Mindset by Carol Dweck: Book Review

Ever feared judgment? Given up on something because you think you’re not cut out for it? On the other hand, have you ever rested on your laurels when to your frustration someone less talented or accomplished passes you by through hard work?

Mindset by Carol Dweck offers a different way to view things, a more hopeful and inspiring way to see the world. Her singular idea is that there are two different ways to view the world: that ability is fixed and difficult to change or that ability can be developed.

Those with fixed mindsets focus on personal performance. Thus every success or failure is a reflection of self-worth. Those with growth mindsets are more focused on learning. They are more willing to take on difficult tasks in which they are likely to fail, because these are tasks from which they can learn.

The author then discusses the difference between how these different mindsets would view results or potential outcomes and gives several examples from business, sports, academia, relationships and various other walks of life. The key is that people with the growth mindset seek out difficult tasks and feedback while people with the fixed mindset usually seek out things they are comfortable with and fear any negative feedback to the point of detriment.

To be fair, people can have different mindsets about different things. For example someone might think intelligence is static while thinking that body weight is easily changeable.

My key takeaways from this book were:

  • You aren’t stuck the way you are currently. Just consider the situation, get inspired and get going. You will make progress
  • People can change in miraculous ways, and merely believing this greatly enhances one’s chance to grow
  • Don’t put so much weight on comparing yourself to others. If you truly want to become something else, you can learn how to. The people you admire have probably worked harder and perhaps have had more opportunities to practice the attributes you admire. You can be rich, athletic, good with people, etc. You only need to mindfully practice more.
  • Instead of viewing the success of others as threatening, see it as inspiration, because you could find success too by working hard
  • Don’t view superiors at work as merely judgers but as colleagues and advisers. In the end, they are merely looking to accomplish something for the company and want you to grow.
  • Ironically, people with the growth mindset exhibit high self-esteem tendencies even though they don’t tie their self-esteem to each personal outcome the way fixed mindset people do. Growth mindset are willing to speak up, because they are interested in challenges and not embarrassed to admit ignorance or lack of skill, because they believe they can learn and grow.
  • I would bet children whose parents raised in an environment of “Concerted Cultivation“. Concerted cultivation encourages children to develop language skills and interact with people who are “higher” on the social strata i.e. adults. It encourages them to seek out answers to questions they might have by asking adults or other authority figures. They view themselves as more equal than most children raised in different environments, so they are willing to use the time of more experienced adults to help them understand or get things.
  • Some reviewers criticize the book because it only contains one main idea and then proceeds to repeat the idea and give various examples the rest of the book. This misses the point: that with work you can change yourself. Specifically, Dweck gives the reader a chance to let the idea sink in and makes the path to the growth mindset well-trodden through numerous examples.

Here’s a great a graphical summary of the two mindsets:

Diagram from Blackboard Battlefield (another WP blog!)

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