’t helping you any longer.

Let go of limiting beliefs that aren’t helping you right now. You can let go and move forward.  Let yourself off the hook—you can change your mindset. Keep trying!

 The biggest barrier is having beliefs that don’t support a growth mindset .

One belief among women is “I’m not supposed to be too good at math or science, so I’d better not try.” Trying new things becomes threatening because you think it will lead to failure, which would prove that you’re not capable of being successful at something important to you.

So you have to let go of a belief like this: “I’m not supposed to be too good at math or science.”

Another barrier is lack of confidence .  If you don’t believe that you can change your mindset, it takes more motivation and energy to make the shift.   If you’re having trouble making the shift, ask yourself if any beliefs are getting in the way. Can these beliefs get in the way? What might they be? You may think, for example, “I can’t change my mindset because brains are fixed; I was born with a certain kind of brain.” But what’s really going on here is that you’ve learned some old rules about intelligence that aren’t very helpful.

Here are some new beliefs to try: “If I keep growing and learning, I can become smarter over time.”

 Take baby steps towards goals that feel achievable.

For example, if you’re not sure that your intelligence can grow with effort and practice, start with a goal where no one else will see the outcome—perhaps filling up a journal every day for two weeks. Write down three things that happened each day that you want to remember later. If it helps, make tasks on paper for yourself so you can measure your progress. Then do another thing similar to this every week or two until writing in your journal becomes something you look forward to doing. Give yourself a “pat on the back”  whenever  you  do  something  to  improve.

 Find ways to get social support from people who will support your effort to change mindsets.  

Talk about what’s holding you back with someone who cares about you and wants you to succeed. Ask for help!

When people fail, it’s often because they feel alone or unsupported .

Use reminders that help  you  make  the  shift.  The mind loves to take shortcuts, so mind-sets can be hard to change if you’re not aware of them .  Keep reminders in  your  environment  so that they remind you  constantly

Be gentle and patient with yourself. Challenging your beliefs can feel threatening , especially when there are people around who will notice if a fixed mindset reappears again. Change takes time! Accept this fact and proceed at your own pace.

So how do you make the shift?   You simply keep trying –again and again— until it becomes natural for you to think about intelligence as something that grows with effort .  Changing your mindset can  take  time,  so be  patient  with  yourself.

One more thing: motivation is essential . You don’t give up until you get what you want. So when it feels hard to keep pushing yourself , ask yourself this question: What will I do with the time and energy that I get back if I make a growth mindset my new reality?

The next time you hear someone else say “I can’t change,” or “I’m not smart enough,” remember that these statements are limitations in belief systems.   Remember, too, that there’s always another way to look at things.  When  you  hear  or  say  “I can’t change,”  ask yourself:

Why do I think this? What might I be missing here?


Embrace your imperfections

In order to overcome our flaws, we must accept them. The more we deny our imperfections, the longer they will stay with us. We thrive on criticism because it helps us to understand what we need to improve in order to reach a higher standard of success that can make others proud.

We grow when we are challenged, so stop running away from your difficulties and problems or making excuses for yourself. To be perfect is boring and uninspiring – embrace your flaws and work through them . Otherwise they just pile up around you one thing at a time until you’ve created an emotional ball of garbage around yourself both mentally and spiritually.

The difference between those who succeed and those who fail lies in their respective definitions of failure. Those who see challenges as opportunities instead of obstacles will become successful; those who give up in the face of criticism will remain unsuccessful.

Failure is a lesson learned and without it you can’t improve yourself or your craft, sport, or artistry . Even if you eventually succeed at something, you won’t appreciate the results unless you’ve first experienced failure. Don’t be afraid to fail as long as you don’t stop trying .

Fear paralyzes us from achieving what we’re capable of doing, but there’s no way around fear except by facing it head-on in spite of the danger. If taking action means putting ourselves out there and failing, then so be it. Failure isn’t fatal; inaction is – because when we fail we learn what doesn’t work so that next time we’ll try again with better understanding, more experience, and a wiser approach to the situation.

By risking failure you can succeed, but by not risking failure you guarantee that all you’ll ever get is what you already have . So don’t be afraid; take that first step – and then another one. Until you’re in motion, your true abilities will remain undiscovered .

We must fail if we are to learn from our mistakes and improve ourselves. Only through action do we discover the limits of our potential to grow into someone great. We become unique when we embrace our imperfections and use them as leverage for us to reach new levels of understanding about ourselves.  We accept feedback with an open mind so that we can better understand how others see us .

How does growth mindset relate to grit?

How does growth mindset relate to grit?

GRIT is another way of saying resilience. Since growth mindset can help you deal with failure and setbacks, then it can make you more GRITTY or resilient.  What makes a gritty person? People who demonstrate grit possess 3 C’s : commitment, control and confidence .

Commitment means staying focused on your goals and resisting distraction and temptations to give up at the first sign of difficulty.

Control means staying in charge of emotions and behavior by not giving up when things look bleak; practicing restraint even when emotions run high; being open to new ideas/perspectives despite having set beliefs; forgoing even pleasant activities if doing so will interfere with progress towards important goals (like exercising instead of watching TV or reading a book on success)

Confidence means having strong self-belief, optimism and hope even when you come across failure in life; keeping the faith that you can achieve your goals despite setbacks or obstacles; trusting oneself to take needed steps towards important targets no matter what stands in the way. This is where GRIT comes from.

GRIT isn’t innate . It’s developed by working hard and failing repeatedly until you start succeeding .

