Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
By Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
Random House, 2006

I’d long heard about Dr. Dweck’s book, but hadn’t yet read it. Coming to it now, I found much of it familiar — but perhaps that’s because the book’s core distinction has been very influential.

What distinction? The difference between two types of mindsets that affect our outlooks on life:

  • Fixed mindset, which asserts that we are who we are, and whatever happens to us results from inherent characteristics we can’t influence. (E.g., intelligence, physical ability, etc.)
  • Growth mindset, which asserts that whatever happens, we can learn, change, and grow to get better. (“growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others.”)

Wikipedia has a good explanation of the differences between the two:

individuals can be placed on a continuum according to their implicit views of where ability comes from. Some believe their success is based on innate ability; these are said to have a “fixed” theory of intelligence (fixed mindset). Others, who believe their success is based on hard work, learning, training and doggedness are said to have a “growth” or an “incremental” theory of intelligence (growth mindset). Individuals may not necessarily be aware of their own mindset, but their mindset can still be discerned based on their behavior. It is especially evident in their reaction to failure. Fixed-mindset individuals dread failure because it is a negative statement on their basic abilities, while growth mindset individuals don’t mind or fear failure as much because they realize their performance can be improved and learning comes from failure.

Mindset makes a research-grounded argument for adopting a growth mindset. The book’s first three chapters explain the differences between the two mindsets in depth. The book then explains how they affect three key areas of our lives:

  • Athletic competition
  • Business
  • Relationships

The final two chapters offer advice for helping yourself and others shift from a fixed to a growth mindset. As Dr. Dweck points out, we all have a bit of both. (Which is good, since I don’t see how somebody who is all-fixed could contemplate switching mindsets.)

Again, the key distinction here is well-known today, a testament to this book’s impact. Still, it’s easy to lapse into blame and self-victimizing in daily life. As such, Mindset is worth your attention — for yourself, but especially if you’re an educator, mentor, or coach.

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