man sitting in a cave and looking thoughtfully out at a mountain

“Is Your Mindset Setting You Up To Fail Your Goals?”

Mindset is an often overlooked but incredibly important part of achieving our goals.

Our mindset is made up of the beliefs and attitudes that we have about ourselves and the world around us. 

Babies are not born with a certain mindset, but instead learn new beliefs and attitudes about the world as they grow. 

What Does The Research Say About Mindset?

Carol Dweck, a psychology researcher at Columbia and later Stanford, noticed that people respond very differently to failure. She wanted to learn why this was, so she set up a research experiment with kids. 

Dr. Dweck brought the kids into a playroom, and watched them as they tried to solve puzzles. She gave them easy puzzles at first, and then gave them increasingly harder puzzles. 

As the puzzles got more difficult, she noticed the kids responding in two very different ways.

How a person responds to challenges like this Rubik's Cube, can tell us a lot about their mindset.
How a person responds to challenges can tell us a lot about their mindset.

One set of kids grew increasingly frustrated. They got mad, gave up easily, and avoided trying these tougher puzzles if given the option.

But the other group of kids actually seemed excited by these harder puzzles, even if they weren’t able to solve them right away. One kid shouted, “I love a good challenge!” and some kids even asked Dr. Dweck if they could take the harder puzzles home to practice and get better. 

Dr. Dweck noted that while this second group of kids had failed to solve the harder puzzles (like the first group), they didn’t even think of it as failing! Instead, they just thought they were learning. These kids were on to something!

These observations lead Dr. Dweck to eventually write the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. In this book, Dr. Dweck describes a “growth mindset” and a “fixed mindset”.

Introducing the Growth Mindset & Fixed Mindset

Throughout Dr. Dweck’s studies on mindset, she found that a person’s mindset had an affect not only on how they approached problems, but many other aspects of their life as well. 

A person’s mindset affects:

  • Their beliefs about whether or not they are able to improve with practice or if they are forever stuck with the hand they were dealt.
  • How they view challenging situations – as a learning opportunity or only a chance for failure.
  • Their attitude towards effort – some view it as the only way to improve, while others feel that it is a waste of time.
  • Whether or not they will stick to something when things get tough. 
  • Whether they need to be perfect at something right away, or whether they are willing to work towards being good at something.
  • Their attitude towards the success of others – some are motivated and inspired by it while others feel threatened.
  • Their definition of success. Some feel successful when they are good at something immediately without trying, whereas others feel successful when something that was once hard has gotten easier. 

The following infographic summarizes the differences between the growth mindset and the fixed mindset.

Infographic comparing the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset based on Dr. Carol Dweck's book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
Summary of growth mindset vs. fixed mindset characteristics.

If you’d like, you can also watch this video for a summary of the growth mindset versus fixed mindset!

A Few Important Things To Be Aware Of With Mindset

First, neither mindset is inherently “bad”. There are some situations where having a fixed mindset can actually be more beneficial than a growth mindset. So no judgement!

Second, mindset is a spectrum. No one is 100% growth or fixed minded. Everyone has at least a little of both mindsets in there somewhere. Your mindset can even shift depending on your current situation!

And third, it is possible for people to have different mindsets in different aspects of their life. 

For example, a person may believe that if they study hard, they can get smarter, or if they draw every day they can develop their artistic ability. 

But this same person may feel that no matter how hard they try, they will not be able to improve their fitness level.

In this example, the person has a growth mindset when it comes to learning and art, but a fixed mindset when it comes to fitness.

Now, think about the people in your life. Can you think of someone who seems to lean heavily towards either a fixed or growth mindset?

Does Mindset Affect Your Ability To Achieve Goals?

The short answer is yes – in a big way.

Watch the following video to see how these different mindsets affect a person’s ability to achieve goals – in this case, their fitness goals.

What Type Of Mindset Do You Have?

As you watched the above videos, you might have found yourself starting to think, “hey, that sounds a lot like me”, about one or both of the mindsets.

If you’re still not sure if you lean towards more of a growth or a fixed mindset, try to be aware of your thoughts as you go throughout your day. 

Don’t forget to think in terms of the different aspects of your life! For example,  intelligence, athletic ability, artistic ability, relationships, etc. 

When you find yourself having a particularly growth or fixed mindset thought, jot it down along with a very brief description of what was happening at the time.

After a day or two of making these kinds of observations, you should have a pretty solid idea about your mindset.

And don’t forget, it’s important to be completely honest with yourself during these observations.

man sitting in a cave and looking thoughtfully out at a mountain
Take some time to reflect on what type of mindset you have.

Can You Change Your Mindset?

I am so glad you asked! You can absolutely change your mindset.

Remember, a mindset is simply a collection of beliefs – and you can always change your mind!

