Comparing Growth Mindset and Compassion Mindset

Posted on August 30, 2023 by Nate Regier / 0 comments
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What Is A Growth Mindset?

The Growth Mindset was named and made popular by the psychologist, Carol Dweck, starting with her 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The basic premise of her research is that our belief about our ability to learn, grow, and adapt, has a real impact on our actual abilities. 

People who have a fixed mindset believe that capability peaks, or is stagnant. An example would be the belief that our brains only have a certain number of neurons, and they are dying every day. 

People with a growth mindset believe that our capabilities are always changing and growing. An example would be believing that our brain is constantly learning, growing, and adapting. Incidentally, this is true. It’s called neuroplasticity. 

Benefits Of a Growth Mindset

People with a growth mindset tend to be more resilient, approach situations with more optimism and effort, and bounce back more quickly from failure. Dweck’s seminal research showed that children who were trained to adopt a growth mindset actually experienced increases in their IQ. Amazing, the power of belief to change our biology.

Growth Mindset and Parenting

Here’s an article about how to apply a growth mindset in parenting to build resiliency and improve mental health and well-being, not to mention improved parent-child relationships. 

Here’s a summary from the article: “A growth mindset prompts individuals to put in the effort to empathize more, especially when it’s challenging. It encourages people to recognize that others can change and grow, just as they can. This shift in perspective can lead to increased understanding and compassion, even in the face of disagreements or conflicts.”

Growth Mindset vs. Compassion Mindset

In our work helping leaders and their organizations build cultures of Compassionate Accountability®, we are often asked to compare The Compassion Mindset with Growth Mindset. The article I shared above provides a good framework to do that.

The Compassion Mindset consists of three switches; Value, Capability, and Responsibility. Each is necessary, but not sufficient, to practice full compassion in our interactions with ourselves and others. 

The Value switch is about affirming a person’s innate value as a human being. We do that by validating their feelings and experiences, showing empathy, and avoiding judgment.

The Capability switch is about manifesting a person’s potential to learn, grow, and adapt. We do this by showing curiosity, leveraging their strengths, and investing in their potential.

The Responsibility switch is about reinforcing a person’s responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, and actions; no more and no less. We do this by clarifying boundaries, upholding commitments, and having respectful accountability conversations.

Growth Mindset is most similar to the Capability switch. The Compassion Mindset requires all three switches. Each one is necessary, but not sufficient, to manifest Compassionate Accountability for ourselves and others. The Compassion Mindset is a comprehensive framework for approaching everything from parenting to coaching, diversity and belonging initiatives to talent development. 

How change agents transform adversity into growth with a Compassion Mindset.

What Came Before Mindset?

It’s easy to get enamored with the latest shiny model and terminology. In some ways, there’s nothing that new under the sun; just more clever ways to express it. 

To put things in perspective, I’d like to share what I consider some of the groundbreaking work that pre-dated the “mindset movement” and laid the foundation for some of the popular frameworks around today. These are some of the most significant influences in my journey toward the concept of Compassionate Accountability. 


Before emotional intelligence was made popular by Daniel Goleman, Albert Bandura was researching the essential building blocks of self-confidence, interpersonal capability, and resilience. Did you know that self-efficacy is a more robust and deeply researched construct than emotional intelligence? Did you know, also, that self-efficacy is much more predictive of success than self-esteem? Here’s a not-so-fun fact; high self-esteem is correlated with bullying. 

Starting in 2009, our team built and validated a context-sensitive outcomes measurement tool, NEOS, that tracks changes in self-efficacy in three domains of a person’s life. We’ve been using it to measure the impact of our personal and professional development programs. It’s like the Energy Star Rating for appliances but applied to any program that seeks to develop social-emotional competencies. If you’d like to use it in your programs, we can show you how. 

Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World

This book, by Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelson was a game-changer for me as a parent. It was powerful beyond parenting though, because it articulated timeless communication principles that apply to leadership, mentoring, and coaching. It has such incredible tips for how to monitor our own interactions with others in ways that build capability instead of inadvertently building co-dependence or other unhealthy relational dynamics. If you want to learn and apply tools to build self-efficacy instead of self-esteem, this book is terrific.


Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert Sapolsky, was the seminal book kickstarting the field of psychoneuroimmunology. Sapolski’s research proved that the mind and body are connected, and that illness and health are multi-factorial, and it set the stage for an explosion of research into what we now call the biopsychosocial model of health. This book is a classic and a must-read for anyone who cares about a more holistic approach to wellness. Don’t be scared by the word, psychoneuroimmunology. This book breaks it down into understandable, humorous, and practical tidbits.

Bottom Line

  • Mindset matters. How we choose to see ourselves and others has a far-reaching impact, not only on our relationships with others but on our own biology.
  • Compassion Mindset transcends and includes Growth Mindset
  • Compassion Mindset is a comprehensive framework for relationship and culture-building. 
  • There is some new, shiny stuff that’s good. And a lot of really good older stuff too. 
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