How to challenge a fixed mindset

Find out about mindsets, and learn how to change a fixed mindset to a growth one.

This can help if:

  • you tend to be pretty rigid about what you believe you can and can’t achieve

  • you want to ditch your fixed mindset

  • you’re not actually sure what a mindset is.

Boy leaning on railing looking at water

What’s a mindset?

You know how people describe themselves as being either a ‘glass half-full’ or a ‘glass half-empty’ kind of person? They’re really talking about their mindset – the ideas and attitudes they have that shape the way they think about themselves and the world. Our mindset affects the way we behave, our outlook on life, and our attitude towards everything going on around us.

It’s important to understand that your mindset doesn’t have to be set in stone; you can shift your attitudes and beliefs any time you want.

Two different mindsets

There are two kinds of mindsets: growth mindsets and fixed mindsets.

Someone with a growth mindset is likely to:

  • welcome challenges and new things

  • learn from the people around them

  • understand that in order to get what they want, they’ve got to work hard

  • recognise failure as an opportunity to learn

  • acknowledge their own weaknesses, and focus on improving them.

Someone with a fixed mindset is likely to:

  • not deal very well with setbacks

  • try to hide their mistakes

  • believe that their abilities are limited to one area

  • engage in negative self-talk by saying things like, ‘I can’t do it’

  • avoid challenges.

How to ditch a fixed mindset

If you want to be open to learning new things in life, to embrace challenges head-on and to treat setbacks as learning experiences, you need to have a growth mindset. Check out these suggestions for changing the way you look at things:

1. I can’t do it … yet. The way we talk to ourselves impacts what we actually achieve. If you tell yourself that you can do something, chances are that you will, even if you don’t accomplish it straightaway.

2. Challenge accepted. Next time someone throws an unfamiliar or tricky task your way, don’t throw it back at them – embrace it. Even if you stuff up along the way, you can be sure that you’ll do better the next time.

3. Do some hard yakka. You’re unlikely to reach your goals if you don’t put in the effort to match. Work hard, even a small bit at a time, and you’ll be able to enjoy the rewards.

4. Ain’t no such thing as perfect. Don’t let the idea of perfection get in the way of getting things done. Remember: perfection is an illusion. What matters most is your effort.

5. Be open to new ways of doing things. You can never be sure of how something is going to pan out if you’ve never tried it before. Before assuming that something will never work, ask yourself: ‘What do I have to do to make this work?’

6. Don’t let setbacks get you down. Setbacks don’t mean you’ve failed, just that you need to try a different approach. Take feedback from the experience on board, and make changes accordingly. You can learn just as much from a mistake as you can from success.

What if I’m really struggling?

If you’re having issues changing your mindset, have a chat to someone you trust about it, such as a friend, teacher or counsellor. They may be able to help you understand what’s going on and figure out how to improve things.

What can I do now?

  • The next time you’re presented with a new challenge, be brave and go for it!

  • Try to identify how you characterise yourself, and ask a trusted friend if they think your perception matches the reality.

  • Learn more about self-talk and self-awareness.