If you’d like to learn how to shift your mindset, check out the post: 9 Ways To Start Developing A Growth Mindset Right Now!

Conclusion

Mindset plays an incredibly important role in achieving your goals. It can influence how much effort you are willing to put towards them as well as how likely you are to stick with it when things get tough. 

Therefore, mindset has a direct effect on how likely you are to succeed in achieving your goals!

If you are interested in learning more about mindset, and how you can improve it, check out the following posts:

Remember, when it comes to healthy habits and goals – mindset matters!

~Clarissa

Share the knowledge!

Author: clarissa.cabbage

Clarissa is a teacher, a coach, and an avid adventurer! Armed with a master's degree in Exercise and Wellness, she is on a mission to teach people how to build healthier habits that support the adventurous lifestyle of their dreams. There is nothing Clarissa is more passionate about than helping people get active and live their lives to the fullest!

50 Replies to ““Is Your Mindset Setting You Up To Fail Your Goals?”

  1. This is a great post. I love things that challenge me and my way of thinking. I definitely have a mix of both mindsets and have been working on it BUT wasn’t aware there were actual categories for them! Thanks for this!

    1. You’re very welcome Nicole! Since I learned about these two mindsets accidentally at a work book club a number of years ago, it has really changed the way I think about things.

    1. Thank you Sumedha, I thought so too! What I found really amazing was the research that demonstrated that just learning about these two mindsets can help people start to shift their own mindsets!

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you found it useful! You’re right, mindset can definitely hold us back from pursuing the things we want. Fortunately, mindset can be changed!

  2. This is so true. I have a growth mindset when it comes to most things with the exception of math. Unless it’s job related or something I absolutely need to know I have a fixed mindset towards it. This was a great post!

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I had a fixed mindset for math for a long time as well. Also towards my artistic abilities. I find it interesting how it can be so compartmentalized!

  3. Hey Clarissa!

    This is a great post and I totally agree with you! Mindset is such a crucial part no matter what goal you are trying to achieve! One one hand, with the right mindset you can do anything, on the other – with the wrong mindset everything seems impossible!

    Keep it up!

  4. A really interesting read. We’ve done quite a lot of work on growth mindset in the school I work in and it’s intriguing to see how our cohort react differently to their day to day challenges.

    1. That’s awesome Graham!Education is where I first ran across the growth mindset as well. I had been teaching exercise science and behavior change classes at a CC for people that wanted to be personal trainers. I’ve been incorporating the mindsets into my coaching since. Thanks for the read and the comment!

  5. Great post, it made me think about so many different areas of my life and the mind set I have towards them and towards change. Thank you!

    1. You are very welcome Ana! Just learning about these mindsets helped me shift the way I approached many different situations in my life. And when I’ve used them with my clients and students I had a pretty great response as well. I am glad you found this post useful!

  6. My daughter springs to mind here. A real mix of both mindsets. Full of confidence on some things, then no belief whatsoever at other times. An interesting read that also made me think a lot about certain students I teach.

    1. That’s awesome Graham! Most people tend to be a mix of both mindsets. It’s interesting you mention your students – that’s where Carol Dweck’s mindset research really took off. Her book that I linked to is primarily for teachers, coaches, and parents although it has broader implications as well. If you liked this, you should definitely check out her book. I feel a little embarrassed to say this because it sounds so cliche, but I really do think it changed my life. I look at things and approach situations much differently now. Thanks for the read!

  7. Well said. Everybody learns different things at different rates. I know I have to be patient with myself but if I keep trying, I will improve. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. This is a really interesting article. I’m a teacher by trade and last year we did a lot of staff activities revolving around fixed and growth mindset. It’s amazing how many people say they have a growth mindset when in fact they don’t. I witness many co-workers last year who really worked hard to change their mindset to be able to be more flexible during these trying times. Thank you!

    1. I’m glad you found it interesting Jenna! I was first introduced to the growth and fixed mindsets when I was teaching at a community college! Dr. Dweck writes rather extensively in her book about applications to teaching. She even has a section in there about the “false growth mindset” to which you are referring. I can definitely see how having a growth mindset would help in adapting to the challenges of teaching online in or in new hybrid models. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences!

    1. Yes, that’s awesome Briget! 🙌 I think the earlier kids learn about it the better! I wish I had learned about it earlier, I feel like it really changed the way I approach life in general. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading!

  9. I am so fascinated by the two mind sets and in general how the brain works. It is a mysterious thing. Personally I strive for a growing mindset but as you say there are times where I might be in the fixed mindset spectrum. I think it is all about training your brain to see things in a certain way. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I am as well Darina, the brain is an awe-inspiring thing! I absolutely agree that the brain can be trained to see and respond to specific situations in more of a growth minded way if we are purposeful about practicing. Thank you so much for stopping by and contributing to the conversation!

