Have you heard the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset”?
They are in the air quite a bit these days.
To be honest, both phrases sound like the worst kind of corporate jargon. “Well, boss, if we shift from our outdated fixed mindset approach to leveraging a best practice by making a growth mindset a core competency, our ROI will skyrocket and we will find ourselves on the bleeding edge rather than boiling the ocean like we did last quarter. Think of the synergy!”
Yeah, we don’t really know what any of that means, either.
But as it would turn out, the fixed and growth mindset concepts have some relevance when it comes to thinking about mental health. Let’s take a look at both kinds of mindsets.
A Fixed Mindset Has the Wrong Focus
A person with a fixed mindset believes that certain essential characteristics that they possess cannot be changed. They believe that their intelligence, their talents, their personalities, and more simply are what they are—they can’t grow or evolve or change. Instead, they are “fixed.”
What is the result of this mindset? Once possible outcome is a tendency to believe they understand the full extent of what they can—and cannot—accomplish.
For example, if you take up the saxophone and discover you have some natural ability, you might decide to just get by on that talent. If your ability or talent is “fixed,” you might conclude that you are unlikely to significantly improve by practicing or listening to other players or by searching for the right combination of equipment to achieve a pleasing and personal sound.
Instead, you might look for opportunities to demonstrate your talent—a solo in a band concert, playing famous sax riffs (like this one performed by the late Raphael Ravenscroft) just to prove that you can, and the like.
It is probably pretty clear that this fixed mindset is unlikely to allow you to take your talent as a saxophonist and truly build on it.
That’s because the focus of a fixed mindset is on attributes you already have—rather on those you might develop.
The alternative? The growth mindset.
A Growth Mindset Is Focused On Possibility
A person with a growth mindset knows that change is not only possible but inevitable. With that in mind, they can use their energy, as the name of the mindset suggests, to grow.
Let’s get back on the bandstand with our saxophone. If you have a growth mindset, you will understand that your natural ability as a saxophone player is the floor—not the ceiling. As a musician with a growth mindset you will practice, try new things, talk with other musicians, and make sure your focus is on creativity and possibility. You may or may not develop into a world class player, but you absolutely will learn and grow and make connections throughout your creative journey.
What Does Any of This Have to Do With Mental Health?
You might be nodding along as you read because it seems clear that a growth mindset allows for more possibilities than a fixed mindset. But you also might be wondering what our story about a saxophone player has to do with your mental health.
Here’s the thing: If you are struggling with a mental health disorder and are approaching life with a fixed mindset, you might decide that your situation is what it is. You might conclude that your mental health disorder—whether it is depression, anxiety, a trauma-based disorder, or something else—is a fixed part of your personality and life. And if you believe your situation cannot be changed and cannot be improved, you are setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy and are likely to continue to struggle mightily with mental health issues.
But if you remind yourself that change is possible (and inevitable), you can harness that fact and begin to foster positive changes in your mental health—and in your life as a whole.
To put it another way: The fix for a fixed mindset is a growth mindset that embraces change, possibility, and the future.
Make Up Your Mind to Improve Your Mental Health
One of the most difficult things about many mental health disorders is that they have a way of convincing you that things cannot and will not get better. They encourage a fixed mindset—and that can be hard to overcome.
At Peak View Behavioral Health in Colorado Springs, we can help you shift your mindset so that you see and welcome possibilities for improvement. As you experience changes for the better, you can continue to build on them. When you make up your mind to pursue better mental health, we are ready to help you get started.