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Growth Mindset: how to look at problems in a positive way

What is a growth mindset?

Having a 'fixed mindset' means you tend to give up challenging tasks easily, or avoid things where you've failed before. You believe that being ‘good’ at a particular activity is a fixed state, and is something you can’t control.

Having a 'growth mindset' means you might bounce back quickly from failure. It also makes you more likely to explore how you can get better at doing something. You believe that you can improve your abilities by practising, or by finding a different way to achieve your goal.

Click on the video icon This video from Khan Academy asks Prof. Carol Dweck what Growth Mindset is

MindsetResearch suggests that it is possible to have a fixed or a growth mindset (Dweck, 2006).

People with a growth mindset believe that abilities can be developed through dedication, practice and hard work. In this approach, your intelligence and talent are the starting point of what you can achieve and these can be developed and grown.

In real life, we go between a fixed or a growth mindset depending on how we are feeling, our levels of energy or anxiety and how important it is that we succeed with any situation or task.

Don't look for short cuts; try to be positive in your outlook; accept that you can always do more - this may improve your academic performance. 

In her book on mindset, Dweck (2006) recommends a process for changing your mindset. If faced with a challenge, you should initially pause to hear your fixed mindset voice. This might be trying to protect you from failure and embarrassment. It is important to recognise that although you hear it you don't have to listen to it, because you have a choice. You can choose to respond to your fixed mindset voice with a growth mindset voice and take positive action. 

SuccessLook at these letters - what phrase do you see?


There are two ways to separate these letters each providing a very different phrase, one negative and one positive.

The majority of people see the following:


However, with a growth mindset, it is also possible to see


Scientific evidence shows it is possible to develop your brain capacity. With enough effort and a careful and well thought through plan, you can work on improving your existing abilities.

Challenges in higher education can become opportunities to 'grow' through as well as 'go' through your academic journey. 


​Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House

Adapted from: Eales, A. (2020) Supporting students to develop transition skills during times of uncertainty. Available at: (Accessed: 12 May 2024).

Click on the video iconThis video from the University of Arizona outlines why growth mindset is helpful


How aware are you of what it means to have a growth mindset?

If you can't spot negative fixed mindset attitudes, you're not likely to be able to change them.

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Adapted from: Eales, A. (2020) Supporting students to develop transition skills during times of uncertainty. Available at: (Accessed: 12 May 2020).