Fixed Mindset Definition, Examples, and Characteristics

Definition of Fixed Mindset

A Fixed Mindset is a term used to describe the condition of people who believe that their qualities and abilities are fixed and cannot change. It is the state of mind (which eventually reflects on actions and disposition), that makes people view success through the lens of predestination, mediocrity, pessimism, and a hard-to-get thing. It makes people believe that what they have is enough to make them successful. This, however, blinds us from, the possibilities that abound within us when we stretch a little bit beyond ourselves and reach for the peak of our human potentials.

People with a fixed mindset tend to give up easily, avoid challenges or intimidation (often because they feel intimidated by it), and ignore useful feedback (especially when they perceive it as being negative).

Pictorial representation of a fixed mindset

Examples of Fixed Mindset

The following are examples of a Fixed Mindset commonly observed in day-to-day activities and sphere of life:

I can’t do it; it’s difficult

This is a common example of a Fixed Mindset we can find in our day-to-day lives. This can be observed in schools, the workplace, or in the execution of tasks. People that admit that they cannot perform any difficult task with the excuse that it is beyond them, exhibit a Fixed Mindset.

Objecting to do a given task without first trying to employ your skills, talent, and mental capacity, through an innovative approach, only says that:

  • You do not believe in the reality of your inherent abilities
  • You are not willing to stretch to the limit of your bountiful human potentials and
  • You do not believe that it can be done by you.

We now see and understand that refusal to engage in any activity may not necessarily mean that we are not able to do it, it only portrays our mindset which in this case is termed a Fixed Mindset.

I don’t need to learn anymore

This is also a common example of a Fixed Mindset we can see around us today. When people do not see the need to add more knowledge or learn new things – settling rather for what they already know, or ways of doing things they are accustomed to, they exhibit a Fixed Mindset.

It is not as a result of too much information in their memory which no longer makes provision for more (of course it can never be); neither is it the impossibility of learning. It is rather the thing of the mind which makes them not see the need to learn. The people in this category tend to be limited in all things as their exposure, aspiration, philosophy, worldview, and lifestyle, are confined to the extent of their knowledge, thereby eliminating room for improvement, self-development, new information, and all-around success. This is a typical example of a Fixed Mindset.

I am going to fail; there is no point in trying

This is another example of a Fixed Mindset. Here, the individual does not see or better still, eliminates the need to try. This hinges on the belief that whether or not a trial is made, the inevitable outcome will be a failure. Therefore, to be on the safe side, and avoid wasting the time, resources, and energy, the individual would rather choose the easier and less risky option of not trying at all.

Our lives are shaped by our experiences. These experiences oftentimes tend to inform our decisions and our approach to life and living. As good or bad as these experiences can be, it will not be nice if we let them affect our mindset in a negative way. This can result in a Fixed Mindset as a matter of fact.

When we do not see the need to try out anything even when we know in our most sincere state that we can actually achieve it and get the desired outcome; it only shows that we have a Fixed Mindset.

A Fixed Mindset is driven by the fear of failure, not by the joy of success. For whatever reason, a Fixed Mindset envisions failure as the end of every endeavor. Been scared of it, it will not want to give a slight trial.

I can’t learn now; it’s too late

Similar to the ‘I can’t do it; it’s difficult’, I can’t learn now; it’s too late, is also an example of a Fixed Mindset. In this case, the individual holds on to past experiences, events, circumstances, and time to assume and conclude that he or she cannot learn or do anything new again because for him or her, it is now too late. This mindset that makes people align their productivity or ability to perform any task with convenience, time, and chance is called a Fixed Mindset.

I can’t learn now; it’s too late, not only connotes the Fixed Mindset that feels so obliged to get things done at certain times but also portrays an unrealistic assumption that eludes the possibility of doing virtually everything at any time as long as there is a set mind.

This example of a Fixed Mindset is most common among elderly people or people who feel ripped off of their human potentials, opportunities, and skills. In all these, however, there is always a time to do and start things all over. This, a Fixed Mindset prevents us from realizing.

The problem isn’t my fault, it’s someone else’s

This is an example of a Fixed Mindset that consolidates on and finds solace in playing blame games. Here, the individual comfortably blames others for the wrong development or the bad outcome of an event. This makes people not take responsibility for the outcome of their actions, inactions, and negligence but rather heap it on others.

The inability to own up and take responsibility for the outcome of all that we do shows that we have a mindset that is not open to correction and growth. Blaming others does not make us learn and be better, it only keeps us stagnant in a certain position.