So if you’re not gritty enough, then there are 3 things you need to do: 1. Work hard 2. Get feedback 3. Change/improve yourself using that feedback (growth mindset)

Keep going! Keep improving! Don’t stop!

Growth mindset in corporate settings

Why growth mindset is important in corporate settings

More than ever, high tech and knowledge-based jobs require creative thinking.  But here’s the rub: many people who have high IQs are stuck in a fixed mindset , and they struggle with change. They’d rather do things the same way over and over again . And they resist having their opinions or point of view challenged.

Here’s why this is a problem for businesses:

Less innovation when employees are stuck in ruts…

When employees get into routines, they may lose creativity—which can be important to long-term growth  and strategy development . Some employees even become resentful; they feel that their employer doesn’t respect them enough to let them do what needs to be done well.

How to help employees grow their mindset

So how do you get a team of people with fixed mindsets to develop growth mindsets?    Ask them to look at the data . Many companies have found that when they gathered concrete evidence of previous success, it helped move employees out of routines and into creative problem-solving. When leaders acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes and celebrates them as learning opportunities , it helps reframe mistakes in a new way—no longer as evidence of lack of intelligence or laziness, but as ways for important feedback for improving next time. And setting goals that are challenging yet achievable helps move people from thinking about themselves in fixed terms toward seeing their own ability to grow .”


Why growth mindset is important to career success

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” – Carl Rogers

If you want to be happy and successful in life, then it’s important to develop a high growth mindset. Growth mindset is simply the belief that we have control over our abilities through hard work and perseverance. A growth mindset allows us to learn from mistakes instead of punishing ourselves for them. It helps us overcome challenges by believing they don’t define who we are as a person because we can always change and improve them with effort and practice. Lastly, it allows us to see failure as an opportunity by reminding us that there’s no such thing as perfect, but there’s always room for improvement. So what do these characteristics mean for our careers?

First of all, if you don’t have a growth mindset, then you’ll get knocked down by every obstacle in your way. You won’t feel like it’s worth trying because you’ll think that no matter how hard you hit the ball, it will always fall short of the goal line. It’s like standing behind home plate watching a pitcher who never tires of throwing fastballs and refuses to learn how to throw off-speed pitches or curve balls. If they believe that there is only one type of pitch that they can throw effectively, then they are destined to become broken down over time. The same applies for those with fixed mindsets; when their tried-and-true methods stop working, instead of trying new strategies, they feel defeated and look for excuses so that they can preserve their egos.

Secondly, growth mindset allows us to see challenges as opportunities to learn instead of obstacles that stop us from moving forward. If you have a fixed mindset about your skills and abilities, then you won’t feel inclined to change them even if they aren’t working anymore. Because you think that change is bad, it will always be easier for you to keep doing what you’ve always done than try something new. When someone criticizes your work or gives constructive feedback, people with fixed mindsets respond defensively because they believe the criticism is an attack on their personality or identity as a whole.

Thirdly, growth mindset allows us to take in and process constructive criticism in a healthier way. When people with fixed mindsets receive feedback, they tend to take it personally and get defensive because it feels like a direct attack on their self-worth. That’s why they respond negatively or lash out at the sender instead of making productive changes that would benefit them in the long run. They’re so afraid of change that when the world around them is urging for them to grow and improve, they will pushback even more by trying to justify their current ways. This causes stress and anxiety as well, which lead to additional negative emotions such as anger, bitterness, envy, resentment, depression and others I can’t think of right now which causes further feelings of inadequacy. Many times these emotions are repressed in order to protect their fragile self-esteem, which leads to a negative spiral of shame and guilt.

However, those with growth mindsets don’t respond defensively when feedback is given because they understand that it’s an opportunity for them to improve instead of a personal attack on who they are as people. They accept constructive criticism calmly and know that feedback doesn’t define who they are as individuals because there is always room for improvement. It allows them to learn from mistakes so that they can reach higher levels of understanding than before and achieve greater success over time.

Lastly, growth mindset inspires us to believe that we can always improve no matter what happens; even when situations seem hopeless or if we think we’re not good enough right now.


Finally, remember: “you” can change.  Your beliefs create your mindset.  Your mindset dictates whom you become and what happens in your life. So don’t settle for an old, outdated idea of who you are. Let yourself expand into the new you .   Believe that you can change!

Criticism can be good for you.

Those with a fixed mindset are less likely to process criticism, and instead reject it as a personal attack on who they are. Those with a growth mindset understand that it’s an opportunity to learn and improve themselves.

Growth is more important than speed.

Having the freedom to do something takes time. Learning a skill takes time. Do not hurry and be patient while you’re doing it. Only you invest your time in it, no one else can use up your allowance of free hours at work or with friends on evenings and weekends to learn this new skill for you.



1 “Mindset—The New Psychology of Success,” Carol Dweck, Random House Digital, Inc., 2007

2 “Growth Mindset: The Secret to Raising Smart Kids Who Love Learning—and How to Help Your Child Get One,” Susan Linn and Jordan Grafman, Amacom Books (American Management Association), 2015

3 “How You Can Change Your Brain,” Sharon Begley, Newsweek , 2014


5 ” Growth Mindset ,” The Official Website of Carol Dweck , 2015



  • eSoft Skills Team

    The eSoft Editorial Team, a blend of experienced professionals, leaders, and academics, specializes in soft skills, leadership, management, and personal and professional development. Committed to delivering thoroughly researched, high-quality, and reliable content, they abide by strict editorial guidelines ensuring accuracy and currency. Each article crafted is not merely informative but serves as a catalyst for growth, empowering individuals and organizations. As enablers, their trusted insights shape the leaders and organizations of tomorrow.