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Five Ways to Identify You’re in the Fixed Mindset

Imagine that your lifelong dream is to be a novelist. When you were a child, you used to whip out short stories for friends and family members and were told time and time again how talented you are. Throughout your teen and college years, you continued to write and hone your craft, though you avoided sending anything out to agents or publishers until it was perfect. Finally, you’ve realized it’s now or never, and you send out the first three chapters of the novel that was ten years in the making, along with a query letter, to five different agents. You receive rejection letters from all five. How do you react? This probably sounds like a question that cannot be answered unless you have specifically been in this situation of being a frustrated writer whose dreams have just been dealt a heavy blow. Right? Well that’s just not the case. The truth is, if you know enough about mindset, you’d be able to predict almost exactly how you’d react in this situation. Mindset, you ask? What do you mean by mindset? According to Carol S. Dweck in her life-changing best seller Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, all of us think, act and react based on whether we have a fixed or a growth mindset. Yes, there are only two. And yes, it makes a huge difference which one you have. Those with a fixed mindset believe that talents and abilities are inherent and cannot be changed (i.e. I’m smart or I’m not, I’m a good writer or I’m not, etc.) while those with a growth mindset believe that almost any talent or ability can be cultivated and improved upon (I may not be a great writer now, but if I continue to practice, read and ask for feedback, I can get better and better). If you’re in the fixed mindset, your reaction to the above scenario may look a bit like this: You get very upset by the rejection and are afraid to tell anyone about it (especially your mother, who continues to tell everyone she meets that you’re the next Stephen King). You tell yourself that the agents just didn’t understand the scope of your work or how unique it was, and that’s why they rejected it. Instead of working to improve it, asking others for constructive feedback and re-submitting, you put the manuscript aside and start focusing on other endeavors. Now let’s look at this from the growth mindset: Yes, you’re upset by the rejection, but you realize that the agents may have some valuable feedback that could help you improve. You reach out to each of them and ask if they’d be willing to tell you why they rejected your query and what you could do to improve it. Four do not respond, but one does and offers some very helpful tips. You take them to heart and use them to improve your query and your sample pages, then submit to five new agents. I think you can easily see which mindset makes for happier, more successful people. We all probably want to be in the growth mindset now, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Most who are stuck in the fixed mindset are there because it once served them well or protected them from hurt and rejection. Not only might they be resistant to changing their mindset out of fear, but they might not even know they have this mindset in the first place! If you’re wondering whether you might be hindered by a fixed mindset, see if you identify with any of the following statements: When someone offers me a suggestion on how to improve, I immediately feel like I’m not doing something good enough. Having to put a lot of effort into something means I must not have enough inherent talent in that area to succeed. I quickly lose interest in or get frustrated by a task if I feel it is too difficult. I tend to not pursue my true talents because I don’t feel I could take it if someone told me I was not as good as I have always thought I am. I’ve ended relationships in the past because they were too much work. If I’m really meant to be with someone, our relationship should be easy and enjoyable. Any of these sound familiar? Does it surprise you that these feelings may stem from being stuck in a fixed mindset? If you found yourself nodding your head (or feeling a little queasy) as you read these ‘warning signs’, I invite you to read my next two article on how those in the growth mindset face challenges and tips on moving from a fixed to a growth mindset. I also highly recommend reading Ms. Dweck’s fascinating book.


Trish Cody has over 18 years of experience consulting with some of the world’s top Fortune 500 Companies. Today, as an ICF and iPEC Certified Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, Trish works with clients to uncover their core values and beliefs, clearly see how they are showing up in their behaviors and impacting their success, and to shift their thinking to naturally attract positivity and success. For more information, visit

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