I am jealous of my boss’ success or feel threatened by the success of others

This is an example of a mindset that makes us envious of the success of others, thereby making us jealous of their success, what they have, and their opportunities which we feel we do not have. Here, we are not interested in knowing the hard work that births the success we see, neither are we interested in committing ourselves to the process that made the said person or people successful; we are just infuriated by their success and become jealous of them. This can go to the length of cooking up stories or falsifying things about them.

We somehow feel in our most sincere self that we may never get to be like them or eventually have what they have, we now settle for jealously as the easiest way of feeling consoled.

I take feedback as a personal attack

This is an example of a Fixed Mindset that take feedback or people’s thought about them or what they do personally, especially when it is a negative one. Here, they have an ego that is punctured by people’s sincere, constructive criticism, or better still feel threatened by them.

Such people are eluded of the opportunity for growth that is made possible by scrutinizing, and taking into proper cognizance,  the thoughts, opinions, and perception of others as they deem fit.

Everybody’s opinion may not necessarily be correct and it will not be wise to take in and work with what everyone says or feel about you or what you do. A Fixed Mindset is, however, exhibited when these feedbacks are taken as a personal attack and not looked at through the lens of positivity and growth.

I give up when I am frustrated

Here, the Fixed Mindset is confirmed in people that do not persistently pursue a course through to a reasonable conclusion. When the going gets tough, the tough do not get going for this set of people. They rather back out and let it be, not minding the gravity of the efforts and resources employed before now.

The giving up that happens as a result of frustration or a little challenge experienced in the course of doing something simply portrays a mindset that is fixed.

Either I am good at something or I am not

Here, the individual believes in a one-way approach to things. Either he or she makes a good performance at something or is not good at it at all. People in this category do not tend to see the possibility of growing into perfection and succeeding at a thing by sheer practice or persistence. For them, it is either a good score sheet or nothing at all.

I would rather feel safe than try to grow

Another example of a Fixed Mindset is the mentality that does not permit inconvenience, even when it will bring about monumental growth. This is one that seeks comfort over everything and is not willing to be stretched to discomforting heights or made to do things that will stress them.

People that will choose safety and comfort over growth (which often times comes with inconvenience) have a Fixed Mindset.

Fixed Mindset Characteristics

From the examples of the Fixed Mindset we have considered, we can deduce the following binding characteristics of a Fixed Mindset:

Procrastination

This is the attitude or disposition that pushes for a more convenient time to do things that can be done now.

A major feature of a Fixed Mindset is the longing for convenience at the expense of productivity. A Fixed Mindset we will find, creates the feeling that there is a better time to do everything and the now time should be used for something else.

Procrastination is the thief of time and it is the grave where opportunity is buried. One with a Fixed Mindset consequently wastes time, resources, and opportunities to (or as a result of) procrastination. This can be a limiting factor in the pursuit of success, happiness, and fulfillment.

Mediocrity

This is the disposition that settles for average success and achievement. For a mediocre, whatever success has been achieved is enough and the possibility for more is overruled.
A mediocre get intimidated by those who stretch and go beyond the normal. He or she wishes it can be them, but feels does not have the capacity to get it. This is as a result of the Fixed Mindset, he or she has.

Pessimism

This is the state of being negatively minded about the possible outcome of events or undertakings. A pessimist is one that sees a problem in every opportunity and takes to the negative side of things. We can see this manifested by people with a Fixed Mindset. They give themselves a reason to believe that they are not good enough and that things will naturally not fall in line in their favor. This happens eventually because we become a reflection of the thoughts in our heads and the beliefs in our minds.

Envy

This is the attribute of not being happy with the success of others. This can be in the form of wishing it was you or feeling that they are not deserving of the success, opportunity, or achievements. The disposition towards people, which is laced with obvious jealousy characterizes one with a Fixed Mindset.

Fear

This is, simply put as False Evidence Appearing Real.

Fear is the state of being immersed or carried away by situations or developments which appear real but may not necessarily be so. Fear tends to erode the sense of reasoning and affects our general decision, disposition, and approach to life and living.

One with a Fixed Mindset feels he or she needs to tread cautiously because of fear of failure, fear of the unknown, or the fear of what people will say or perceive about him or her.

Placid approach

This is the opposite of diligence. This is the process of not sticking to a course and seeing to its conclusion. One with a placid approach towards anything does not see the need to be motivated and committed to the course of anything. Such people easily get discouraged and tend to back out easily. This is also a major characteristic of the Fixed Mindset.

