Growth vs. Fixed Mindset: How the Personalities View Their Abilities

What determines success? Is it just luck? No, it must be more than that. Is it mere talent? Not quite. How about hard work? Okay, getting warmer.

According to psychologist Carol Dweck, mindset is at the heart of success. The thoughts and attitudes that people have about their abilities shape those abilities. And one mindset in particular is linked to greater achievement and discovery: a growth mindset. Some personality traits go hand in hand with this mindset, while others are often associated with the more limiting fixed mindset approach.

In this article, we will explore the differences between a growth versus fixed mindset and how each relates to the 16 personalities.

Making Mistakes: A Chance to Grow or Hit Rewind?

Every single person is born to fail. Think about it: no one can walk without first crawling and taking a few (or several) tumbles. No one can speak without first babbling. And no one is born knowing how to socialize and get along with others – they have to mimic peers and make some embarrassing social faux pas along the way.

In general, babies are born with what is called a growth mindset. In other words, most babies embrace failure on the path to success. They have a desire to learn and grow, and they persist regardless of the challenges. Setbacks are only temporary – if they keep crawling, babbling, and studying the people around them, they’ll gain new abilities over time.

But even though most babies are inclined to stretch their personal limits, some children and adults go on to form a different mindset: a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset orients a person away from growth. People who have a predominantly fixed mindset believe that their abilities can’t be developed further – they have their talents and tendencies, and there’s little that they can do to adopt new ones.

Similarly, they may feel defined by their abilities, especially in areas where they don’t already excel. Having a fixed mindset may lead some people to settle, further instilling the belief that they’re not capable of experiencing and achieving more. In contrast, people with a growth mindset are motivated by the opportunity for growth, and they tend to enjoy the process of becoming more than the destination of being.

One example of the growth versus fixed mindset dichotomy can be seen in classrooms. Some students, when given a problem that is slightly above their (current) level, feel invigorated and excited to be challenged and learn something new. They treat it as an opportunity to expand their abilities. In short, they have a growth mindset. Other students panic, believing that because they’ve never done a similar problem before, they can’t do it now either. This is a fixed mindset approach.

This isn’t to say that people with a fixed mindset assume that they have no strengths to offer. Some people can identify themselves as being “gifted” or “good at math,” for example, and then self-monitor to make sure that everything that they do reflects those qualities. That’s why, more than those with a growth mindset, fixed mindset types may look for praise or short-term rewards that affirm what they already believe to be true about themselves. And if a challenge threatens the label that they’ve adopted, they’ll likely avoid it completely.

When it comes to who has which mindset, though, it’s not all black and white. Growth and fixed mindsets are two opposing points on a spectrum, and most people (and personality types) fall somewhere in the middle. In general, people don’t typically approach every problem with the same mindset. They may lean toward a growth mindset in one area while having a fixed mindset in another. Even though no one can ever have a complete growth mindset at all times, striving to be more growth-oriented pays off in most situations – just like it does for crawling infants and babbling toddlers.

The Benefits of Being a Work in Progress

Having a growth mindset means embracing being a work in progress. There’s always room to grow, learn new things, and develop fresh skills. And people with a growth mindset appreciate the process required in getting there. For them, taking the first step is just as valid as arriving at the destination.

It’s no surprise, then, that Carol Dweck’s research shows that having a growth mindset, even when facing other social or economic limitations, often results in higher achievement, compared to fixed mindset attitudes. So even when someone comes from a background that would usually limit their success, they can often still make astounding progress just by having a growth mindset.

This doesn’t mean that a growth mindset is a safeguard against failure – quite the opposite. Having a growth mindset allows for blunders, since, of course, no one is perfect at something the very first time they try it (or ever, for that matter). With a fixed mindset, people might not actually learn from those mistakes. Instead, they may try to escape mistakes as quickly as possible and do what they can to avoid a similar failure in the future. But in cases where someone has a growth mindset, they’ll likely view those same mistakes as crucial stepping stones for moving forward.

Accepting What Can’t Be Changed

So, having a growth mindset should always be the goal, and having a fixed mindset is all bad, right? Well, not exactly. In most situations, especially when working toward a goal or taking on a new challenge, a growth mindset is key. But sometimes a fixed mindset can be more useful than a growth mindset.

