Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University has spent decades researching on topics involving motivation, personal achievement and success. Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is a culmination of all those years of observation, study and research. The central theme to her book is that an individual’s ‘Mindset’ is the single most important variable when it comes to success and achievement.

Read this Book Summary in 10 Minutes

Carol Dweck “MINDSET” Book Summary in Three Sentences:

1. “…the way you view yourself can have a profound impact on your life.”

2. Fixed Mindset tendency is: “I can’t do this,” whereas a Growth Mindset tendency is: “I can’t do this YET.”

3. “Becoming is better than being.”

Carol Dweck Mindset Summary
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Infographic)

The 2 Mindsets Defined

Fixed Mindset: Your basic abilities such as your intelligence, artistic or athletic talents are fixed traits.

Growth Mindset: Your basic abilities such as your intelligence, artistic abilities or other talents can be improved by hard work, persistence and effort.

Determine your own mindset:

Consider the statement below:

Your intelligence level, can be improved through effort.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

If you agree, your mindset is growth oriented. If you disagree, you tilt towards a fixed mindset.

NOTE: Dweck further clarifies that the 2 mindsets are not a dichotomy but a spectrum. In other words, no one person has a completely fixed mindset nor do they have a growth mindset. Our mindsets can differ with regards to situation or the context.

Differences Between Fixed and Growth Mindset

People with fixed mindsets complete tasks to prove how smart or talented they are. They withdraw from difficult tasks because a challenge might expose their deficiencies. They despise effort because if you have all the talent in the world, why would you need to put in the effort?

On the other hand, people with a growth mindset embrace and thrive on challenges. They view effort and persistence as a necessity to improve their craft and a prerequisite to success. Moreover, individuals who are growth oriented view their innate abilities not as something that is fixed, but as a starting point for development.

With regards to achieving goals, people with the growth mindset are not concerned with the outcome. Instead, they focus on the process and find meaning in the functioning towards the goal.

Insight #1: How the 2 Mindsets Interpret Failures

People with fixed mindsets have difficulty in separating themselves from the failure itself. For them, achieving success is the primary goal, even if it means cheating, blaming others or even breaking the rules.

On the other hand, those with growth mindsets don’t necessarily enjoy failures, but the difference is that they are able to separate themselves from the event itself. Thus, people with growth mindsets don’t let failures define them because they know that on the path to success, they are bound to encounter failures and setbacks.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Failure is only bad when you choose to let the failure define your worth.
  • Success does not come without effort. However, if you pretend otherwise -it will prevent you from trying your hardest.
  • It is okay to risk looking stupid when learning something new and challenging. By doing this, you are setting yourself up for success in the future.

 

Insight #2: The Mindset of an Athlete

An athlete’s mindset changes the way they perceive and define success.

The athlete with the fixed mindset views success as winning at all costs. On the other hand, an athlete with the growth mindset views success as a by-product of continuous learning and improvement.

Jackie Joyner Kersee, who is one of the all time greatest athletes in the heptathlon and long jump, demonstrated this growth mindset tendency. When asked about her secret to success, she replied:

“There is something about seeing myself improve that motivates and excites me. It’s that way now after six Olympic medals and five world records. And it was the way I was in junior high, just starting to enter track meets.”

Cut from his high school basketball team, Michael Jordan would wake up and start training before school started at 6am. He would focus on his weaknesses, his defensive game and was one of the hardest working players in his team.

A former assistant coach described his work ethic “he was a genius who constantly wants to upgrade his genius.” For Jordan, it was never a case of talent but rather -his desire to improve which propelled him to the top of the sport.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • When working towards goals, put less focus on the outcome and take charge of the process.
  • Monitor your own performance and focus on areas to improve on a frequent basis.
  • Measure yourself not just by the number of victories, but how well you did compared to your previous performance.

 

Insight #3: Mindsets in Business and Leadership

In her book ‘Mindset,’ Dweck provides examples of companies that worshipped talent over results which eventually led to their downfall. She clarifies that an organization that is not able to self-correct, does not last.

The mindset of the CEO is also critical in determining the success of the company. The CEO with a fixed mindset is more concerned about maintaining their image over the growth of the company. They live in a world where some are superior whilst others are inferior.

