8 Growth Mindset Examples To Help You Evolve

28th July, 2020

Adopting a “growth mindset” is like stepping through a portal to a new reality. For me, doing so has been an instrumental in helping me let go of several unhelpful beliefs.

In this post, I’ll first cover what the growth mindset is, and why it’s a big deal. Then I’ll describe 8 powerful growth mindset examples you can put to use in your own life.

In a Nutshell – Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset

In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck draws a distinction between the fixed and growth mindset.

Here’s a cheat sheet summarising the main differences:

Growth mindset examples table

The mindset you occupy most often will radically affect how you navigate life.

Personally, any time I stagnate or stall there’s usually an unruly fixed mindset belief holding me back.

And when I find myself taking healthy risks, or making consistent progress, the growth mindset is spurring me onwards.

When you see the world with a fixed mindset, the realm of what’s possible starts to contract around you.

When you see the world with a growth mindset, your horizon begins to expand:

“Becoming is better than being. The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming. The have to already be.”

~ Carol Dweck

The Opportunity

Just realised you’re tangled in a web of fixed mindset beliefs? That’s okay. Know that (a) you’re not alone and (b) the growth mindset is learnable.

In fact, believing your thinking habits can change is the fundamental growth mindset shift to make.

Like anything else, it becomes a force of habit through conscious practice. This represents a tremendous opportunity.

Note you can be growth mindset around certain areas (e.g. your physical health) and fixed mindset about others (e.g. your intellect). So you need to start with self-awareness. Where exactly is the fixed mindset holding you back?

But when it comes to deep beliefs about who we are – our self-identity – the fixed mindset can hold us back most. Such beliefs create a ripple effect, putting an artificial ceiling on what we’re capable of, or perhaps even worthy of.

That said, I’ve put together 8 growth mindset examples which are radical in their ability to impact your personal and professional development. At some point, each of these beliefs have served me well.

As you scan through, I invite you to consider which ones are most pertinent in your life at this moment. Enjoy!

8 Growth Mindset Examples

1. “I’m on a lifelong journey of becoming”

In contrast, here’s the fixed mindset belief: “I’m inadequate/not good enough”

Many people believe they’re ‘damaged goods’ – deficient down to the core. I’m no stranger to this belief popping up more often than I’d prefer.

Ironically, there’s possibly nothing more damaging than the belief that we’re damaged. It implies we’re rigid and fixed. When in reality, we’re a dynamic, fluid process of becoming. It’s a classic case of focusing on the journey over the destination.

We all have flaws, but that doesn’t make us ‘flawed’. That’s a subtle but profound difference. In the same way, we all have strengths, but that doesn’t make us ‘perfect’. Generalising one way or the other is severely limiting.

By allowing yourself the space to become who you are (a lifelong process), you add richness and excitement to your daily life. The story of your life is perpetually unfolding each and every moment, and you’re the narrator.

2. “I’m learning new ways of being in the world”

In contrast, here’s the fixed mindset belief: “I lack the personality traits needed for success in work, love and life”

The word ‘personality’ comes from the Latin word persona, which means ‘mask’.

Early in life, you figured out which masks to pick up. You had a mask for being accepted by friends, and a mask you wore around parents.

When you got older, I’m willing to bet some of those personas became unhelpful.

I’ve adopted a ‘shy persona’ for much of my life. And it’s still something I’m training myself to let go of. The core insight? Personality isn’t written in the stars. Once you learn how, you can pick up and put down various personas.

The key word is ‘learn’.

With a fixed mindset, learning gets taken off the table. Genetics and upbringing become your destiny. It’s simply in your nature to be ‘quiet and introverted’ or ‘loud and boisterous’. It can be tempting to think of these qualities as immovable parts of our identity.

But with the growth mindset, it’s possible to learn other ways of being. Genetics and upbringing continue to shape your inborn tendencies, but with a commitment to growth you can start circumventing as needed.

3. “With effort, I’ll learn to master [insert skill]”

In contrast, here’s the fixed mindset belief: “I wasn’t born to [insert skill] like other people

As a culture, we’re enamoured with the idea of ‘genius’.

We create a huge chasm between ‘normal’ folk and those with God-given abilities. Michael Phelps must be a miracle of genetics, right? But while some people do have buckets of innate talent, most of us are on a level playing field. In any case, perseverance is where the magic happens.

The fixed mindset teaches us to disregard the blood, sweat and tears that many ‘geniuses’ sacrificed on the way to greatness.

Take Mozart. He was incredibly devoted to mastering his craft. I’m sure he had a spark of musical talent, but who’s to say how much? And what would we learn from dissecting him in that way? What’s perhaps more inspiring is that despite his early music being poorly received, he worked feverishly, churning out symphony after symphony. Until the day he died.

As Dweck says, much of the problem is what we get told in childhood.

It’s counterintuitive, but every time you tell a child they’re “smart” or “gifted”, you’re actually taking the wind out of their sails. The messaging is clear – you don’t need to work for anything to succeed. Complacency and demotivation swiftly follow suit.

Conversely, labelling children as “lazy” or “bad” installs a potent inner critic.

Whether you’re talking to yourself, an adult, or a child, the solution is to focus on the journey.

Rather than praising traits, praise effort. And instead of branding someone as hopeless when things don’t go well, focus on giving balanced feedback.

Everybody has to start somewhere. Remember your own journey is going to be completely unique. Believe that with time, effort and an open mind, progress is pretty much universal.

4. “How can I learn from his/her experience?”

In contrast, here’s the fixed mindset belief: “His/her success reflects badly on me”

Comparison is a seductive beast. Left unchecked, it can give way to crippling envy. At the root of it, I think there are two powerful fixed mindset beliefs at play.

