growth mindset dweck

I have been writing about the advantages of the right “bar exam mindset” for years. In fact, it has become a buzzword in the bar exam blog community.

But, I certainly can’t take credit for creating the word “mindset.” Nor can I take credit for one of the most amazing advances in mindset research of the last decade: the discovery of the fixed vs. the growth mindset.

The credit for discovering these two categories of mindset belongs to Carol Dweck, a world-renowned psychologist at Stanford University, who has spent decades researching success and achievement. She is the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

The fixed and growth mindset concepts are exceptionally helpful for understanding how you operate in the world and also how to confront obstacles, such as the bar exam.

Fixed Mindset

A fixed mindset is much like what you would expect.

With a fixed mindset, one believes one’s basic qualities, like talent, intelligence or ability in a particular area, are simply fixed traits. Such people spend their time documenting their talent or intelligence instead of developing them. They also believe (wrongly) that talent by itself creates success — without any real effort.

I see the fixed mindset often in law students and lawyers. Most of them have been good students throughout their lives, and many attribute this to their supposed inborn talent and intelligence. They believe they are “smarter” than other people, and so have excelled academically because of that.

When these same people have trouble academically or as they study for the bar exam, they tell themselves they are “stupid” or “won’t ever get this stuff.”

Growth Mindset

Contrast this to people with a growth mindset.

Someone with a growth mindset believes his or her most basic abilities can be developed through hard work, dedication and perseverance. Intelligence and talent are a good foundation, but not nearly enough for real success of achievement. People with a growth mindset tend to have much greater resilience and can endure more trying times and hardship to reach their goals.

Usually it is fairly easy for people to identify which mindset they have. So, are you a fixed or growth mindset person?

If you do not have a growth mindset, be alert for negative self-talk about being too stupid to learn a particular concept or incapable of learning how to write a bar exam essay. These are the expressions of a fixed mindset. You need to instill in yourself a growth mindset as best as possible.

As a long-time victim of a fixed mindset, I know how self-criticism can push one into a dark place. It takes constant vigilance to nurture a growth mindset and then remain in its warming glow.

Here are some ideas to promote a growth mindset:

  • When you recognize that your fixed mindset is belittling you, tell yourself that you are working hard and will soon learn what you need to learn.

  • Replace any negative talk with positive statements or recall a time you worked hard for something and achieved a goal. It need not be an academic moment, but maybe some sport, skill or hobby you enjoy.

  • Use positive affirmations to replace negative expressions with positive ones.

  • Perform positive visualizations in which you are successful

Do you have any other ideas on how to create and enhance a growth mindset? Let us know in the comments.

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