According to Carol Dweck, author of the book Mindset, there are two fundamental types: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.

Folks with a fixed mindset believe that:

  • Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you cannot change.
  • You can learn new things but cannot really change how intelligent you are.
  • You are a certain kind of person and not much can be done to change that.
  • You can do things differently but the important part of who you are cannot really change.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point.

These folks believe that:

  • No matter how much intelligence you have you can always change considerably.
  • You can change substantially how intelligent you are.
  • No matter what kind of person you are you can always change substantially.
  • You can always change basic things about who you are at every level.
A growth mindset creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment and for health and well being.
Developing a growth mindset requires enormous strength. How do you develop the mental strength to achieve this level of flexibility and malleability in your thinking? Articles like Cheryl Connors, in Forbes, titled  ‘Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid‘ come to mind as a point of reference worth exploring.  In the article Cheryl says mentally strong people don’t:


1.    Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. You don’t see mentally strong people feeling sorry for their circumstances or dwelling on the way they’ve been mistreated. They have learned to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, and they have an inherent understanding of the fact that frequently life is not fair. They are able to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness and gratitude for the lessons learned. When a situation turns out badly, they respond with phrases such as “Oh, well.” Or perhaps simply, “Next!”

There is no doubt that we must take responsibility for how we think about the circumstances in our lives that unfold unsatisfactorily. But is it realistic to think that to do that does not require some period of sadness or mourning of the loss of the opportunity?  Dogs lick their wounds to heal. Human beings are designed to feel.

2. Give Away Their Power. Mentally strong people avoid giving others the power to make them feel inferior or bad. They understand they are in control of their actions and emotions. They know their strength is in their ability to manage the way they respond.

People, these days, treat others, far too often, pretty poorly. They make promises they don’t follow through on. They offer help and never deliver.  They offer jobs and opportunities that never materialize.  When these things occur how can it be that someone is not to feel as though they lost some of their power- at least temporarily?  Allow yourself time to work through these feelings and then find an appropriate way to respond. Fierce Conversation with that individual may be your best way to restore trust and build the relationships instead of simply walking away- which is far easier.

3.    Shy Away from Change. Mentally strong people embrace change and they welcome challenge. Their biggest “fear,” if they have one, is not of the unknown, but of becoming complacent and stagnant. An environment of change and even uncertainty can energize a mentally strong person and bring out their best.

Not every situation in life requires action or change. Sometimes we need to use our intuition to recognize that we need to sit still, or move slowly to achieve the results we want. Sometimes change disrupts innovation and brings unnecessary chaos into a situation that simply is a slow bake.

4. Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control. Mentally strong people don’t complain (much) about bad traffic, lost luggage, or especially about other people, as they recognize that all of these factors are generally beyond their control. In a bad situation, they recognize that the one thing they can always control is their own response and attitude, and they use these attributes well.

Agreed. Leave the petty things behind. They just clutter up your mind.

5. Worry About Pleasing Others. Know any people pleasers? Or, conversely, people who go out of their way to dis-please others as a way of reinforcing an image of strength? Neither position is a good one. A mentally strong person strives to be kind and fair and to please others where appropriate, but is unafraid to speak up. They are able to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset and will navigate the situation, wherever possible, with grace.

What about servant leadership? I would sure like to meet a few more servant leaders.  I am personally tired of  “where appropriate” people. What are we on this earth for? To be of service to others and truly help another human being is the greatest success any one of us can have.

6. Fear Taking Calculated Risks. A mentally strong person is willing to take calculated risks. This is a different thing entirely than jumping headlong into foolish risks. But with mental strength, an individual can weigh the risks and benefits thoroughly, and will fully assess the potential downsides and even the worst-case scenarios before they take action.

Fear and calculated risks are like oil and vinegar. Each one has to be dealt with separately before they can be thrown together into one growth opportunity. When we are afraid, our ability to think rationally flies out the window. When we are able to accept and understand our emotions we then can apply rational logic to our decision making. Emotions must be managed first for logic to rule.

7. Dwell on the Past. There is strength in acknowledging the past and especially in acknowledging the things learned from past experiences—but a mentally strong person is able to avoid miring their mental energy in past disappointments or in fantasies of the “glory days” gone by. They invest the majority of their energy in creating an optimal present and future.

