Which is right, grit and growth mindset, as described by Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success or the philosophy at StrengthsFinder/Gallup? This was a question posed to me recently by a group who follow my posts. Here was my answer: both are right, and I don’t see them as competing ideologies. Here’s why: a growth mindset—the belief that we can improve continually forever—operates like an umbrella belief over all our other beliefs. Dweck states that we can improve in any area we set our mind to. StrengthsFinder does not deny that; they state that we can, in fact improve in any area we choose to—but—we will gain the most leverage from focusing on areas where we are most naturally strong. Their thought is that it is much easier to achieve outstanding performance by taking ourselves from good to outstanding, than by taking ourselves from poor to good.

In both cases, we make improvements. However, we are most likely to stay the course and continue to improve in those areas where we are energized and already have strength that is natural to who we are.


  • I’m not strong at understanding mechanics. I could apply myself in that role and make some progress, but if I have no interest in that area, I am not likely to stick it out.
  • I am strong in creative ideas and innovation, naturally. If I apply my effort here instead, because it is energizing to me and others,* this is more sustainable and therefore a better choice for where to apply my attention.

This is why I don’t see these two ideas at odds with each other. If we blend both together and apply them to our own personal development, we are unlimited in how much we can improve and we are being strategic by choosing those things that bring us the most satisfaction and have the greatest potential for paying off. I loved this question, and am open to hearing others’ thoughts about it, because it has come up with clients. What do you think?

*This idea first brought to me by DeAnna Murphy, President of Strengths Strategy

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