Living Christianity Blog

Growth Mind-Set, Fixed Mind-Set and the Godly Mind-Set

Understanding an educational theory about mind-sets can give us insight into our approach to change in our spiritual life.

In the realm of educational psychology, there are different theories when it comes to learning. One such concept is the idea of fixed mind-set vs. growth mind-set. These two mind-set approaches were coined by Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist.

What are growth mind-set and fixed mind-set?

Fixed mind-set is when a person has an approach to learning that places limitations upon himself or herself in order to avoid failure.

For example, generally if you ask adults if they can draw a picture of a basic object, most will quickly say, “No. I’m not an artist. I’m not good at that.”

But when you ask young students if they can draw the same thing, most kids will immediately grab some crayons and start trying to draw it, not giving failure or doubt a second thought.

As a former teaching assistant in an elementary school, I saw a mix of both of these mind-sets. Many of my young students were quite confident in their own abilities and were willing to try new things. However, I also had students who quickly gave up or didn’t try new tasks because they feared failure or felt it was just too hard.

How we view perceived failure

The biggest difference between these two mind-sets is how a person views perceived failure.

Proverbs 24:16 says, “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again.”

We all sin (Romans 3:23). We all fall at times. We are working toward perfection, but none of us are perfect yet (Hebrews 6:1). Proverbs 24:16 points out that the righteous may fall not just once, but multiple times, but each time he or she will get up and keep trying.

The fact that we make mistakes is not the final determination of whether we are righteous or not. No one would ever be deemed righteous if the requirement was that we never ever sinned. Thankfully, Jesus Christ made it possible for our sins to be wiped away and for us to be given a fresh start. What God is really interested in is how we react to our mistakes. That’s how our character is shown. 

Do we dismiss certain sins in our lives because we assume we might fail if we try to overcome them? Do we recognize spiritual issues in our lives but choose to ignore them because it would require accountability, change, repentance and shifting our standards?

The fixed mind-set says: I can’t achieve this goal. It is impossible. It is too hard. I will stay in my comfort zone with goals I know I can accomplish so I can feel successful.

Dr. Dweck states: “[In] the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself.”

Growth mind-set says: Give me time, and though I may not be able to achieve this goal right now, I’ll work toward this goal in the future and make improvements.

“In [growth mind-set]—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself,” says Dr. Dweck.

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein had a growth mind-set.

Our attitude toward problems and trials

How does all of this apply to our attitude toward problems or trials we face in life? What about obstacles that seem to threaten our faith?

Our thinking should be an attitude of growth mind-set, but beyond that, it should be one of a godly growth mind-set.

With a godly growth mind-set, we don’t give ourselves the credit. The growth mind-set might tend to think that we alone are responsible for our successes. But Christians understand that God gives us strength. This godly growth mind-set says that we can grow, we can overcome, but through a strength beyond ourselves. It’s not by our own strength, but by the strength God gives us.

A godly mind-set says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Do we place limits upon God because we assume that something we ask is too hard for Him to accomplish? Luke 1:37 states, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Though it may have been years since art class in elementary school, a godly growth mind-set can help us not only in a classroom or professional setting, but also in our spiritual lives. It can help us change our outlook on sins and recognize that each time we fall is a time we can learn to rely on God, learn something new, change and rise again.

To learn more, read “How to Grow in Faith.”

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