November 20


What is a Growth Mindset?

By Harry Heijligers

November 20, 2017

Growth Mindset

This article is one in a series of Growth Mindset Hacks. Today I answer the question: What is a Growth Mindset?

As said in this article having a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset, has numerous advantages for you. And the good news is that you too can develop a growth mindset. Let's find out what a growth mindset is and what it can do for you:


What do you think to have Oprah Winfrey, David Beckham, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Steve Jobs in common? Like all successful people, they all have a Growth Mindset instead of a Fixed Mindset. Someone with a Growth Mindset is highly successful because he knows what it takes to achieve goals. Spoiler alert: this means doing the hard work and dealing with obstacles in a constructive way. Do you want to learn how you can change your Fixed Mindset into a Growth Mindset and become more successful and happy, then read on for the tips below:

In the movie As Good as it Gets, Jack Nicholson plays a misanthropic and obsessive-compulsive novelist, who suddenly realizes that his life will never be any better than the miserable state it is in now. “What if it is as good as it gets?” he realizes himself. That’s a perfect example of someone with a Fixed Mindset. Someone with a Fixed Mindset accepts the situation he is in right now as the best he can ever achieve in life. He thinks that life will never be any better than it is right now.

But that’s not true.

Life is continuously changing, and people can change too, even for the better. Realizing that you have the power to change and to improve your life on any given day, will set you up for success. Only when you believe that there is always room for improvement and that it is up to you to realize that, you will be motivated to take action. The action which is needed to change the quality of your life for the better. Doing nothing is no option here! You can change your life for the better if you are willing to take action. That’s what a Growth Mindset provides you. A Growth Mindset provides you with the attitude and motivation to take action because you believe that you can improve yourself and your life’s situation so that you ultimately will be more successful and happy. Don’t worry if you have a Fixed Mindset right now because you too can change this into a growth mindset. I will show you in the articles you can read here.

Do you have a Fixed Mindset?

If you have a Fixed Mindset, you believe that intelligence can’t be changed. This way of thinking leads to a desire to look smart. However, you avoid challenges and obstacles, and you tend to give up easily. You see the effort as pointless. Why bother? And you ignore constructive criticism. Furthermore, you feel threatened by the success of others.

With a Fixed Mindset, you achieve much less than what you are really capable of.

So, do you have a fixed mindset? Well, I hope not, for you. I can’t blame you because I have suffered from a Fixed Mindset myself. In fact, I’m still recovering from a Fixed Mindset!

Do you have Growth Mindset?

According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, our potential is unknown. It is impossible to foresee what you could accomplish in five years from now with passion and training and by doing the hard work. Your level of achievement in a few years’ time is not dependent on your intelligence. It is dependent on whether you have a Fixed Mindset or a Growth Mindset.

A Growth Mindset is the belief that you can grow. You believe that intelligence can be developed. This way of thinking leads to a desire to learn. You embrace challenges. You persist in the face of obstacles. If you have a Growth Mindset, you see the effort as a path to mastery. You accept constructive criticism, and you use it to your advantage. When you have a Growth Mindset, you feel inspired by and learn from the success of others. As a result, you will fulfill your optimal potential.

So, do you have Growth Mindset? I hope you have a Growth Mindset because that would mean that you find success in doing your best, learning and improving. You find setbacks motivating, and you take charge of the processes that bring success.

Your future is not carved out in stone; It is malleable

When I was in University, I attended psychology classes. I learned that psychology was formed over the period of the last 100 years or so by experimenting and testing. In fact, every statement done in psychology was driven by statistics. For example, a psychologist state that people with a Fixed Mindset believe that their intelligence can’t be developed. He would only make such a statement after having researched hundreds of people and after having found the same characteristics over and over again. I concluded that whatever a psychologist says, it must be true because every statement was scientifically proven.

At the beginning of my career, I was asked to do a psychological test, which was a sort of personality test. I was certain that the outcome of this test would describe me as the person I was and always would be. Psychologists can’t be wrong, right? The result of the test would be as good as it gets.

How stupid could I be!! My conclusion was not true of course. The test result was only a reflection of me at that moment in time. But it did for sure not mean that I would not be able to develop myself.

It is like the grades you get at school. Do they define you? No! They are only a reflection of the state of your knowledge at that time, certainly not something to live up to.

