What is the Growth Mindset?

The ‘Growth Mindset’ as it has come to be known, is the brainchild of social and developmental psychologist Dr Carol Dweck, who began studying attitudes regarding failure, talent and its perceived origins among young children in schools. Fast forward thirty years from that initial study and a published book on the subject, ‘Mindset’ selling over 800,000 copies, – and the Growth Mindset idea has been adopted by companies big and small. It has, of course, also been of interest to schools across the country, due to its potential to empower learners from an early age.

“Am I talented?”

This is a question that every child and teenager is sure to ask at some point due to their inherent insecurity. Understandable in such a competitive world! It is true that almost every child has a natural proclivity towards a particular skill – it could be practical, creative, intellectual or academic – as a result of their natural curiosities, and of course the environment of their upbringing.

The Fixed Mindset in a nutshell

To understand a growth mindset, we first need to explore the opposite – a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset is founded on the ideology that natural talents are enough. That you are ‘gifted’ in one or a few skills and can make a success of life at school and work based on what you already have – such as high intelligence, or perhaps exceptional social skills that you can use to achieve your goals. Dr Dweck argues that this is a limiting mindset that can hinder people’s ability to reach their potential. She suggests that thinking in this way can lead people to conclude: ‘If I’m good enough now, why try hard to improve?’

The Growth Mindset

The Growth Mindset is founded on the observations made by Dr Dweck in her original studies of young children. She noticed that children who perceive learning as a goal (as opposed to those who self-identify as ‘gifted’), are likely to exert real effort and work into their classwork and homework. This in turn leads to greater achievement over the long term. The growth mindset crosses class divides, wealth divides and country lines.

To briefly sum up the findings: individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).

The Growth Mindset is a combination of a belief-system, and logical goal-oriented planning. It takes the idea that while we can still be proud of our achievements, there are always higher accomplishments to aim for. Ultimately, a Growth Mindset can lead to unstoppable growth!

How to give your students the best chance to adopt a Growth Mindset

Penstripe has designed a state-of-the-art growth mindset diary to introduce the concept to teachers and pupils, complemented by custom notepads and personalised notebooks that can be customised to suit any school – find out more about our customised student planners!


“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
Thomas Edison

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Winston Churchill

“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”
Frank A. Clark

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning to sail my ship.”
Louisa May Alcott

“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”
Joseph Chilton Pearce

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Albert Einstein

“An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a narrow field.”
Niels Bohr

“The best way to treat obstacles is to use them as stepping-stones. Laugh at them, tread on them, and let them lead you to something better.”
Enid Blyton


https://profiles.stanford.edu/carol-dweck | Retrieved 19/09/19

https://profiles.stanford.edu/carol-dweck?tab=publications | Retrieved 19/09/19

https://hbr.org/2014/11/how-companies-can-profit-from-a-growth-mindset | Retrieved 19/09/19

https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means | Retrieved 19/09/19