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Mindset: Fixed or Growth? Part II

February 6, 2012

Are you more fixed or growth oriented?

As I mentioned in the last blog, I am reading an interesting book called MINDSET by Carol Dweck.  Dweck says there are two type of mindsets: fixed and growth.  I finished the last blog by asking if you would choose to do any easy or hard puzzle if you could only do one.

So, which puzzle did would choose, the hard one or the easy one?  I have to confess I would have chosen the easy puzzle.  This does not make me an evil person, but it does mean I have some elements of a fixed mindset.  Remember, fixed mindset people believe that we only have a certain amount of intelligence, beauty, athletic skill etc.  This amount can only be slightly altered through increased effort.  Fixed mindset people are focused on successful outcomes.  It is not about the journey, it is about the final score or the bottom line.  Now, I read that and think, “Yeah, it should be about the bottom line!!!”  Doesn’t winning matter? Those of you who know my background, know that I am a fierce competitor who played three sports in high school and baseball in college.  I enjoyed and still enjoy winning

So do we become more successful by focusing on winning and/or the final outcome?  Here is where my fixed mindset gets a little edgy.  I think (and so does Carol Dwekc) focusing on the outcome actually distracts from a successful performance.  I have always performed my best when I was focued on giving maximum effort rather than focusing on winning.  When I was playing baseball and focused too much on getting a hit or making a shot in basketball, I usually tensed up and was not successful.   When I relaxed and concentrated on just playing hard, I was much more successful.

So, why does the fixed mindset person choose the simpler puzzle?  Easy, he/she wants to be successful.  Dweck says that fixed mindset people are consumed with validating themselves through success.  A loss is not merely an event, it is an identity crisis.  “I lost” can quickly become “I am a loser” in the fixed mindset.  In a fixed mindset, a challenge like a difficult puzzle is just another opportunity to fail, so why do it?

Stay tuned for the next blog as we talk about the growth mindset.

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach in Oak Park, IL.  Contact him at

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