I am never going to get out of debt. My credit cards will always be maxed out. I will never make enough money to invest in a retirement account. I'm stuck.
If any of those thoughts sound familiar, then you may be looking at your finances with a fixed mindset. Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist who is considered the expert on mindset and human behaviors, says there are two core mindsets: a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.
A growth mindset is the belief that our skills and qualities can be cultivated through effort and perseverance: Our abilities are due to our actions. And a fixed mindset is the belief that our abilities and basic qualities are simply fixed traits. In other words, you either are or aren't good at something, based on your inherent nature — because that's just who you are.
But what does all of this have to do with money? Let me explain.
Can our mindset really affect our finances?
When you begin to look at the difference between a growth and fixed mindset, you start to think differently about how you talk to yourself and others about financial success. This leads to a focus on what is coming in, rather than what is going out. Think about it: If your focus is solely on paying off debt, you limit the ability to save and grow your finances; you're not focusing on what is coming in. Therefore, teaching a growth mindset in the world of business and personal finance creates motivation and productivity and changes how we view money.
How do you challenge a fixed money mindset?
Before you dig into how a growth mindset can help revolutionize your finances, you have to address the "why" of where you're at. When it comes to revolutionizing your finances, it's a fixed mindset that keeps you from breaking the habits that get in the way of your money goals. This mindset also prevents you from taking a risk and moving out of your comfort zone because you're afraid to fail.
A lot of these deep-rooted thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about money can be traced back to our childhood. The conversations that took place about money, the beliefs that were passed down from our parents, and how money was saved (and spent) all make up our personal philosophy about finances. To adopt a growth mindset about money, you must first identify and challenge those early beliefs.
For many of us, part of what perpetuates these continual beliefs is something called "scarcity mindset," or the belief that there is a limited amount of resources. This approach to finances comes from a place of guilt and fear and often keeps people stuck in a cycle of thinking they will never have enough. People who spend their lives in a scarcity mindset believe their situations are permanent.
How can a growth mindset help?
"Deciding to" rather than "wanting to" change your finances is one of the first steps in shifting your mindset. A growth mindset means that you think with abundance and not with scarcity. "When you're in a mindset of scarcity, you believe that resources are finite and that you cannot create more," says Evan Tarver, investment analyst with FitSmallBusiness.com.
"With a growth mindset, however, you know that not all resources are finite and that if you invest your money wisely, you'll be able to achieve higher returns than if you thought in scarcity," Tarver adds. For example, people who focus on prosperity rather than debt tend to look at their finances as an opportunity for growth — they focus on the money coming in, not on the money going out. But, in order to achieve this growth, you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. Having a growth mindset with your finances empowers you to ask a lot of questions about money; it helps you think like an investor.
Tarver explains that a growth mindset is especially important with personal finances because it lets you accurately assess risk. "A growth mindset knows that there's always more to be made," he says. However, Tarver does make a point of reminding people that a growth mindset is not reckless. Rather, it's a prudent approach to personal budgeting as well as personal investing.
So, when you make a plan for your money, a fixed money mindset does not allow you to be open to profitable opportunities. When it comes to looking at your finances with a growth mindset, first, you need to establish your money end-game. How much do you want to have? In what sectors? On what timeline? Once you have a goal and start working toward it, remember to check your accounts regularly. When you see the positive trajectory in your accounts thanks to all your hard work, you will be inspired to keep it up.