What is growth mindset?

By Amanda Morin

Growth mindset describes a way of viewing challenges and setbacks. People who have a growth mindset believe that even if they struggle with certain skills, their abilities aren’t set in stone. They think that with work, their skills can improve over time. 

People with the opposite belief — that abilities are what they are and won’t change — have a fixed mindset. They think their skills won’t improve no matter how hard they try.

The mindsets aren’t set in stone. People may have a growth mindset at certain times and a fixed mindset at others. They may have different approaches to different challenges. And their mindset may change over time.

Having a growth mindset can have real benefits. It helps people reframe their approach to challenges and stay motivated to work to improve skills. Instead of thinking “I can’t do this,” they think “I can’t do it yet.

The theory of growth mindset isn’t new. It came out of research by psychologist Carol Dweck and her colleagues. Their research focused on kids. But the concept applies to adults, too.

Growth mindset isn’t something that people are always born with. Kids and adults can develop the belief that things that are hard to do now may not always be hard.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Ellen Galinsky, MS is president of Families and Work Institute (FWI). She is a child development expert and work-family researcher.