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Growth mindset: How this mindset creates and stimulates empowerment

Growth mindset: How this mindset creates and stimulates empowerment

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Date created
August 23, 2023
Last updated:
May 8, 2024
5 min read
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Key takeaways

• The nature vs. nurture debate in psychology explores how genetic predispositions and environmental factors shape individuals.

• A fixed mindset believes abilities are fixed, leading to fear of failure and resistance to challenges.

• A growth mindset sees abilities as malleable, embracing challenges and feedback for continuous improvement.

• Common misconceptions about a growth mindset include it being easy to master and guaranteeing success.

• Cultivating a growth mindset involves acknowledging weaknesses, finding optimal learning environments, and focusing on personal progress.

Employees with a growth mindset often feel far more empowered and committed than those with a fixed mindset. While the term ‘’growth mindset’’ has become increasingly commonplace, there are quite some misconceptions around it. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at a fixed versus an empowerment mindset.

Are you or your employees up-to-date with these types of mindsets?

1. Intro: The Nature vs. Nurture Discussion

As humans, are our skills and capabilities fixed, or can they be developed over time?  The nature vs. nurture debate is a longstanding discussion in psychology. “Nature” in this context refers to how our inherited biological characteristics, like our genes, can affect our personality and behavior. It’s the influence of our parents’ DNA that largely dictates our physical appearance and potentially, our personality traits and behavior.

“Nurture,” on the other hand, refers to several external or environmental factors an individual is exposed to throughout their lives. These influences can encompass various aspects, such as upbringing, social relationships, cultural environment, and personal experiences, that shape and influence a person’s behaviors, beliefs, and development.

What shapes who we are?

Most psychologists today agree that it’s not a matter of either/or but a complex interplay between both nature and nurture that shapes who we are. This viewpoint is known as the ‘interactionist’ approach, which suggests that our traits, skills, and behaviors emerge from the interaction of our genetic predispositions and our environment and experiences.

Now, let’s dive deeper into how this translates to our mindsets. We’re looking at two key players here: the ‘fixed mindset’ and the ‘growth mindset.’

2. What is a Fixed Mindset?

A fixed mindset, also known as a predetermined mindset, is a belief system that suggests our abilities, intelligence, and talents are fixed traits. In other words, a person with a fixed mindset believes they are born with a certain amount of skills or intelligence, and that this cannot change significantly over their lifetime. To them, making an effort and trying your best to become better is futile; if you’re a real genius, you shouldn’t have to strive. If you struggle in a particular area, trying to improve is no use. Their greatest fear? Appearing foolish, rejection, and feeling like a failure. They tend to be defensive when facing obstacles and often give up too quickly.

Fixed mindset examples

Here are a few examples of a fixed mindset in different contexts:

  • Education/Learning: a student who believes they’re just not “good at math” and stops trying to understand or improve because they believe their mathematical ability is unchangeable – “I’ll never be any good at this!”
  • Work/Career: an employee who avoids new tasks or challenges at work because they fear failure or making mistakes. They tend to stick to tasks they already know they’re good at
  • Personal Growth: a person who believes they’re “just an introvert” and, as a result, avoids social situations or public speaking events, thinking they can never get better at these because it’s just not in their nature

In all of these examples, those with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are set in stone. Such a mentality means that a person thinks nothing can be done to improve what they can achieve. They are convinced that their traits (and therefore their capabilities) are static for life. This belief typically results in ‘’looking good’’ rather than trying to improve oneself.

Typical traits of a fixed mindset:

  • Inflexibility: the belief that your talents and abilities are static and cannot be significantly improved or developed
  • Fear of challenges: the tendency to avoid challenges due to fear of failure or looking foolish, often preferring to stay within comfort zones
  • Dismissive of feedback: difficulty in accepting constructive criticism, viewing it as a personal attack rather than an opportunity for growth
  • Threatened by others’ success: feeling threatened or inferior when others are successful or show competence in a certain field, rather than being inspired or motivated
  • The belief that effort is useless: perceiving effort as fruitless or even negative, believing that if you’re truly talented or intelligent, things should come easily. Vice versa: if you don’t possess a natural talent, you’ll never learn it anyway  

This way of thinking can limit potential growth and development. Worst case scenario, it acts as a destructive force, leading to counterproductive learning habits and the world missing out on their full potential.

