The Failure to Try: Living With the Fixed Mindset

A couple days ago I finished reading Mindset by Carol Dweck. This book got me thinking about my youth and all the things I didn’t do because of my fixed mindset – the belief that people are born with certain skills/talents and if you’re not a “natural” then that thing must not be for you. Just stay in your lane while the geniuses and prodigies among us show us how it’s done.

For example, I was jealous of my sister. That is, jealous she received the praise I wanted in regards to singing. Yeah, I was smart (for me, good grades came easy) but who cares when all I wanted to do was sing?

In fact, my parents made me wait to sing in the family choir when we moved to my dad’s hometown in Louisana. Apparently, I was too young. I sat with my dad in the pew patiently waiting for permission to step in front of a mic.

But when I did, why couldn’t I have a voice everyone wanted to hear and compliment? Later, my Aunt Doris would say I had the “voice of an angel” but that was not getting me singing gigs at the church fundraiser with Father Tim. Nor did it help me sing Ave Maria at a wedding we were asked to do music for.

It’s not that I wanted my sister’s voice, I just wanted to be seen as an equal. But I guess my voice wasn’t good enough – the talent wasn’t quite there.

Because I had a fixed mindset, I didn’t try as hard as I could have to develop my skills:  singing skills, study skills, confidence skills, insert skill here skills.


Not only did young me have a fixed mindset, but I compared myself to other people mostly in negative ways. These two things caused me to miss out on seeing my beauty. Now that my eyes have been opened, I’ve come to this conclusion:

We miss out on the divine beauty of who we are when we sit with our fixed mindset and compare ourselves to others.

Yes, my sister has a beautiful voice that is different from mine. That doesn’t make her voice better, it just makes it her voice. If I had a growth mindset I could have tried harder to perfect the craft of singing with my voice. But I didn’t. I was just wallowing in my own self-pity.

I like to think I’ve grown since my family choir singing days (I love my singing voice by the way) and I’m still striving to grow every day. I didn’t realize, however, how much the fixed mindset has weaseled its way into many areas of my life giving me no room for play.

Yeah, sure, I may feel confident doing what comes easy to me, but what happens when I want to do something that I have to work at? Or I need to grow in an area of a “natural” skill but doing so could lead me to failure?

With a fixed mindset, we don’t want anyone to see us fail. We may quit too early because, since it’s not coming easy, well, I guess it’s not “our thing” even though something in us beckoned us to try it.

Or in my case, try but only give 50% instead of 100%. Then, when I fail, I can say, “Well, at least I tried.” But did I really?

No, I did not.

Even though I am trying to grow, I’ve made it a habit to see things that are challenging and stop before I even get started. I’ve sabotaged my potential by thinking things should come easy, and when they don’t, I tell myself to stick to what I know. Because I think I should be good at something when I first start, I’ve taken the joy out of just trying new things. Or if I do enjoy them, I don’t give 100.

Since reading this book, there’s no excuse for me to not approach life with a growth mindset – believing that if I put time and effort into something, then I will become better at it; it doesn’t have to be easy and of course, I’ll most likely fail at first.

As a matter of fact, I think I’ll start learning how to play the guitar again.

What area(s) of your life can you benefit from having a growth mindset? Where has having a fixed mindset held you back?


This week’s song is “Never Give Up” by Sia:

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