Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So sail away from the safe harbour. Explore, Dream, Discover.Mark Twain
Mindset (2006) discusses the difference between people with fixed mindset versus people with a growth mindset. Our mindset determines the way we deal with tough situations and setbacks as well as our willingness to deal with with and improve ourselves. The book reveals how we can achieve our goals by changing our mindset.
Sine the dawn of time people have thought differently, acted differently, and fared differently from each other. So why do people differ~ why some people are smarter or more moral—and whether there was something that made them permanently different.
Some claimed that there was a strong physical basis for these differences, making them unavoidable and unalterable. Through the ages, these alleged physical differences have included bumps on the skull (phrenology), the size and shape of the skull (craniology), and, today, genes.
Others pointed to the strong differences in people’s backgrounds, experiences, training, or ways of learning.
Who is right?
It’s not nature or nurture, genes or environment.
Scientists are learning that people have more capacity for lifelong learning and brain development than they ever thought. Of course, each person has a unique genetic endowment. People may start with different temperaments and different aptitudes, but it is clear that experience, training, and personal effort take them the rest of the way.
Carol Dweck, synthesized in her remarkably insightful Mindset: The New Psychology of Success — an inquiry into the power of our beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, and how changing even the simplest of them can have profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives.
The Two Mindset
The author believes and her research in this field has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.
How does this happen? How can a simple belief have the power to transform your psychology and, as a result, your life?
Believing that your qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset— creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.
Most of us believe that people’s IQ score told the whole story of who they were. It becomes an all consuming goal of proving themselves—in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships.
Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?
The growth mindset on the other hand is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others. Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
Dr. Dweck sites examples of great achievers such as Darwin and Tolstoy, who were considered ordinary children?
Ben Hogan, one of the greatest golfers of all time, was completely uncoordinated and graceless as a child?
Photographer Cindy Sherman, who has been on virtually every list of the most important artists of the twentieth century, failed her first photography course?
Geraldine Page, one of our greatest actresses, was advised to give it up for lack of talent?
“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
This idea, of course, isn’t new. What makes Dweck’s work different, however, is that it is rooted in rigorous research on how the mind — especially the developing mind — works, identifying not only the core drivers of those mindsets but also how they can be reprogrammed.
“What’s also new is that people’s ideas about risk and effort grow out of their more basic mindset. It’s not just that some people happen to recognize the value of challenging themselves and the importance of effort. Our research has shown that this comes directly from the growth mindset. When we teach people the growth mindset, with its focus on development, these ideas about challenge and effort follow. Similarly, it’s not just that some people happen to dislike challenge and effort. When we (temporarily) put people in a fixed mindset, with its focus on permanent traits, they quickly fear challenge and devalue effort.”
What I found most appealing in the book, and it kind of touched the chord. Being a mother of an eleven year old, I am now aware of the danger of praises and positive labels. Like most parents I use to believe that praising children’s ability in order to foster their confidence and achievement was essential.
And if you’re like most parents, you hear these as supportive, esteem-boosting messages.
Listen for the messages in the following examples:
“You learned that so quickly! You’re so smart!”
“Look at that drawing. Martha, is he the next Picasso or what?”
“You’re so brilliant, you got an A without even studying!”
But listen more closely.
See if you can hear another message. It’s the one that children hear:
If I don’t learn something quickly, I’m not smart.
I shouldn’t try drawing anything hard or they’ll see I’m no Picasso.
I’d better quit studying or they won’t think I’m brilliant.
“Parents think they can hand children permanent confidence—like a gift—by praising their brains and talent. It doesn’t work, and in fact has the opposite effect. It makes children doubt themselves as soon as anything is hard or anything goes wrong. If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, seek new strategies, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”
Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance.
Wouldn’t praising people’s ability focus them on it even more? Wouldn’t it be telling them that that’s what we value and, even worse, that we can read their deep, underlying ability from their performance? Isn’t that teaching them the fixed mindset?
The ability praise pushed students right into the fixed mindset, and they showed all the signs of it, too: When we gave them a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from. They didn’t want to do anything that could expose their flaws and call into question their talent.
In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from.
Does this mean we can’t praise our children enthusiastically when they do something great? Should we try to restrain our admiration for their successes? Not at all. It just means that we should keep away from a certain kind of praise—praise that judges their intelligence or talent. Or praise that implies that we’re proud of them for their intelligence or talent rather than for the work they put in.
Read this book if you want to find out about the different mindsets and how they influence our behaviour .Change can be tough, but people who’ve changed can tell you how their lives have been enhanced. They can tell you about things they have now that they wouldn’t have had, and ways they feel now that they wouldn’t have felt.
Did changing toward a growth mindset solve all my problems? No.
But It will always be there for you, showing you a path into the future.
About the Author
Carol Dweck is a professor of psychology at the Stanford University. In addition to Mindset, she has also published Self~Theories and a Handbook of Competence and Motivation.
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