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Choosing Between A Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

Oct 20, 2020
(updated: Dec 5, 2022)
Max 5 min read

What if your mindset determines your success or failure? That's what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck believes. According to Dweck, our perspective can play a significant role in deciding achievements and success. Our mindset refers to whether we think our qualities like intelligence and talent are rigid or variable traits. That's what Dweck calls a fixed mindset vs. growth mindset. But, could developing one over the other help drive your freelance career? 

What is a Fixed Mindset?

People with a fixed mindset believe certain qualities like intelligence and talent are traits that cannot change. Those with a fixed mindset become more concerned with fear that they might not live up to expectations. They are likely to believe that these fixed qualities alone contribute to their success, and there's no need to go the extra mile or put additional effort into reaching their goals. 

The best way to understand the fixed mindset definition is to use a classic example. Someone with this mindset usually says, "I just don’t know about social media marketing. That's just me. I never learned about it and now it’s too late." They believe that their fixed qualities only allow them to live up to some expectations, and that effort is not required to move past these limitations.

choosing mindset

Fixed Mindset Pros and Cons

While Dweck focuses more on the disadvantages of having a fixed mindset, some research points to some benefits. The first instance is in regards to sexual orientation. Those who accept their sexual orientation and understand this is who they are, versus thinking they should change who they are is a healthier mindset overall. The other instance is aging. While you must know you can be healthier with exercise and diet, those who become obsessed with the idea of changing their bodies to maintain extreme youth often develop body dysmorphia and an overall unhealthy relationship with aging. 

On the other hand, the cons of a fixed mindset are quite noticeable. Those with this mindset get defensive against challenges, ignore constructive criticism, feel threatened by others' success, and often live short of their potential by self-sabotaging their progress along the way.

It's common for them to miss opportunities because they downgrade their potential and don't believe they can grow, learn, and gain experience. 

This is why they'll often pass on applying to a new job that calls for years of experience or not consider themselves worthy of a promotion at work. People with a fixed mindset might even abort pursuing a career path that interests them because they "lack" what it takes to succeed.

What is the Growth Mindset?

Alternatively, people with a growth mindset believe that qualities like intelligence and talent can grow over time with effort and experience. Those with a growth mindset learn to explore at an early age; they promote new experiences and enjoy embracing new challenges. Instead of looking at their mistakes as setbacks, they assume these as learning experiences that can help them get closer to their potential.

To use the previous example, someone with this mindset would say, "I'm a constantly evolving work in progress. I'm still learning." They believe that putting in the effort to learn and deepening their understanding of their qualities is well worth the trouble and helps them work towards their possible potential, whatever that is for them. Instead of limitations, they see opportunities. 

growth mindset

Growth Mindset Pros and Cons

Of course, Dweck and others praise the benefits of developing a growth mindset. From an early age, teaching this mindset can help people understand that they can unleash their full potential with the right guidance and effort. 

Those with a growth mindset are not concerned with looking smart; instead, their focus is learning something new, embracing challenges, and achieving more. Even if they have low self-esteem, their mindset pushes them to throw themselves into difficult tasks, and most importantly, stick with them, even if they fail. 

But still, a growth mindset can be harmful as well. It's common for those with this mindset to obsess over effort rather than analyzing the strategies they're using -- this is particularly common among adults. When this happens, they don’t stop to study why they’re not moving forward, instead, they continue pursuing a fake sense of growth that might lead nowhere.

Additionally, there's a hidden disadvantage that is not as promoted -- having a fake growth mindset. This is becoming increasingly common among students, so-called leaders, and entrepreneurs as they base the idea of their perspective on what they read on blogs or books. Just because someone claims they have a growth mindset doesn’t mean their actions correspond to this.

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset: Is One Better for Freelancing?

To be successful, particularly as a freelancer, we need to be aware of both. Very few of us possess a pure growth mindset; we usually tap into one or the other depending on the context. It’s important to recognize when our fixed mindset is holding us back from taking new challenges professionally, from becoming defensive against negative feedback, and from not pursuing new challenges.

However, that fixed mindset can be helpful for freelancers, particularly for new ones. Our fixed mindset does draw some limitations, but in cases, these limitations can prevent us from taking on a project that’s beyond our skills and experience. While it might be an exciting challenge, if we don’t possess the skills at this moment, we might do our professional self more harm than good, while leaving the client with a negative view of our work.

Thinking long-term, working towards a growth mindset should become our goal. Ideally, we’ll start fostering this new type of mindset and slowly but steadily start going after bigger challenges. We’ll be more open to accept criticism, seek new challenges, and learn new things. Having this mindset can help us expand our portfolio of services and help us widen our network of potential clients. If you’re a writer for example, maybe you’ll learn about social media; a designer might start learning how to code, and so forth.

There's no secret sauce to become a successful freelancer. As far as the mindsets discussion, we’ll be more successful if we can understand them separately and tap into one or the other when best fitted.

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