Mindset: The New Psychology of Success


Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Genre: Health
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Published: 2/28/2016
After decades of research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset. In this brilliant book, she shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities.

Book Summary - Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Key Insights

How much of who you are is determined at birth? Many physical attributes can’t be changed. Your health might be predisposed to be better or worse regardless of what you do. But what about your talents and skills?

You may be naturally better at music, athletics, or math. Physical attributes like height or hand size may also enhance your abilities. But that’s not enough. Even with some innate talent, you have to work at it.

The way you think about your own capabilities is your mindset. Carol Dweck describes the fixed and growth mindsets. These opposing mindsets determine how you approach your skills and whether you believe you can develop them.

The fixed mindset accepts some talents as ones you’re born with and others as unattainable. The growth mindset sees anything as possible with enough work, opening up more opportunities. Your mindset influences all aspects of your life.

Key Points

If you have a fixed mindset, you believe you are who you are.

Natural talent wins with a fixed mindset. A person is good at some things and bad at others. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe people can’t change their personality traits.

Imagine you have a task that is unfamiliar or is something you know you’re not great at. If you have a fixed mindset, you would assume it’s impossible for you to do. You wouldn’t think about acquiring the skills to complete the task or improve the skills you have.

For example, if you play a musical instrument it may be hard to get beyond simple chord changes. Unless music theory comes easily to you, you might give up. A fixed mindset doesn’t consider investing the time to learn.

Companies can also have a fixed mindset. These are ones that look for people who are naturals at the work they do. Students that have done great in school are considered smart and capable. A company with a fixed mindset wouldn’t think about how anyone might be trained to do the job well.

Similarly, companies with a fixed mindset culture are unlikely to accept failure. If someone isn’t great at their job or is thought of as a slacker, you might think they’ll stay that way forever. A fixed mindset doesn’t think people learn from mistakes.

The potential for hard work to change who you are is central to the growth mindset.

A growth mindset isn’t about the results you get. It’s about rising to the challenge. You understand the value of elbow grease. Sure, it’s great to win or get an A on an exam but that’s not at the core of a growth mindset.

You see more than the goal at the end of the road. If you have a growth mindset, you know the hours you put in achieving that goal will only make you better. And with improvement, you see endless possibilities for yourself.

As with a fixed mindset, companies have a growth mindset too. Instead of assuming that people can’t be trained, these companies will build up talent from the inside. Research into companies with high growth in stock values found that they had leaders with a growth mindset. These executives were constantly looking for ways to improve.

Your approach to anything, whether you have a natural talent or not, is framed by your mindset. How good you are is just a measure at one point in time. For a person with a growth mindset, real success comes from putting in the work.

You don’t need approval. Failure helps you grow.

You can achieve success whether you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. But the difference between the two comes down to how you view praise and how you handle the failures. A fixed mindset accepts defeat and a growth mindset sees an opportunity.

If you have a fixed mindset, you look for external validation. Approval from others is often more important than self-satisfaction. Similarly, if there’s something like a job that you don’t think you can get, you won’t even try. The fear of rejection cripples you.

A growth mindset values progress over credit. You can still enjoy the achievements and the praise, but that’s not what motivates you. If you have a growth mindset, you enjoy the ability to develop and evolve.

How you look at failure depends on your mindset. A person with a growth mindset sees mistakes as a good opportunity to learn. They take a failure and turn it into a learning experience. If you have a growth mindset, you probably love a good challenge.

A fixed mindset thinks of failure as always a bad thing. You failed because you weren’t good enough. Instead of learning from your mistakes, you let a setback stop you from trying again or taking further risks.

This is also true with businesses. Corporate leaders that encourage a growth environment are more focused on the value of good teamwork and development. They’re as concerned with how great they appear to be.

In contrast, an executive with a fixed mindset prioritizes their own self-image. Looking successful is more important than pushing the organization forward. With that mindset, you don’t take risks that might lead to innovation.

With a fixed mindset, you are more likely to rest on your laurels. The growth mindset is constantly thinking about how to get better. So instead of accepting an outcome, you want to improve.

Healthy relationships are developed through a growth mindset.

Most successful relationships, whether business or personal, are the result of a particular mindset.

Everyone has some idea of what their relationships are and should be. But a fixed mindset means you can’t see potential growth in a relationship. This means if there are issues, you assume the relationship is doomed. You can’t see a future beyond your current conflict and the tension will stick around.

