Fixed Vs Growth Mindset

Hello Aspiring Physicians!

I wanted to touch on a topic that I think is really important in your development as a physician and most importantly, just being a solid individual. We are so used to reading medical books and sometimes just don’t get the opportunity to or have the time to read other books. But I wanted to either introduce you to this topic or maybe help you review this topic if you have already come across it.

The Fixed versus Growth Mindset.

I was introduced to this concept in orthopedic residency. I was blessed to have a program director who was interested in making us well-rounded and successful individual as well as great orthopedic surgeons. He asked us to read this book, “Mindset: The new psychology of success.” by Carol S. Dweck. At first, I was very hesitant because it just didn’t make sense why we were straying away from our normal orthopedic curriculum. What I didn’t realize was that this book and this concept has changed how I think about myself, how I commit to my goals, and how I face challenges or obstacles in my life and career.

In short, this book divides mindset into two very opposing categories. The Fixed mindset assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static and cannot be changed . The Growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a springboard for growth and stretching our existing abilities. With the Fixed mindset, you believe that your qualities are carved in stone which creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over again. On the other hand, the Growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.

Here are some more examples:

Fixed mindset: Avoid challenges, gives up easily when faced against obstacles, ignores useful criticism/negative feedback, and feels threatened by the success of others

Growth mindset: Embrace challenges, persists in the face of setbacks, learns from criticism, and finds lessons and inspiration in the success of others.

Well, I’ll be honest as I was reading this book I told myself there’s no way that I have the fixed mindset because I graduated medical school and I was in orthopedic residency. There’s no way somebody could get this far with a fixed mindset. Well, the truth is, that I just had some more qualities from the growth mindset that allowed me to overcome the insecurities or bitterness that I had throughout the years. The truth is that I had the fixed mindset unconsciously. We have all been in that place where we tell ourselves that we are not good enough, this person is smarter, I’m not going to try this because I know I will fail, I am a horrible test-taker and will never get better, I can’t do this or do that. I would go out on a limb and say that most successful individuals have had the fixed mindset. Even being finished with my training and in practice, the fixed mindset thoughts creep in or the so called “imposter syndrome” when you don’t think you deserve what you have earned or you don’t feel like you belong in this field. Trust me everybody has been there.

Since residency, I bought this book and have read it several times. Somedays you just need that reminder to re-wire or re-program your mind to follow the growth mindset. Yes, it sucks to fail a test, or do poorly on a rotation but it is precisely at these moments when you have to get out of your slump and learn from your failures. I really encourage you to read this book as it gives tips to help you. The author also talks about famous athletes, actors, business men and women you have been stuck in the fixed mindset so you are not alone.

As always – Keep your head up, keep smiling and enjoy your journey.


Your Med Mentor

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