3. What is a Growth Mindset?

On the other side of the spectrum, we have the growth mindset, which is viewed as an empowering mindset. The thought behind it is that people differ in talent, interests, and temperaments, but everyone has the potential to change and grow through learning and experiences. Those with growth mindset traits believe that skills, knowledge, and abilities can be continuously improved upon. It is only a matter of time with the right amount of coaching, effort, and direction before they can accomplish something. The main focus lies on ‘’getting better’’. Either through feedback from others, hard work, or continuous learning. They view intelligence as something that can be cultivated, which inspires them to learn. Do they believe they’ll become the next Einstein? Not necessarily. But they do believe in the immense, unknown potential of the human mind.

Growth mindset examples

Let’s have a look at the same scenarios we used in the fixed mindset example but then apply it to someone with a growth mindset:

  • Education/Learning: a student who struggles in a subject, say mathematics, but rather than believing they’re just “bad at math”, they devote extra time for studying and seek help from a mentor, understanding that their abilities can improve with effort and practice
  • Work/Career: an employee who doesn’t shy away from new challenges at work. They see unfamiliar tasks as opportunities to learn and grow rather than as threats. Even if they don’t succeed at first, they believe they can improve with time and experience
  • Personal Growth: someone who might identify as an introvert but doesn’t let that label limit their social interactions or willingness to speak in public. They understand that they can develop their communication skills with practice and experience

Typical traits of a growth mindset:

  • Flexible: being open to new ideas and concepts and being able to shift strategies and approaches based on new information or feedback. Plus, a deep understanding that flexibility and agility are key to personal and professional growth
  • Embraces challenges: seeing challenges as opportunities for learning and self-improvement rather than daunting hurdles
  • Believes in making an effort: viewing hard work and effort as essential components of growth, leading to the mastery of skills
  • Learns from feedback: constructive feedback is seen as a valuable tool for learning and improvement, rather than a personal attack
  • Inspired by the success of others: finding inspiration and motivation in the success of peers, using it as a learning opportunity instead of feeling threatened by it

People with a growth mindset have a positive attitude toward learning. They are motivated to continuously develop their abilities, stretching themselves to learn new skills and embracing the ongoing journey of development.

A growth mindset is a belief that talents and abilities can be developed – without denying the importance of talent.

Carol Dweck – the psychologist who developed the growth mindset concept

4. Common Misconceptions about a Growth Mindset

Sometimes, misconceptions occur as the concept of a growth mindset is embedded in a psychological theory of persistence. Meaning that those with a growth mindset will take on more challenges, persevere in difficult situations, and overall work harder and more efficiently. However, this has led to misunderstandings of what exactly it is and how easy it is to master such a mindset.

The most common misunderstandings are as follows:

MYTH 1: Having a growth mindset is equivalent to being open-minded or flexible

TRUTH: While open-mindedness and flexibility are indeed traits of a growth mindset, they do not paint the whole picture. An empowered mindset involves understanding that abilities and intelligence can be developed, embracing challenges, persisting in the face of setbacks, and learning from criticism.

MYTH 2: The growth mindset is something simple that can easily be mastered

TRUTH: A growth mindset is not a light switch you flip on and off. It requires continuous practice and reflection. It’s about cultivating habits and attitudes that foster learning and development, which takes time and commitment.

MYTH 3: Gaining a growth mindset ‘only’ takes effort

TRUTH: Effort is certainly a critical part of a growth mindset, but it’s not the only ingredient. It also involves learning strategies, having the right resources, and seeking and responding to feedback.

MYTH 4: A growth mindset guarantees success

TRUTH: While a growth mindset can certainly help you reach higher levels of achievement and empowerment, it’s not a magic wand. It’s a tool to help you learn from failures and setbacks, and use them as stepping stones to success.

5. Growth mindset vs fixed mindset

Mindset is not binary. It’s more like a spectrum where we constantly move and evolve. You might have a growth mindset in some areas and a fixed mindset in others. The key is to recognize fixed mindset tendencies and challenge them to promote personal growth.

