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Courageous Goals – are we hard wired to believe? Fixed or Growth Mind-sets.


Psychologists have studied this area for many years and about 12 months ago I came across the work of Stanford University’s Carol Dweck, the psychologist behind the bookMindset: The New Psychology for Success. In this Dr Dweck proposes that we have one of two mindsets at any one time; fixed or growth.

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Someone with a fixed mind-set believes that talents and traits are fixed and unchangeable. People see being intelligent and being expert as extremely important. They feel the need to prove their intelligence or abilities to others. If someone is not good at something there is no point trying harder as their ability will not change. This mind-set gets in the way of learning. Challenges are seen as threatening. To the fixed mindset the idea of trying and failing is terrifying. Avoiding a challenge guarantees success in everything that is attempted.

A growth mind-set says that abilities and talents are cultivated through effort. This promotes taking on challenges and creates resilience in the face of obstacles. To a person in a growth mind-set failure is important because it highlights a problem that allows the individual to learn and develop. Dr Dweck is quoted as saying “…success is about stretching themselves. It’s about becoming smarter (and) effort is what makes you smart or talented.”

So when faced with a coachee who sees a courageous goal as impossible and fruitless, it may be because they are viewing this with a fixed mind-set. This means they are cynical, pessimistic and threatened. Maybe we need to approach coachees differently when in a fixed or growth mind-set. When in a fixed mind-set we need to support their small steps to success so that the goal is viewed as achievable.

Alternatively, we could write them off as incapable of ever achieving great things. However, I believe that anything is possible! Guess my mind-set…

Here is a great little video on You Tube by Matthew Metoyer on this   

There are lots of pseudo psychological tests on the web on optimism/pessimism and fixed/growth mind-sets. But I’d suggest view these with caution.

Post your thoughts on the Challenging Coaching Linked In group.

Get feedback from your coachees on your challenging coaching skills with the on-line 360 feedback tool.

One Response

  1. Hello

    This topic seems to be trending lately. I've read about it around somewhere, can't remember exactly where, but it caught my attention, and it did so here as well. As I understand, the growth mindset involves learning through making mistakes. I'd love to read more about it, can you point me to any direction?


    Richard Lane, durhamlane, specialising in sales training courses.


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