Essentially, when something is, well, fixed – or can’t be changed without causing more harm – a fixed mindset approach can be advantageous. This is true for things like aging or other biological characteristics. Embracing certain fixed qualities, rather than working tirelessly to change them, could help improve self-confidence and release shame.

It’s also okay to view some abilities as being unrealistic and not worth developing. A student with a growth mindset might focus their attention on learning a new language and taking up the guitar. At the same time, they might decide that they don’t want to join their school’s basketball team, because they’re much shorter than average and always struggled when playing in the past. In this situation, they’re approaching basketball with a fixed mindset. This sort of decision can be empowering in some cases, allowing people to focus on the talents and passions that they want to develop while accepting their weaknesses in other areas.

Having a fixed mindset can also lend itself to a bit of necessary caution at times. For example, someone who believes that gambling isn’t a good way to get rich and has a fixed mindset in this area likely won’t take a chance and gamble all their money away at a casino. Instead, they might focus their efforts elsewhere to earn money with less risk.

What Makes a Growth Mindset?

So is having a growth mindset as simple as just believing that there’s always room for growth? That’s a huge part of it, but there are also other thought patterns and habits that make up a growth mindset.

These qualities could be distilled into three primary characteristics. Without all three, what may look like a growth mindset may actually be a “false growth mindset,” where people mistake open-mindedness or effort without progress as being synonymous with growth. To have a true growth mindset, it’s crucial to combine an acceptance of discomfort with resilience and strategic planning.

Expanding Comfort Zones

Most people have been told at one point or another to leave their comfort zone. But in a growth mindset approach, it’s not about leaving the comfort zone – it’s about expanding it. People who lean into growth allow for a greater variety of actions and experiences, compared to people who have a more fixed mindset. They see some risks as being worth taking, and they’re excited by new challenges. They also thrive when engaging with their environment and the people in it, rather than playing small and keeping quiet.

This willingness to stretch their comfort zone and take action is common among Extraverted personalities. Extraverts tend to be boundary pushers who feed off of other people. This might make them more open to collaboration and constructive criticism, two key ingredients in building growth. After all, growth rarely happens in a vacuum. Busting through blocks often requires a helping hand from others.

Failing Confidently

There’s a reason why people with a fixed mindset may shy away from failure: they see it as a reflection of their identity. Failure, or at least being bad at something initially, threatens their self-image. This belief can take time to untangle. But it’s worth working on nonetheless because mistakes are truly an inevitable part of life. And learning from those mistakes only leads to more growth in the end.

This is a fact that many with a growth mindset realize. They fail confidently, knowing that they’re not “less smart” or “less talented” because they messed up when trying to branch out. This resilient self-image is also common among Assertive personalities. A lofty goal rarely intimidates Assertive types – they often believe that they already have what it takes to succeed.

Honorable Mention: Striving through Strategy

Though a growth mindset is, well, a mindset, it’s more than just thoughts or intentions. Approaching life with a growth mindset also involves taking the steps needed to reach the finish line.

People with a growth mindset are strategic, and they follow through to see a goal to completion. This is similar to many of the qualities found in the Judging personality trait. People with this trait tend to value hard work, and they’re known to be disciplined and action-oriented. Rather than letting luck guide them, they take the reins and chart the course needed to grow.

These characteristics earned Judging personalities an honorable mention here because they’re vital components of genuine growth. In future articles on growth versus fixed mindset, we’ll highlight the four 16Personalities Strategies and their associated traits, including the Extraverted, Introverted, Assertive, and Turbulent traits.

Conclusion: Growing into a Growth Mindset

Most people have both a growth mindset and a fixed mindset, leaning to one side or the other depending on the situation. But there are many instances where swapping a fixed mindset for a growth mindset can be advantageous. In fact, just believing that growth is possible is often the launchpad for actual growth.

There are a few characteristics that are required to have a true growth mindset, though. We’ve already discussed how these characteristics relate to three personality traits: Extraverted, Assertive, and Judging. Stay tuned for more upcoming articles on growth versus fixed mindset, where we explore the four Strategies and how they approach their abilities in the real world:

Further Reading