Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fixed vs. Growth

For the upcoming fall, I'm going to be a peer mentor for the freshman coming into BYU. I've been doing training for the past few weeks where they give all the peer mentors articles to read and sometimes a video to watch. Last week we had to read an excerpt from Dr. Carol S. Dweck's book Mind.

In this excerpt she talks about success and how our mindset about it can determine how far we go in life. Dr. Dweck says that there are two kinds of mindsets: fixed and growth. In a fixed mindset, one believes that the first results are the final ones. If you're smart, you're smart, and if not, nothing will change that. They will often stay at a level they're comfortable with, play it safe. Rather than go into a class with more rigorous curriculum, they'll stay where they know that they'll succeed. They don't want to look stupid in front of others. The other mindset is the growth mindset. These people believe that everyone has the capability to grow and become better. They strive for what's difficult in order to become excellent at what they do. They don't see a failure as their set path in life. They look for the solution to make them better. As a result, they grow.

This really made me consider what kind of mindset I have. Dr. Dweck says that most people have a mix of mindsets, and I believe that I do. But now that I'm aware of this, I want to adapt a mindset of growth. Because, we all know it, writing is a tough business to get into. I haven't heard of one person who wrote a book in one draft, sent a query letter to their top agent of choice, and was signed on the next day as a client, then in eighteen months became a NYT bestselling author. More often authors talk about that first book that couldn't get an agent, and the dozens of agents that rejected their work, and the book that got published, but was never made into a blockbuster movie.

I want a growth mindset. I want to be able to look at all of these challenges in the eye and stare them down. I want to be able to hone my craft, take on the rejections, and get better from them. I feel like I'm just barely putting my foot on this path, but at least now I know how I want to walk down it.


  1. Hey Jenna - great post! That's so interesting about fixed vs growth mindsets. I think all writers, or all creative people, need to be of growth mindset. It's in our blood. Why else would we try to succeed in the uphill battle of writing? It's the people who think about writing but tell themselves that it's impossible who are of fixed mindset.

    And there was an author who wrote a book in 1 draft, found an agent on the first try, and months later wound up on the NYT bestseller list: Stephanie Meyer

  2. I want a growth mindset too!

  3. Jenna - this is a wonderful post. Mind over matter is what my mom used to say. I think it also ties into whether or not you are on optimist. My guess is that growth mindset folks tend to be more optimistic. I too want to be more growth oriented!

  4. I feel that I definitely tend to lean towards fixed. When I know I am doing something I like, I tend to root myself in it, but I don't think it would hurt anyone to move closer to the growth side of the spectrum...

  5. Jenna, you might be interested in this interview with Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. http://www.thedaysofyore.com/jennifer-egan/ Her story is a classic (perhaps even extreme) example of the growth mindset applied to writing. She says that in her early days, her writing was so bad that her friends stopped returning her calls...but she kept at it.