Superstition

This is the adherence to a strong belief and making it the basis for judgment and living. Oftentimes, these beliefs are basically not founded on the grounds of reality and truth. They tend to thrive in the atmosphere of ignorance and illiteracy, religious affiliations, and societal customs and traditions.

One with a fixed mindset tends to believe all society’s dictates and instead of questioning them, accepts everything hook, line, and sinker. He or she also makes them the yardstick for everything he or she does.

Effects of Fixed Mindset

A Fixed Mindset can have the following short term and long-term effects among other things:

Effects on General Productivity

The productivity profile of one with a Fixed Mindset tends to be lowered as a result of the actions and inactions associated with the Fixed Mindset he or she has.

Lack of Maximization of Human Potentials

People with a Fixed Mindset more often than not, do not live out their full potential. The limitations they placed on themselves as a result of their mindset hunts down their potentials and they are not able to perform at their optimum level of ability. This makes them limited in the long run.

Shortcuts

One of the effects of the Fixed Mindset is that it will try to seek shortcuts or easier alternatives to doing things. This is not always the best, as shortcuts in most cases do not unveil the true path to doing things that will eventually birth the desired success.

Advantages of Fixed Mindset

Considering the idea of Fixed Mindset discussed, the different shades of expression, and general effects; you may wonder if there is at all any good side to having a Fixed Mindset. Well, the following can be said to be the advantages or good sides of the Fixed Mindset:

It embraces reality

Fixed Mindset over the years has been found helpful in making people accept certain facts about themselves, situations surrounding them, and things they cannot do anything about. Realists argue that this is good for mental health and it is fundamental in the pursuit of long-lasting happiness and peace.

One with a fixed mindset simply tells himself or herself the truth and does not try to force things whose chances of happening are slim. A person with a Fixed Mindset will leave attempting a math question or a tricky puzzle when he or she figures out that it is above his or her level, and will rather wait for a better time when his or her skills, level of exposure, knowledge, and abilities, is capable of solving the problem. This, realists further argue is not a sign of weakness or mediocrity, but rather a time and anxiety management strategy.

It saves from the disappointment of unrealistic optimism

Here, poised as one of the advantages of a Fixed Mindset is the supposition that it saves from the many disappointments and possible heartaches associated with mindless optimism. A Fixed Mindset by way of expression is not wired to ‘hope too much‘. It is one that tends to rationally factor things and weighs the possibilities of happenings as informed by past experiences and the availability of resources. This, according to realists is a good mental disposition that saves a lot from the adverse effects of the downside phase of optimism.

As much as a little ounce of positivity or optimism is required and encouraged in the course of leading our lives; it should be founded on the basis of fact and reality. If this is not done, we put ourselves at the risk of pains associated with overconfidence. This, a Fixed Mindset saves from.

Fixed mindset vs Growth Mindset

Fixed Mindset as observed, is a mental disposition that is static, hence limits and confines all forms of inherent intelligence and creative ability. It assumes that we have an ideal capacity that cannot change in any meaningful way. As a result of this, it tends to avoid, run away from, or find easy alternatives about anything mind-tasking. A Fixed Mindset further sees failure as evidence of unintelligence. This affects self-esteem and eventually the quality of life.

A Growth Mindset on the other hand is one that seeks to find ways to improve and progress in spite of the difficulties. A Growth Mindset thrives on challenges and puts on a disposition that welcomes failure not as evidence of unintelligence (unlike the fixed mindset), but as a springboard for betterment by stretching our existing abilities.

The Growth Mindset in all shades is one that is most needed for high-quality performance and self-actualization. It saves from the depressing and unfulfilling effects daily posed by the Fixed Mindset. This is evident in the daily increase of student/young people’s suicidal records, and frustrations in all work circles.

According to Carol Dweck – Stamford University Professor of Psychology “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone (which a fixed mindset proposes); only creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over”. It leaves you with the feeling that If only you have a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character, then you would better express better abilities. It deprives you of the beautiful experience of exploring and engaging these most basic characteristics.

A Growth Mindset, however, views things as easy, needing only understanding. People with a growth mindset believe that their inherent abilities can be equated to the present challenges under the atmosphere of persistence and grit. A Growth Mindset sees a bigger picture through the lens of the mutability of things.

It believes and proposes that through conscious and sustained efforts, the abilities can be stretched and developed irrespective of initial talents and aptitudes, interests, and knowledge.

Having understood the meaning of a growth mindset and the differences between the Growth and the Fixed Mindsets, it is pertinent to develop a growth mindset and operate in one. This is important because it can actually change what you strive for and what you see as success.

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