For the CEO with a fixed mindset, the employees who put forth innovative ideas are not compensated, but instead, are seen as threats to the CEO’s status. Thus, many of these top level executives live in a bubble; surrounded by people and facts that are testaments to their perceived brilliance.

In contrast, growth mindset leaders leave their personal desires aside and place the good of the company first. They are the ones who constantly ask questions and do not shy away from seeking the most brutal answers.

They are people who are able to look at their own failures in the face whilst maintaining faith on their ability to steer the company towards sustained growth.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The mindset of the CEO is crucial when it comes to setting the mindset of the entire organization they are in charge of.
  • Great Leaders are not born, but rather –are those who develop themselves through self transformation and by their ability to learn from challenges.

 

Insight #4: Mindsets and Relationships

Our mindsets have a big impact on the relationships that we have, whether it be with family, friends or with our partner.

When it comes to romantic relationships, the fixed mindset tendency is to hold the notion that you and your partner are both unable to change. In addition, those with fixed mindsets tend to assume that the perfect relationship shouldn’t require too much work. As a result, they are more likely to cut ties at the slightest hint of tension and indifference.

In contrast, an individual with a growth mindset would view their partner and their relationship as a work in progress. In the face of misunderstandings and indifferences, people with growth mindsets would be more likely to strengthen the relationship through continuous effort and understanding rather than cut ties.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The fixed mindset causes one to compete with their partner, rather than working with them.
  • To maintain a healthy relationship, requires effort.

 

Insight #5: Parents; Instilling Growth Mindset on Children

The language that parents use can have a big impact on the achievements of their children.

A mother, who tells her daughter how talented she is because of an outstanding painting, may inadvertently prevent her daughter from painting anything else. Why? Because then, her daughter might fear that her next painting may not be as outstanding as her previous work.

Praise can have adverse consequences.

If a child is praised for their work done fast, what does it mean if they do it slow? Are they no longer smart?

If a student is praised their whole life about how talented they are, then how are they supposed to handle criticism in their first job?

As Dweck advises in her book: rather than focusing on the results, focus on the journey to achievement. Parents can instill a growth mindset on their children by praising their efforts as well as on the work they put forth in the process. They can also do this by reminding them that effort is the most valuable thing that they can contribute instead of their natural talent.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The language that parents use can make a big impact on the achievements of their children.
  • Focus more on a child’s improvements
  • Praise more on efforts put forth, rather than the achievement itself.

How to Shift Your Own Mindset

“Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way. When people…change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework.”

  • Believe in yourself, and in the fact that you can change.
  • Don’t see abilities as something that needs to be proved, but see them as a starting point for your development
  • View effort as not something that casts doubts on your talent, but as a necessity for growth.
  • Accept the fact that to climb to the top of any field, you need to put in the necessary work. Effort and persistence is a prerequisite to success.
  • Choose the more difficult task over the easy one and challenge yourself all the time.
  • Pursue any work or task not to prove how intelligent you are but for growth and learning.
  • When you face setbacks, avoid blaming everyone else and take responsibility for them.
  • The Power of Yet: When a task becomes difficult, avoid shrinking back from it because you think you are not good enough. Instead, tell yourself ‘‘I’m not good at this YET’’ or “I can’t do this YET.”
  • When pursuing goals, focus more on improving the process instead of the outcome.
  • “A person’s true potential is unknown and that it is not possible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.”

 

A collection of Carol Dweck’s best quotes from the book ‘Mindset’

  • “For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.”
  • “You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs. They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your mind, and you can change your mind.”
  • “It’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.”
  • “People have more capacity for lifelong learning and brain development than they ever thought.”
  • “We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”
  • “…when people already know they’re deficient, they have nothing to lose by trying.”
  • “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow?”
  • “I believe ability can get you to the top,” says coach John Wooden, “but it takes character to keep you there… It’s so easy to … begin thinking you can just ‘turn it on’ automatically, without proper preparation. It takes real character to keep working as hard or even harder once you’re there. When you read about an athlete or team that wins over and over and over, remind yourself, ‘more than ability, they have character.’ ”
  • “This is something I know for a fact: You have to work hardest for the things you love most.”
  • “Becoming is better than being.”

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