First, you might fall into the zero-sum game trap. This is where someone else’s gain becomes your loss, which usually isn’t the case at all. So we need to reframe our scarcity-based competitive thinking to abundance-based collaborative thinking.

The second issue is seeing both ourselves (and the other person) in a static way rather than being on separate journeys of growth. Without seeing this reality, someone else’s success becomes a reason to feel resentful.

I’m putting my hands up here – having a competitive, driven nature means my knee-jerk reaction to other people’s success is often envy. There will always be someone out there who knows more, can do more, and achieves more.

But the growth mindset challenges me to see their existence as a blessing. I’ve taught myself to get inspired rather than jealous.

This is a win-win scenario for all concerned. Not only do you become more supportive and encouraging, but learning from them can also fuel your own evolution.

5. “It’s never too late to try something new”

In contrast, here’s the fixed mindset belief: “I’m set in my ways – you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”

Many fixed mindset thoughts have a basis in fear of failure. This one is no different. The scars of life cause people to clam up, drawing false security from the idea they’re ‘past it’.

However, neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to rewire and learn new things – doesn’t just stop in its tracks at a certain point.

While younger brains are more flexible, being on the older side needn’t take growth out of the equation.

The difference between those who excel and those who flounder is adopting a growth mindset. It’s much more empowering to get excited about the limitless possibilities for learning, especially in the current technological age.

For instance, at what other point in history could you decide to completely switch careers, or start a profitable side hustle from the comfort of your own home, using mostly free resources?

6. “I always have more to learn – I’ve never ‘made it'”

In contrast, here’s the fixed mindset belief: “I know everything there is to know”

Believing you’ve arrived at some final, static level of knowledge causes stagnation at best, and calamity at worst.

One risk of rising up a hierarchy, or positioned oneself as an expert, is that we close ourselves off to constructive criticism. We think “I’ve made it” or “I know best”. Dweck calls this ‘CEO disease’.

The powerful growth mindset shift is this: no matter how advanced your knowledge becomes on any subject, approaching it as a beginner prevents complacency from setting in. In Zen Buddhism, this is called ‘Beginner’s Mind’.

Remember, your potential for growth is infinite, and the ceiling on your achievements is unknowable. This is vital for anyone positioning themself as an expert or leader.

The humility to step back and take on board ideas is not only good-natured, but fundamental to avoiding catastrophe. This makes it important to surround yourself with reasonable people who give a good balance of support and honest feedback.

This growth mindset belief also helps if you ever switch careers.

When I left medicine and transitioned to copywriting, I had to leave my ego at the door in a big way. I suddenly wasn’t surrounded by patients who saw me as having all the answers.

To get through, I had to quickly take on the growth mindset. I reminded myself that it’s okay to feel lost and confused. In fact, they became signs I was staying humble and remaining open to feedback/learning.

7. “I’m cultivating a purposeful, meaningful life”

In contrast, here’s the fixed mindset belief: “There isn’t enough purpose/meaning in my life”

In my experience, with the fixed mindset, purpose is something you “have” or “don’t have” – maybe even something you “find” through sheer luck.

But with the growth mindset, purpose is something to cultivate daily. Like clay, we have to mould it continuously. And as usual, the key ingredient is a commitment to growth. In this case, the growth comes from devotion to a lifelong process of self-discovery.

You may not know where you’re going, or how you’ll get there, but taking pressure off yourself and trusting that time will tell is the first step.

I’m not suggesting you sit around and wait for inspiration to strike. Purpose really takes shape when you (a) regularly make decisions to move in a certain direction, and (b) reflect on your experiences.

The reflection part is critical.

You need to constantly ask yourself what you’re enjoying, what makes you come alive, what your strengths are and how you want to contribute to the world.

Above all, give yourself permission to feel confused. In fact, recognise that as a useful signal from your intuition. Perhaps it means you need to do some fact-finding, or take more action.

Over time, perhaps through journaling and support from others, your purpose will take shape as you get to know yourself.

8. “Feeling like an imposter/fraud is useful feedback”

In contrast, here’s the fixed mindset belief: “I’m out of my league/unworthy”

When I worked as a doctor, the feeling of not measuring up would rear its ugly head all too often. I’m no stranger to what many call “imposter syndrome”.

Feeling out of your element can be jarring. It can force you into black-or-white thinking – you’re either worthy or unworthy, with no room for error. Any small mistake gets blown out of proportion, signalling your inadequacy. And the culprit is often a fixed mindset.

While imposter syndrome isn’t necessarily something to eliminate, taking on a growth mindset helps to keep it under control.

It’s all about changing perception.

Firstly, realise that it’s incredibly normal to feel this way – even more so when settling into a new role.

Secondly, repackage the feeling as a useful signal. It could be reminding you that you’re engaged in something significant. But ultimately, it could be a signal you’re outside your comfort zone – which is where you stretch and grow as a person.

Drop the idea that you’re a flawless, superhuman entity and grant yourself the space to both ebb and flow.

By doing so, you give yourself the gift of freedom to learn from mishaps and mistakes rather than letting them define you.

Final Words

Once you understand the principles of the growth mindset, you’ll start seeing all the areas of life where you are holding yourself hostage rather than letting your true potential shine through.

Growth mindset examples table

Personally, I’ve decided to make a point of regularly uprooting fixed mindset beliefs.

The fixed mindset leads to insecurity, with each mistake wreaking havoc on my confidence. It creates an impossible ideal: being the complete, finished, superhuman package.

By seeing things this way, I’ll never allow myself the luxury of imperfection that the growth mindset can give me.

My invitation to you?

Start giving yourself that luxury too.

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Hey, I'm Oliver 👋

I write about personal growth, and the art of living with purpose. By sharing my insights, I aim to support you in cultivating (and unleashing) your purpose. Learn more.

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