  10. Very informative post. I think i am more having a growth mindset. I agree the importance of knowing one’s mindset especially when you are working with groups or part of an organization. Leaders, supervisors and managers i believe must have an awareness of his colleagues mindset and find ways on how to work with them effectively. This is one of the challenges in an organization.

    1. Thanks for reading Vinn! Yes, it can absolutely be helpful to have a good idea about the mindsets of the people you are interacting with and working with on a regular basis. Group projects typically go better when we work with like-minded individuals. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your experiences with us!

    1. I absolutely agree Abigail! Mindset is a habit for sure. When we are working towards forming the habit of having a growth mindset we need to be aware of our thoughts so we can course-correct when they start becoming more fixed mindset thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

  11. This was very interesting to read. I can see how I fit into each of these in different areas of my life – and how it has been holding me back in some of those areas. I am defnitely more of a growth mindset individual, but there are a few situations where I have embraced the fixed mindset and it’s not necessarily working for me! Lol I’m sure that this awareness will help me to refocus my efforts and improve my chances of success.

    1. Hopefully so Britt! Just being more aware of your mindset can be a catalyst for change of that’s what you want. But I think we all have those areas in our life that are still in the fixed mindset. For me, I often find myself having a fixed mindset about my cooking skills. I often catch myself saying “I’m not a good cook”, and avoiding taking on the challenge of experimenting with new recipes for fear that my partner will feel obligated to eat my failed attempt of a meal! 😂 But these things don’t happen over night, we just have to keep working at them!

  12. First of all, congrats for your blog, it’s the first time I’m landing here and I really enjoy all aspects, it’s super user-friendly, accessible language, well-written 👏🏽 self-growth, and working on better mindset it’s something I’ve been working on, it’s always really nice to find more information about this topic 🙂 thank you

    1. Thank you Yolanda, these topics are of course very close to my heart as you might imagine. I hope you were able to learn something new from some of the posts. Thanks so much for stopping by, and best of luck with all your goals! 💪🏼❤️

  13. Hi Clarissa! I really loved reading this post! I like reading posts about the mind because I believe there’s really so much you can do with the power of the mind. I learned a lot from this post and I aspire to have a mindset I fully control to achieve my goals and sustain my well-being. Thank you for this 😌💕

    1. Awww, you’re very welcome Elle! It puts a smile on my face that you learned so much from it. The mind really is an amazing thing isn’t it? Thank you so much for reading and best of luck with your goals!

  14. Hi Clarissa! Thank you for sharing this post! I agree that mindset affects our road towards our goals. I found very useful the information about Dr. Dweck’s studiesand will definitely get his book. Your video was also very useful to get me thinking about which mindset I lean towards more.

    1. I am so glad you found the post and video helpful and informative Grace! The book is a fantastic one and I really do credit it with changing the way I think and approach most situations. Just a heads up though,the sections are mostly directed towards parents, teachers, and coaches with a section in there about relationships as well. With that being said, I definitely feel the concepts in the book are really applicable to all aspects of life. Thanks so much for taking the time to read! ❤️

  15. I love Carol Dweck and the research about growth mindset! Having a growth mindset has helped me to keep going when things become challenging and difficult. I know that I can look for new ways to tackle a problem, or learn a new way to respond.

    1. That’s fantastic Kathy! My experience has been the same. I find it so liberating knowing that it’s okay, and even encouraged to make mistakes – so long as I learn something from them! There are so many more things I am willing to start and try now that I’ve realized this.

    1. Absolutely Paris! There’s no need to give up. Think of it this way – some people are born with more natural talents in certain areas, but that doesn’t mean that people who were born with less can’t work hard and improve! Take the example of athletics. We know some people are born with good genes and tend to be more athletic naturally. But people who aren’t as athletic naturally can practice hard and sometimes even surpass the talent of the “naturals” if the naturals don’t put the effort in.

  16. I loved reading this post this morning. My mindframe really is the most powerful thing but in both a positive and a negative way! Mind set and a positive, can do attitude gets me through every single day! No matter the obstacle!
    Rosie

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed it Rosie! I absolutely agree that mindset is so important for overcoming obstacles, and it’s definitely a big part of a “can do” attitude! Thanks so much for stopping by to read this and sharing your experiences with us!

  17. Really loved this post. I have always been focused on what I can learn from every experience in life and that is how I approach each action and activity. From a very young age I loved challenges and to this day, if something is to easy I get bored… It’s great being able to understand it better 😃

    1. That’s fantastic Paula! I am glad I was able to present a framework here to help you think about your mindset. You definitely sound naturally growth minded which is awesome! I can definitely relate to getting bored easily when I’m not challenged. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your experience!

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