Carol Dweck’s book Mindset along with Tony Robbins’ work was my first introduction to self-help and transforming my life. In fact if anyone asks me about a book that really stands out for me, Mindset comes to mind!
Here are some of my favorite parts in the first half of the book to give you an idea of what Mindset is about.
In the past people often believed that ability was fixed—one either had a gift for something or one didn’t, and failure meant that one didn’t have talent for something. In contrast, the growth mindset rests on the idea that people have a lifelong capacity to learn and develop their brains.
A person might start off with a natural gift in something, but it is just the starting point of development. Experience, training and willingness to learn helps a person to go all the way. A person might also not have the natural gift for something, but they can acquire and learn the skills necessary if they put in the focused effort.
Dweck says the way we view our abilities affects the way we live our lives: people with fixed mindsets have the idea that they have to prove themselves over and over, because their abilities are ‘written in stone’.
People with growth mindsets know they don’t have the capacity yet, but they realize they can cultivate the knowledge/skills to achieve their desires over time. The growth mindset does not mean that anyone can become Einstein, but it means that a person’s true potential is unknown.
Dweck writes: “The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”
Carol Dweck developed the fixed and growth mindset during her PhD studies. She wondered; why are some people so focused on proving their ability, while others can just learn freely? This is when she realized that ability can be split into two: there is the fixed ability and the growth ability.
The fixed ability needs to be proven. You have to prove you are smart or talented. It is about validating yourself. When people who think like, they are afraid of making mistakes. They want to make sure they succeed and they want to flawless, right away. An example of this is when kids choose to do the same puzzle over and over again because it is the safe choice.
A fixed mindset passes up on an opportunity because it is too afraid to learn, and if things get too difficult, the fixed ability mindset thinks it is not smart or talented, and it loses interest.
The growth or flexible ability develops through learning—stretching and developing yourself. This is when kids choose a more challenging puzzle than the one they did before.
Dweck writes: “People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch ‘…’ challenge and interest went hand in hand.”
Students with a fixed mindset aim to look clever while using as little effort as possible and they also don’t recover easily after failure. Students with a growth mindset take charge of their learning and motivation. They will for example go over their mistakes after a test and try to learn from them. They maintain interest even if they don’t like the teacher or even if the material is difficult or boring.
Ability is enhanced with ceaseless curiosity, seeking challenges, working hard, and being genuinely interested in the subject. Interests can grow into abilities.
Dweck writes; “With the right mindset and the right teaching, people are capable of a lot more than we think “…” and so in the fixed mindset, both positive and negative labels can mess with your mind. When you’re given a positive label, you’re afraid of losing it, and when you’re hit with a negative label, you’re afraid of deserving it.”
If we praise children for their ability, it makes them feel like they have something to live up and then they begin to worry that their flaws will be exposed. Praising achievement pushes them into the fixed mindset. Dweck writes “people with the fixed mindset already focus too much on their ability: “Is it high enough?” “Will it look good?”
My main take away from this chapter is that it is better to praise the process of learning and growth rather than the end result.
Dweck says champions find success in doing their best, in learning and improving. Obstacles are motivating because they are opportunities to learn. Champions with a growth mindset take control of their habits and the ways that bring them success and they maintain them. Sports will be more rewarding for those who focus on learning and improving not only winning.
If you have liked Mindset so far, don’t miss out on reading the remaining chapters in which Dweck writes about mindsets in business and leadership, mindsets in relationships and love, important notes on mindsets for parents teachers and coaches, and how to change your mindset.
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