Book cover of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck on growth mindset

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success was written several years ago, however, the concepts in this book are as relevant today as they were in 2006. The book was written by psychologist, and Stanford professor, Carol Dweck, Ph.D. It is a study in what she describes as two divergent mindsets, fixed mindset and growth mindset. Dr. Dweck has found that your mindset will determine almost every outcome, and simply believing in yourself can have a profound effect on your life.

Coping With Failure

Carol Dweck’s research came from an innate desire to understand how people cope with failure. Some people seemed to collapse under failure. Others thrived amid failure, using challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow. Dr. Dweck had struggled at times in her own life with disappointments. She thought her setbacks were caused by not being smart enough or good enough to accomplish certain tasks. She later describe this position as having a fixed mindset.

Fixed Mindset

Dr. Dweck explained that a fixed mindset is one that is binary. You either see yourself as having abilities, or you do not. For example, people may see themselves as smart or dumb. Those with a fixed mindset feel a need to be recognized for tasks in which they perform well, or are “good” at doing. Because of this, they will choose to avoid tasks or activities where they may not be immediately successful. The problem with this, is that they will rarely take the risk required to learn new things. Another phenomena of those with a fixed mindset is that they do not have a predisposition to self-analysis. This lack of self-awareness will leave them weak in the areas of Emotional Intelligence.

Growth Mindset

On the other hand, those with a growth mindset are much more willing to risk venturing into areas they have not previously mastered. According to Carol Dweck, these people see failure as opportunities to learn and grow. They tend to believe in themselves more, and at the same time, question themselves more. Those with a growth mindset do not believe that intelligence is limited to genetics, and one is simply smart or dumb. They believe that they can continue to learn and develop their minds. In business, they are willing to take more risks. They embrace mistakes as opportunities for learning, and as a pathway to become better versions of themselves.

Possibilities of Potential

Dr. Dweck acknowledges that we all have areas of both fixed mindset and the growth mindset. She challenges us to move beyond our preconceived ideas, and become open to the endless possibilities of our potential. Dweck believes that this change in mindset is challenging, yet possible. We have all had situations in our childhoods that set the fixed mindset, but we have the ability, and maybe even the obligation, to push past these barriers.

Areas to Apply Growth Mindset

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success has well-written chapters, describing growth mindset in several areas of our lives. These areas including:

  • Sports: Mindset of a Champion
  • Business: Mindset of Leadership
  • Relationships: Mindset in Love (or not)
  • Parents, Teachers, and Coaches: Where does mindset come from?

Growth Mindset in Parenting

While sports and business have always been a passion for me. However, it is in the parenting section, where I found the advice I wish I had when I was a young father. Carol Dweck argues that the culture of praising accomplishments enforces a fixed mindset in our children. Praising them for what they did well creates an atmosphere where the kids will continue to build on successes. This is not a bad thing, but it will limit their willingness to try new things. She claims that praise should be delivered on the efforts the child is making, and not just the accomplishment.

I remember a time when my child came home with a report card that had both effort and achievement grades. My child wanted to point out that he was trying very hard, and putting in a lot of effort. My response was probably the worst thing I could have said. I told him, “I don’t grade on effort; I grade on achievement.” Sure, the world also grades on achievement, but I now wonder what harm I did by not encouraging him to fail forward more often.

Changing Mindsets

The final section is devoted to the process of changing mindsets. Dr. Dweck describes the nature of change, how the brain works in regards to change, and some practical steps to making change. There is also a  subsection on dealing with those who do not want to change.  She describes the effects and limitations of willpower, and how to maintain a change.

I particularly enjoyed some of the stories. Dr. Dweck used in the book. These stories emphasized the effects of mindset and performance. While many of the characters in the book use pseudonyms, she used John McEnroe by name. He is portrayed as someone who had a fixed mindset in his heyday. She described how the young athlete was regularly praised for his ability. As he grew into a professional, he would never admit to any mistake. He would blame others for whatever went wrong, from the line judge to the coach, and even thought that fans caused his mistakes. As a more mature adult, McEnroe now realizes he could have even been a better player if he had possessed a growth mindset.

I do recommend Mindset the New Psychology of Success to almost everybody I know. These recommendations go to business leaders, educators, coaches, and parents. It is a book that can truly change your view on how you interact with others. It is also a book that may help you reflect on how you view your own mindset.