Like so many things, you can understand a growth mindset through its opposite — the fixed mindset.
Growth-minded people want to keep improving. They hunt down advice and criticism. They don’t try to fake their way through anything. They know the thrill of earning a compliment from their biggest skeptics. They know it’s all the failures that give success its flavor.
People with fixed mindsets say they’re interested in all these things, but they don’t mean it. Real growth is difficult.
They prefer to cheat, then congratulate themselves.
We’ve all met someone with an allergy to change. We also know how easy it is to get lost inside the labyrinth of your own ego. (It has so many dead ends). When someone retreats that far into themselves, there’s almost nothing you can do — except learn from their mistakes.
1. They praise themselves constantly.
Have you ever gotten trapped in a conversation where someone actually starts giving themselves compliments? Every single one of us has felt the temptation to sing our own praises to ward off insecurity. But when you actually hear someone else do it, you understand just how ridiculous it sounds. Sometimes you have to talk yourself up a little, but there’s something at stake like a job interview or a promotion.
Someone with a fixed mindset not only feels the need to treat their insecurity by bragging, they give into it every single day.
2. They speak in hyperbole.
The smallest wins become huge honors that prove how amazing they are. It’s like optimism on crack. They don’t need to work on their goals, because they create a reality where they’ve already achieved them.
3. They overreact to criticism.
To someone with a fixed mindset, criticism isn’t helpful. All it does is crack the beautiful alternate reality they’ve created.
Maybe you know someone who takes criticism so poorly, you’re actually afraid to give them any useful advice.
They either get angry, or they let loose an avalanche of justifications and explanations that make you regret saying anything. Nobody will mentor them, because they make it so difficult.
Which leads to the next problem…
4. They think they’re perfect.
If nobody ever criticizes you, that’s not necessarily a good thing. It could just mean you’ve scared away all the competent people in your life. When someone you admire criticizes you, it’s a positive sign. It means all the good stuff they said about you is probably true.
5. They’re always trying to wing it.
Some people are truly skilled in the art of improvisation. But even they sit down and prepare. They follow a process.
Not fixed-minded people. They think impromptu means having no plan whatsoever, and flying on genius alone.
6. They rehearse excuses.
I’ve listened to people with more privilege and opportunity than me blame their problems on the same dilemmas everyone else has to deal with. Growth-minded people know that circumstances make things harder, but they want to win despite those circumstances.
7. They love criticizing other people.
If you’re always criticizing someone else, you have no time to worry about yourself. People with fixed mindsets do this by instinct. They thrive on it. They think it makes them look smart.
8. They raise the bar for everyone else.
Someone with a fixed mindset cares a lot about whether or not other people meet their double standards. They confuse this with what growth-minded people do — holding themselves to high standards, and typically trying to give everyone else a break.
9. They impose their taste on everyone.
We all have our favorite bands and books, and pretty much everything else. There’s nothing wrong with talking about a movie you like, or gushing about Baby Yoda. The problem is when you start thinking your taste in entertainment is superior.
For someone with a fixed mindset, it’s not enough to enjoy what they like. Everyone else has to like it just as much.
This is where their self-worth comes from, external validation of their own subjective preferences.
10. They compare themselves to other people out loud.
It’s bad enough to do this in your head. And let’s be honest, we all do it to some degree. Something’s gone wrong with anyone who needs public affirmation of their superiority.
It’s a whole different level of insecurity.
11. They display their envy in public.
Someone with a fixed mindset puts their jealousy front and center. They criticize anyone who achieves what they want. People with growth mindsets don’t tolerate envy in themselves. They get invested in new projects, and force themselves to show support for others.
12. All they do is talk about their plans.
They don’t just announce their goals. They don’t look for accountability partners. They’re just running their mouth about the epic trilogy they’re going to sell to Random House.
13. They don’t follow directions.
Their way of doing something is always the right one, even if it takes them twice as long and never produces results.
14. They throw adult tantrums.
Someone with a fixed-mindset views anything less than your unwavering loyalty and support as a personal assault. When things don’t go their way, they react like they’re being attacked. The adult tantrum ranges from passive-aggressive remarks to full-blown meltdowns.
15. They act on impulse.
Someone with a fixed mindset lacks the emotional intelligence to question their own decision-making. They jump at the wrong opportunities and run screaming from the right ones.
They confuse the elegance of simplicity with the big empty promises of hacks and shortcuts. They’re always looking for the answer. They’re uncomfortable with uncertainty, so they’ll fake certainty.
Can fixed-minded people change?
They sure can. But it requires the following:
- Become aware of your attitudes.
- See how they’re holding you back.
- Let go of the idea of “a true self.”
- Define yourself through your actions.
- Accept that you’re never done learning.
When you commit to growth, all of a sudden life makes a lot more sense. You start to see why some people are further ahead of you, and you also feel more control over your future. You realize that traits like intelligence and talent aren’t just genetic, but something you can build.
Here’s one of the biggest truths you have to accept:
There will always be a gap between who you are, and who you want to be. Sometimes it’s small, and other times it’s big. You aren’t simply who you see yourself as. You aren’t even what other people see. You’re only what you do. And even that doesn’t last forever.