Growth vs. fixed mindset: Glass half empty? Then add more water


Flowers outside Maxwell Place, the university president’s house, begin to bloom on Friday, April 10, 2020, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Morgan Luster

The mind is the most powerful tool a human being has. It is the control center that is behind all thoughts, emotions and desires. Since this built-in instrument carries a great deal of information tailored to each individual, it is valuable to possess a growth mindset over a fixed one. 

Over the years, there have been a plethora of discussions about whether people should maintain a growth or fixed mindset. While those with a growth mindset believe that skills, talents and intelligence can progress and develop through practice and hard work, others with a fixed mindset feel that these abilities are unchangeable.  

A new trial or obstacle awaits college students every day as they are trying to navigate this ever-changing world. Given that these tribulations may seem impossible to defeat, they contribute to increasing wisdom that one can apply in the long run. 

For example, almost every college student has suffered through a strenuous course where the material seems impossible to understand and the professor never makes an ounce of sense. If they utilize a fixed mindset, a student may not even try because they believe that they are incapable of grasping the material. 

By way of this mindset, a student thinks that the material is far beyond their natural ability, so they refuse to even give one question a shot. However, a student with a growth mindset may embrace this newfound challenge and view it as an opportunity, whether they are naturally gifted in the subject or not.

An article by Mindsetworks discussed a study in which Dr. Carol Dweck and her colleagues conducted research on how a growth mindset can contribute to a student’s success. In Dweck’s research, she found that students who put in more time and effort because they believed that they had the ability to get smarter earned higher achievements. 

Dweck eventually coined the terms “growth and fixed mindset” after studying thousands of children. According to recent research studies on brain plasticity, the brain’s neural networks have the ability to grow and strengthen new connections. Through constant practice and developing new learning strategies, individuals are capable of increasing their neural growth.

In college, failure is inevitable, and setbacks are indefinite. Despite these losses, students hold the power of whether or not they can, and want, to be better in school. Nevertheless, it boils down to how much motivation and desire one maintains.

By developing a growth mindset, individuals can break pre-existing limitations and expand their skills beyond their natural capability. It is important to recognize that this type of mentality is a choice that one chooses to make everyday. Regardless, overcoming the fear of failure is not a simple task as it is a lifelong battle that is fought almost every day.

Though humans are born with innate talents, it would be an injustice to refuse to exercise these God-given abilities. No one is exempt from enduring the headaches that life may bring; however, one is more than capable of shifting their mindset. At the end of the day, life is a mental game that everyone is forced to play.