There are two main mindsets we can navigate life with: growth and fixed. Having a growth mindset is essential for success. In this post, we explore how to develop the right mindset for improving your intelligence.

Carol Dweck, the psychologist who identified the two core mindsets, was initially intrigued by why some children shrink back from challenges and give up in the face of obstacles, while others avidly seek challenges and become even more invested in the face of obstacles.

She boiled it down to one’s mindset and approach to any given challenge. A fixed mindset is the belief that you are born a certain way, with a certain amount of intelligence or a certain personality that you cannot change.

Meanwhile, a growth mindset is the belief that the traits that make you you, such as your intelligence, can be cultivated and changed through effort.

What is your mindset?

Read the statements below and decide which statement you agree with more.

A: “You have a certain amount of intelligence and you can’t really do much to change it.”

B: “You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.”

Statement A reflects a fixed mindset.

Statement B reflects a growth mindset.

People can have a mixture of growth and fixed mindsets but tend to lean towards one
or the other.

We don’t just have either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. These are not black and
white concepts!

For example, think about your beliefs about different abilities you have, such as “artistic talent” or “sports ability” or “business savvy,” or even personality traits like extraversion or cooperativeness.

Oftentimes, we can have a growth mindset in one ability and a fixed mindset in another. Sometimes we listen to our growth mindset. We say to ourselves, “You can do this!” and
“I’m not giving up!” Other times, our fixed mindset appears. It might be prompted by a mistake, a failure, or criticism from someone. We may think, “I’ll never be good at this” or “I’m not smart enough for this.”

Let’s do an activity.

Think about someone you know who embodies the fixed mindset. Think about how they’re very sensitive or anxious about being wrong or making mistakes. Think about how they’re always trying to prove themselves to others.

Did you ever wonder why they were this way? Perhaps, are you this way? Now you can begin to understand why. Now, think about someone you know who is skilled in the growth mindset–someone who believes and understands that qualities can be cultivated.

Think about how this person confronts obstacles or challenges. Think about the things they do to push themselves. What are some ways you might like to change or to push yourself?

The Bottom Line 

Here’s the bottom line: you can change your mindset. Specifically, you can challenge your fixed mindset to develop a stronger growth mindset.

When it comes to intelligence, remember that how smart you are is not set in stone. With learning and improvement plus a growth mindset to encourage you to keep going, you can tackle challenges and obstacles head on.


A fixed mindset is the belief that you are born a certain way and that you cannot change. A growth mindset is the belief that your intelligence can be cultivated through effort. Everyone has a mix of growth and fixed mindsets about different abilities.