Typical fixed mindset statements:

“I stick to what I know”,
“I can either do it, or I can’t”;
“My potential is predetermined”;
“I don’t like to be challenged”
are phrases that are associated with these fixed mindsets.

Typical growth mindset statements would be:

“I like to try new things”;
“I can learn to do anything I want” and
“My effort and attitude determine my abilities”.

As mentioned before, those with a growth mindset believe that skills, knowledge, and abilities can be continuously improved upon. It is only a matter of time with the right amount of coaching, effort, and direction before they can accomplish something. The main focus lies on ‘’getting better’’.

Attitude toward challenges

The two different mindsets come with contrasting perspectives of setbacks. People with fixed mindsets see setbacks or negative results as discouraging. It makes them doubt their own ability and competencies. They might give up or become totally uninterested after experiencing this. ‘’One bad test, evaluation, or outcome will define you forever’’. They often blame others when facing problems. Those with empowerment mindsets, on the contrary, will see setbacks or challenges as a stimulating and motivational factor that will push them to work harder. It is seen and used as a ‘’wake-up call’’.

Love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy the effort and keep on learning.

Carol Dweck – the psychologist who developed the growth mindset concept

We often all fall into the trap that we can’t be better at something. We believe that we are only capable of something up to a certain point. Having a fixed mindset inhibits growth, which in turn can also affect personal happiness down the line.

Take a look and see if you have a fixed or growth mindset.

An overview of the two mindsets and their characteristics:

fixed vs growth mindsets

6. How to Cultivate a Growth Mindset?

An empowered mindset can be developed once you understand the traits of the fixed and growth mindsets, alongside the consequences of thinking. Sounds easy, but how can it be done?

There are 3 simple steps that can help in building a growth mindset:

Step 1: Acknowledge weaknesses

By acknowledging weaknesses, you’ll create windows of opportunities to create modest, achievable goals for improvement.

Step 2: Understand what works best

It is important to find an environment that suits a certain person. Understand what is the best way of learning for them and what they find the most enjoyable to do. Adopt an approach that prioritizes learning, no matter the amount of time.

You might also like: The Endless Possibilities of Blended Learning

Step 3: Focus on the process and on oneself

Make sure people don’t waste energy worrying about what others might think. They should focus on their own progress, as seeking approval from others will likely create a distraction from their real goals. Be aware that fixation on end results will also lead to distractions or setbacks, as it prevents learning ‘’in the moment’’.

7. How can Managers Embrace a Growth Mindset for Their Employees?

There are several ways of stimulating growth mindsets as a manager or leader. The two main steps are:

  • Create a psychologically safe environment. Make it apparent that it is okay to make mistakes and that these are seen as stepping stones to successful outcomes rather than as something negative. Encourage others to speak up and share ideas without fear of rejection or judgment. Also, empower others by praising the struggling employee on their progress – any progress, no matter how small. Believing and publicly voicing support can completely change the course of progress of the employee. Additionally, learn more about non-linear learning method that stimulates a growth mindset by increasing adaptable and agile knowledge.
  • Identify thought patterns and behaviors that are the result of the two mindsets and audit the current mind state of the team. Understanding and analyzing the differences enables adjustments to the appropriate management style that improves interactions with the team.​

Affirmations for growth mindset

Finally, here are five growth mindset affirmations you could share with your team:

  • “Challenges are opportunities for growth, and I embrace them enthusiastically.”
  • “I understand that growth requires patience, and I am committed to the journey.”
  • “I am capable of learning and mastering anything I set my mind to.”
  • “My potential for growth and change is limitless.”
  • “Mistakes are a natural part of the learning process and bring me one step closer to mastery.”

Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.

Winston Churchill

Lepaya is Europe’s leading L&D Technology and Power Skill training provider with a vision to connect people’s potential to business impact. We’re designed to offer learning content, methodology, and technology in one platform as part of your learner’s flow.

Interested in promoting a growth mindset, empowering and transforming your team?


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We offer a scalable employee training solution. It lets you continuously upskill your people.

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Lepaya is a provider of Power Skills training that combines online and offline learning. Founded by René Janssen and Peter Kuperus in 2018 with the perspective that the right training, at the right time, focused on the right skill, makes organizations more productive. Lepaya has trained thousands of employees.

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