A growth mindset doesn’t mean you’re immune from relationship troubles. But you’re more likely to sit down and discuss potential issues with your partner. You can see the challenges as opportunities to address concerns. Even with ups and downs, a growth mindset lets you handle issues without damaging the relationship.

Facing difficulties is essential to the way the growth mindset helps relationships. You encourage growth in your partner and welcome the opportunity to improve as well. If you avoid addressing issues, the problems will fester and doom the relationship.

Children can be taught a fixed or growth mindset.

Babies are born with either a growth or fixed mindset but it changes with their environment. Overall, the type of mindset you have can be learned.

In the early stages of childhood, your personality traits are influenced by a variety of people, such as teachers and parents. Depending on how these role models interact with you can affect the outcome of your mindset.

You can raise a child in an environment that encourages good grades and success at school, but this is more likely to mold them into a fixed mindset. Associating encouragement with high grades will only reinforce that those results are the only markers of success.

If you instead praise a child for their effort rather than their results, you help them develop a growth mindset. The actual grade on the test doesn’t matter as much as how hard they worked to get better. By helping children value hard work, they are more likely to develop a growth mindset.

A growth mindset opens up opportunities.

Think about someone you admire. It could be someone you know personally or someone you know about like a leader, athlete, or musician. How would you describe them?

The way that you describe their talents and abilities will depend on your own mindset. If you see this person as possessing supernatural abilities, you might have a fixed mindset. If you see the hard work they put in to amplify their existing talents, you probably have a growth mindset.

A fixed mindset sees talented people as having some innate gift that most “normal” people can’t achieve. With this mindset, you are boxed in by labels given to people (including yourself). Any effort you put in will never be enough because you weren’t born with supernatural talent.

This limitation applies to positive labels as well. If you’re branded a genius from an early age, you might not think you need to work. You rely on your natural talent instead of improving and becoming even better.

When you have a growth mindset, labels don’t matter. You understand that a seemingly supernatural talent requires a lot of effort to refine and maintain. This is especially true if you want to compete with others of great talent, like professional athletes. Although natural talent exists, the ability and willingness to work for what you want will make the difference.

It’s not too late to adopt a growth mindset.

Your mindset isn’t genetic and it’s not set in stone. Maybe you feel like you hit walls and give up. But now you want to see doors instead of walls. You can still adopt a growth mindset and shift your way of thinking.

Deciding to change your approach to life from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset can be simultaneously intimidating and liberating. A fixed mindset isn’t a thoughtful approach. It is almost instinctual. You have to work hard to retrain your brain.

You can use the tools of a growth mindset to replaced your fixed mindset habits. For example, you can start the next time something goes wrong. You probably react by criticizing yourself. Maybe you think it’s typical and expected that you would fail. Instead, ask what you could do differently. Is there a small adjustment you can make to improve. Also, forgive yourself for mistakes because everyone makes them.

It may be hard, but changing to a growth mindset is worth it. You can challenge yourself to take on bigger goals. More importantly, you will not be deterred if the going gets tough. You’ll just keep working harder and harder. What you may have thought was impossible will suddenly be within reach.

The Main Take-away

Your mindset can affect everything in your life. From school to work to relationships, a fixed mindset limits you and a growth mindset offers possibilities.

Abilities are not fixed and aren’t determined at birth. If you are willing to put in the work, you can become great at almost anything. A fixed mindset accepts that some people are good at some things and they can’t choose which ones. But if that doesn’t satisfy you, then you probably have a growth mindset.

If you have a fixed mindset, you are more likely to get in your own way. You’re afraid of failure and think of new challenges as too risky. Rather than put yourself out there, you don’t even try.

A growth mindset lets you accept failure as part of the experience. You learn your lessons and adjust, allowing for continued development and future success. But you’re not looking for accolades. You’re looking for improvement and constantly challenging yourself to get better.

You can change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Although your mindset is molded by your childhood influences, there are opportunities to change your behaviors. It takes work, but adopting a growth mindset is worth it.

About the Author

Carol Dweck is the Lewis and Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. Prior to joining Stanford, she worked at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the University of Illinois.

Dweck’s work combines social psychology, developmental psychology, and personality psychology. Her research analyzes how people think of themselves. Dweck evaluates the role that self-conception plays in motivational behavior and personality traits.

Dr. Dweck has written and contributed to numerous books on the subject of the human self and mindset. Her goal is to provide better insight into the impacts that self-conception has on interpersonal processes and personal achievements.

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