Don’t tell me how talented you are. Tell me how hard you work.

–Artur Rubenstein, one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.

–Albert Einstein, one of the greatest physicists of all time

Carol S. Dweck, PhD, Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation. Her pioneering work demonstrated how the attributions people make about the nature of ability can affect their whole lives and either enable them to thrive or hold them back from ever developing their potential.

According to Dweck, people fall within a continuum according to their belief about where ability comes from. These beliefs are “mindsets.” Dweck defines two: a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset.”

She describes these 2 mindsets as they apply in the educational setting:

“In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.

In a growth mindset, students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching, and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

These two mindsets, either fixed or growth, play out in all areas of life, regardless of the setting or age of the people.







Intelligence is a fixed trait.

“I’m smart!”

Intelligence is a changeable quality.

“I can figure this out!”


Look smart.

“What if I don’t get it right?”

Learn new things.

“I’ll try again with a new approach.”


Things should come easy. Challenges should be avoided.

“I must not be very good at this.”


Hard work delivers results. Challenges are opportunities to strive and improve.

“Getting good takes effort. I can do this!”


It’s not my fault.

“It was unfair.”

What can I learn from this?

“What can I do to do better next time?


Having a growth mindset helps you look for and discover possibilities in life. It propels you into action to learn, grow, and develop no matter what age you are.

What if you don’t have a growth mindset?

Having a growth mindset isn’t something you simply “have” or “don’t have.”

It’s not a talent you’re born with. It takes effort to develop. And even people who generally approach life with growth mindsets, still have fixed mindsets about some things.

Regardless of where you find yourself on the spectrum of fixed vs growth mindsets, a fixed mindset is something you can change. How?

Here are 2 things you can do right away:

RECOGNIZE: Recognize what mindset you’re acting with. Listen and observe yourself. Fixed or growth mindset?

TALK BACK: Talk back to your fixed mindset. Experiment with growth alternatives.

Instead of:

Try thinking:

I suck at thisWhat am I missing?
I give up!This may take some time and effort
I can’t do “X”I’ll train myself to get better
My plan didn’t workMistakes help me learn better
She’s so smart. I’ll never be that smartI’m going to figure out how she does that
My plan didn’t workWhat’s the next idea I can test?

Remember the United Negro College Fund’s saying, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste?” In this context, it may be right to say, “a mind is a terrible thing to be fixed.”