What’s wrong with a growth mindset?

I bet you have a growth mindset, dear reader. Rebels usually do; we love to learn and challenge the status quo. Growth often shows up in our top handful of core needs. 

But this whole idea of a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset, has set up a false binary. 

All of my clients know I love to play with binaries: this versus that, black versus white, left versus right. Whenever I notice one, I know it’s the red flag of a mental trap. It prompts me to stop and think whether these really are the only two options. 

Fixed mindset is positioned as a bad thing, and something to be avoided at all costs. We want to show people that we can grow and change and evolve. We try to avoid the implicit judgment in the idea that I am who I am. 

Oooh… this is a slippery slope. 

Yes, it’s important to learn new things and grow and evolve… to remember that I am empowered to take steps to develop my talents as I work towards something that really lights me up. 

But there’s a dark side to all this for Rebels.

I used to have an always-on growth mindset. As a lifelong chameleon, my ability to evolve and change was a point of pride. It also led me on a wild goose chase away from myself in order to find belonging and love. 

I carried two unquestioned assumptions:

1. I can be whatever you want me to be… even if it’s not authentic.

2. I’m a quick study and can learn anything… even if it doesn’t light me up. 

Pretty soon I had a wide array of talents and skills, and I’d utterly lost myself. I was living someone else’s life, dazzled by too many possibilities, with no idea how to prioritize or focus. I struggled with learning how to move through the world like everyone else, even though that wasn’t natural to my brain wiring; I beat myself up on a regular basis for this apparent failure.

In the past few years I’ve learned the third way between these two poles:

No, I can’t be anyone I want to be — I am who I am, with all my quirks, and proud of it. I choose to be strategic about where I spend my time, saying no to lots of learning opportunities that would stimulate growth in the wrong direction. AND I still have a growth mindset. It’s simply focused within the scope of who I am, how I’m wired, and what lights me up. 

Both/and, not either/or. Non-dual. Enjoyable, not overwhelming.

When we navigate this third way between growth and fixed, we discover that one of the unquestioned tenets of growth mindsets isn’t actually true: that we must have grit and struggle and striving in order to grow. 

Instead, I suspect it’s more about commitment, patience and perseverance on challenges chosen with discernment. Consider:

Does a rose need grit and struggle as it grows naturally towards the sun? And do we fault the rose for not simultaneously growing to become a sunflower and an oak tree? Of course not.

Just be yourself, and grow in the direction that warms and nourishes you…. patiently and naturally.

This is growth mindset made simple. 

One thought on “What’s wrong with a growth mindset?

Leave a Reply