Our memories and the patterns those memories create in our thinking can guide us to new discoveries and to deeper understanding of ourselves. New innovations come from obsessions and obsessions can often feel a whole lot like ‘miring’ when you are deep into them. Allow yourself a set amount of time to invest into rehashing the past and then have the discipline to extract what is valuable from it and begin to use it. If the use of it leads you to more reflection in the past then so be it. Don’t fight your obsessions just find a way to use them for progress.

8. Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over. We all know the definition of insanity, right? It’s when we take the same actions again and again while hoping for a different and better outcome than we’ve gotten before. A mentally strong person accepts full responsibility for past behavior and is willing to learn from mistakes. Research shows that the ability to be self-reflective in an accurate and productive way is one of the greatest strengths of spectacularly successful executives and entrepreneurs.

Our blind spots don’t make us insane. They make us blind. If you develop the mindset of a whole brain thinker you will begin to put yourself in a position where you will see increasingly more clearly.


9. Resent Other People’s Success. It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Mentally strong people have this ability. They don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed (although they may take close notes on what the individual did well). They are willing to work hard for their own chances at success, without relying on shortcuts.

Could not agree more. However, what is left unsaid is how to deal with jealousy. Jealousy can eat the foundation of years of work and is an under addressed challenge humans face in building dynamic relationships, for the long haul, with others today.

10. Give Up After Failure. Every failure is a chance to improve. Even the greatest entrepreneurs are willing to admit that their early efforts invariably brought many failures. Mentally strong people are willing to fail again and again, if necessary, as long as the learning experience from every “failure” can bring them closer to their ultimate goals.

In my last business, I did not have a full time HR person so I decided to be the initial screen for possible new hires. I have reviewed thousands of resumes and can say that every person who has experienced a failure, of any magnitude, has had a period of recovery that by all appearances might look like they gave up or stagnated. Failing fast is important, but usually those failures are incremental. Enough of them will amass a sense of overall failure and at some point, as human beings, we are bound to say uncle and quit. I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving failure a rest and giving yourself some time to sort it all out so you can get up and start failing fast again. And yet, so often the reasons we are failing is because others are not helping us even a little bit towards the goals we have.  Maybe we would all fail a little less if everyone did all they could to lend a helping hand.

11. Fear Alone Time. Mentally strong people enjoy and even treasure the time they spend alone. They use their downtime to reflect, to plan, and to be productive. Most importantly, they don’t depend on others to shore up their happiness and moods. They can be happy with others, and they can also be happy alone.

I think mentally strong people spend too much time alone and too much time reflecting, planning and being productive. How about making time to play more?  We need human contact. We need to get away from our phones, computers and from technology and actually enjoy each others company a whole lot more often. Reflection, planning and productivity happens a whole lot faster when we are having fun and building friendships with new people.

12. Feel the World Owes Them Anything. Particularly in the current economy, executives and employees at every level are gaining the realization that the world does not owe them a salary, a benefits package and a comfortable life, regardless of their preparation and schooling. Mentally strong people enter the world prepared to work and succeed on their merits, at every stage of the game.

It is true that the world is not fair and that the world does not owe you anything. And yet, there is something incredibly sad to me- and not strength producing- to think that this is the only way we can think about our lives successfully. Reliance on other human beings does leave us with expectations. Without being vulnerable enough to rely on others how would we get anywhere in this world?  While the ‘world’ may not owe you anything, those you trust do. You placed trust in them for a reason and it is not unacceptable to have an expectation that they will deliver what they promised and to hold them accountable.

13. Expect Immediate Results. Whether it’s a workout plan, a nutritional regimen, or starting a business, mentally strong people are “in it for the long haul”. They know better than to expect immediate results. They apply their energy and time in measured doses and they celebrate each milestone and increment of success on the way. They have “staying power.” And they understand that genuine changes take time.

We all do need a growth mindset.  We need to build a mindset where we believe that our most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work- which requires the endurance of a lifetime.


About the Author 

This article was written by Lisa Canning. Lisa Canning is the founder of Lisa’s Clarinet Shop, IAEOU, the Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship (IAE) and Entrepreneur the Arts. And now Learning Flies too. See more of Entrepreneur the Arts for incredible information on entrepreneurship.

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