Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset: a personal account

. 2 min read

Apologies for yet again writing an article that seems more like a personal blog post than anything generally remarkable or insightful. I could talk about this without a personal touch, but I think a real life example from my own life both conceptualizes the subject nicely and gives me an opportunity to retrace the ramifications of an interesting memory. So here goes. I'll call the other character in the story X to protect their privacy.

When I was 16, I decided to take the official Mensa admission test. Back then I was really into taking IQ tests and other tests that challenge your logical deduction skills so I thought Mensa would be another fun challenge. I checked online for the date of the next local test event. Turned out that there would be one a week later.

I got excited and right away told X about my decision to take the test. I also told them I now had one week to try to brush up my intelligence with fun exercises, like brushing my teeth with my left hand and taking a shower with my eyes closed. They looked at me and said, "no, that would skew the results. Don't you want to know how intelligent you are, as you are?"

They thought that any increase in my IQ, gained through practice, would not be real; that my new IQ would be "fake," the result of cheating.

I thought that any increase in my IQ, gained through practice, would be as real as the base IQ, because all IQ is gained through practice.

They thought that every person is born with an IQ that cannot be changed; I thought IQ is something you can train, like a muscle, through exercises (like the logical deduction tests I was into as a teenager).

People with a fixed mindset believe that you can't change your core characteristics, or your abilities or talents; that you are what you are based on the hand you're dealt at birth.

People with a growth mindset believe that you can change anything and everything about yourself, including your characteristics and talents and abilities - even IQ.

Which do you think do better in life? Those who believe that they can become better at anything they choose to, or those who believe they're stuck with what they have with no power to change?

I don't want to brag about my own success, but I do want to point out that X is your classic martyr with a victim mindset who thinks the world owes them for making them suffer all their life.

If you haven't yet embraced the growth mindset, I recommend you check it out. It might take some learning and getting used to, but in the end, I promise it'll be worth it.


P.S. For further exploring, here's an excellent article and a podcast episode about growth mindset vs. fixed mindset: