Mindset and the name Carol Dweck are synonymous. Psychologist Carol Dweck has been researcher and developing ways to use mindset in many areas of psychology.  As a psychologist, researcher, professor program developer and author, Carol Dweck has exclusively focused on transforming motivation into learning1.  Her research articulates the important role of mindsets in students’ achievement and shows how praise can actually undermine motivation and learning in certain conditions1. The two types of mindset Carol Dweck and her colleagues at Stanford University compare in different settings are a growth mindset and a fixed mindset2.

Mindset is defined as a self-theory of how we perceive ourselves and abilities through potential2.

The Fixed Mindset: Viewing potential similarly to a talent or intellect ability as innate and fixed; either you have it or you don’t. Abilities are benchmarked rather than nurtured and developed, and talents are seen as a natural ability that grows without effort and practice2.

The Growth Mindset: Viewing potential as ability to grow and develop through hard work, practice or progressive improvement; ability is a starting point that can grow. Growth is nurtured through recognition of all learning and motivation to shift, explore and to leave outcomes open-ended2.

With fixed mindsets the internal monologue tends to travel a path of judgments, absoluteness, and absence of recognizing potential to grow for all experiences. With the growth mindset the monologue takes a path of appreciation for successes and failures, is non-judgmental and recognizes abilities as part of internal motivation.  In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck gives the examples of famous people with growth mindset:

“Do you know that Darwin and Tolstoy were considered ordinary children? That Ben Hogan, one of the greatest golfers of all time, was completely uncoordinated and graceless as a child? That the photographer Cindy Sherman, who has been on virtually every list of the most important artists of the twentieth century, failed her first photography course? That Geraldine Page, one of our greatest actresses, was advised to give it up for lack of talent?”1

The idea is that these people did not see failure or present inability as a concrete outcome; they saw it as a starting point.

Imagine this: you have study for your psychology exam and when you get it back you see you grade is an 87%. If you have a fixed mindset your monologue might sound like this “you missed over ten questions, you are never going to get into the school you want, and you are no good at psychology”. A growth mindset monologue might sound like this “wow, that was a hard test, I see I missed the area on development. I will have to go back and review so I understand it better. I did a good job on his test”.

Carol Dwecks’ work has surged over into many other areas where growth mindset can help nurture and develop abilities: parenting, relationships, workplaces, teaching, sports and many others. The growth mindset is a way to support motivation through knocking down barriers by seeing potential to solve problems, change outcomes and develop needed abilities.


1Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential. Constable & Robinson Limited.

2Dweck, C. S. (2007). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.


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