Why is a Growth Mindset so important to motivation?

I love this quote by George Bernard Shaw. It so neatly captures one of the key differences between someone with a Growth Mindset and someone with a Fixed Mindset.

Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. George Bernard Shaw

Someone with a Fixed Mindset believes their most basic characteristics, such as their talents, abilities and intelligence, are unchangeable. They spend their life looking inwards, trying to discover their abilities and who they are. What they “find” defines what they can do with their life.

On the other hand, someone with a Growth Mindset understands they are capable of change. These people look outwards, asking themselves what sort of person they want to become. They know they are not meant to “be” the sort of person who can achieve their life’s goals; rather, they know they are meant to becomethat person.

In The Agile Learner, I refer to this difference as the Greatness Gap. Someone with a Fixed Mindset is prone to seeing the Greatness Gap – an impassable chasm between who they are now and who they want to be. Their Mindset tells them they can’t “become”, so they learn to live within their limitations.

But a person with a Growth Mindset understands there is no Greatness Gap. They see a pathway between who they are now and who they want to be. It is a path they can travel with mature Habits of Mind and Virtuous Practice.

Mindset and big “M” Motivation

What if you don’t know which pathway you want to follow? Let’s face it, how many of our students know what they want out of life? How does Mindset relate to motivation?

I’m not talking about little “m” motivation – the sort that results in students with a Growth Mindset spending more time on a task than students with Fixed Mindset.

What I’m talking about is the sort of motivation that ensures you pursue your life’s big goals. I’m talking about the role a Growth Mindset plays in giving you the courage to take on even the greatest challenges life throws at you. This is what I refer to as big “M” motivation.

The role a Growth Mindset plays in motivation is profound. A Growth Mindset does not motivate you, it does not ignite the spark, it does not set your direction in life. Rather, a Growth Mindset fans the flames of your motivation. It gives life to your passions and fuels the knowledge that you can become the person who lives your dreams.

As I explained at a recent event, helping students develop a Growth Mindset because of the way it fuels their motivation is possibly one of the greatest gifts we can give them.



James Anderson is a speaker, author and educator who is passionate about helping fellow educators develop students as better learners. James’ work combines Growth Mindset with Habits of Mind and Practice to create Learning Agility. He puts the growth back into Growth Mindset. And through creating and describing the Mindset Continuum, he provides the cornerstone for effective Growth Mindset interventions.

James is a Certified Speaking Professional and speaks regularly at conferences around the world. He has published several books including Succeeding with Habits of Mind, The Agile Learner, The Mindset Continuum and The Learning Landscape.

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  • […] teachers focus on the process of slow incremental growth that leads to all achievements. (See Why is a Growth Mindset so important to Motivation?)A Growth Mindset style guide helps teachers overcome their own cognitive bias and the False Mindset […]

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