So, do not believe that your qualities are carved in stone. This belief would create a self-fulfilling prophecy of you proving yourself over and over again as I did to myself. Unfortunately! Instead, start to believe that everything is mutable. Even your brain changes every second of the day in form and nature. So, everything is fluid. Nothing is set in stone. Every moment in time, you can start to make new choices leading to new results.

Never give up on your goals!

You can develop your basic qualities, even your basic personality, by cultivating your efforts. That’s what the Growth Mindset is about. Everyone is different. Everyone has a different background, innate talent, intellect and so on. And everyone can change. You can change and grow through experience.

Don’t quit and don’t give up on your way to achieve your goals. Sure, you will have your setbacks. An extreme example of someone with a Growth Mindset is Elon Musk. With his companies Tesla, Space X and The Boring Company, he had to deal with extreme setbacks continuously. Several times he experienced failures which cost him personally billions of dollars. But do you think that this would cause him to give up? No, because he has a Growth Mindset and he is learning from his failures. It is this Growth Mindset that will make you stand up after you have fallen and which will throw you right back in the race where you were before you fell. A Growth Mindset will motivate you to pursue your goals until you have completed them.

"People fail to achieve mastery not because they aren’t talented but because they aren’t disciplined."

- Daniel Pink

How Demosthenes conquered all obstacles in his life

A great example in history of someone with a Growth Mindset was Demosthenes. He was a Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens who lived from 384 to 322 BC. Demosthenes gave his first judicial speeches when he was 20, in which he argued persuasively to gain from his guardians what was left of his inheritance. This speech was his first success which would never have been achieved when Demosthenes would not have had a Growth Mindset. The reason is that he was born with a speech impediment, sickly and frail. Furthermore, his inheritance was stolen by his guardians. This inheritance was meant to pay for his tutors, but now he could not afford himself to get to school or get a tutor. So, Demosthenes was a poor fatherless child, very awkward and understood by no one. Someone with a Fixed Mindset would have accepted all these conditions as a given and settle for less and accept the fact that he would have a worthless life of no importance. But Demosthenes had a dream. He had an image of a great orator, a man he had once witnessed speaking at the court at Athens.

Demosthenes’ dream was to become also a great orator. Fortunately, Demosthenes had a Growth Mindset, so he knew that no matter where he was right now in his life, he always could change for the better if he was willing to put in the hard work to accomplish that. Demosthenes literally locked himself away underground. He had built a dugout for himself in which he would study and educate himself. He even shaved half his head so that he would be embarrassed to go outside, forcing himself to stay focused on his goal and not be distracted by the outside distractions. And when he did go out, it was to learn even more. Every moment, conversation or transaction was a way for him to improve his art. All his effort was aimed to one goal: to face his enemies in court and to get back what had been taken from him. And he eventually succeeded in doing that. Not only that, he would become one of the greatest orators of his time. Not bad for someone with a speech impediment! But this was only possible by having a Growth Mindset first.

A Growth Mindset which leads Demosthenes to develop his own strange methods for developing his speaking abilities. Like for example filling his mouth with pebbles and then practice speaking for hours. Demosthenes rehearsed full speeches into the wind while running up steep hills.

Do you see how passionate he was to overcome his speech disabilities and to become a great orator? It is the same passion Sylvester Stallone performed in the famous Rocky movies as the boxer Ricky Balboa. And this extreme passion leads to extreme actions and extreme results. And this extreme passion, you can develop by developing your Growth Mindset.

Your future is malleable

Anything you set your mind to, you can develop and become good at. It is not going to be easy, and it is not going to be fast, but the willingness to put in the work is what is going to separate you from everybody else.

See yourself as malleable. See yourself as capable of becoming anything you want to become. The only thing you have to do is to find in yourself the discipline to stick with it long enough.

"Perseverance is a great substitute for talent."

- Steve Martin


A growth mindset is one of the best things you could invest in. It will make you happier and more successful. And you too have the possibility to develop a growth mindset. Like to know more? Read the Growth Mindset Hacks on this page.

And until we meet …

Live fully, be awesome,

Harry Heijligers

P.S. Please take a moment to share the insights on having a growth mindset. Everyone should have the chance to change his mindset for the better, don’t you think?

Thank you!

Harry Heijligers

About the author

Harry Heijligers has more than 25 years of experience as a Project Manager and more than 17 years of experience as an NLP Trainer. He has a Dutch blog about NLP here:
If you'd like to know about the Smart Leadership Hut, please check this: Smart Leadership Hut.

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