In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck describes fixed and growth mindsets and how each can have a profound impact on how we strive to reach our goals from childhood through adulthood. Dweck shares a significant amount of fascinating research that supports the idea that intelligence and talent are not fixed traits, but can be grown with perseverance and practice. Helpful tips for how to adopt and maintain a growth mindset as well as foster it in others are given. Dweck clearly illustrates the impact of each mindset with inspiring, true success and failure stories of some of the greatest sports, education, and business icons of our times.
Here’s what you’ll learn about in this summary:
- Why mindset matters
- The profound differences between growth and fixed mindsets (and how they drive behavior)
- The power of the growth mindset
- How to cultivate a “growth mindset” to become more successful in life—both personally and professionally
- And much, much more…
Your capabilities are not fixed. You can advance in every area of your life if you’re willing to work hard and grow.
“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.”
- YOU CAN ALWAYS GROW.
- FIXED MINDSET VS GROWTH MINDSET.
- FIXED MIND-SETTERS VIEW EFFORT AS NEGATIVE.
- EARLY ACHIEVEMENT (OR LACK THEREOF) IS A POOR INDICATOR OF WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR A PERSON.
- THE GROWTH MINDSET BUILDS CHARACTER—A KEY COMPONENT TO SUCCESS.
- THE GROWTH MINDSET IS ESSENTIAL FOR BUSINESS LEADERS TO HAVE SUCCESS.
- THE GROWTH MINDSET IS AN IMPORTANT INGREDIENT FOR ANY HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP.
- MINDSETS DEVELOP FROM CHILDHOOD, OFTEN AS A RESULT OF THE MESSAGES WE RECEIVE FROM OUR PARENTS.
- THE GREATEST TEACHERS AND COACHES PROVIDE STUDENTS WITH HIGH STANDARDS AND A NURTURING ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH TO ACHIEVE THEM.
- THE GROWTH MINDSET IS BASED ON THE BELIEF THAT ALL PEOPLE CAN CHANGE.
1. YOU CAN ALWAYS GROW.
“At the same time, scientists are learning that people have more capacity for lifelong learning and brain development than they ever thought.”
The nature versus nurture debate has been going on for a very long time, but recent studies suggest that hereditary and environmental factors work together throughout our lives to make us who we are.
Although people do start out with certain natural strengths, the amount of training, practice, and effort they dedicate to improving their intelligence or skill level can have a major impact on their ability to become experts.
There are two mindsets or ways that people think about themselves and their abilities.
- The fixed mindset is the belief that the intelligence and qualities a person is born with remain the same throughout his or her life. People with the fixed mindset view failure as intolerable and spend much of their time trying to prove to themselves and others how smart and/or talented they are. They do not believe in the power of effort.
- The growth mindset is the belief that with hard work and experience, growth and development occur. This mindset creates a desire to learn. Those with the growth mindset see failure as an opportunity to learn, and they value risk-taking.
The power in recognizing the mindsets lies in the fact that our beliefs lead to our thoughts and actions. Those that believe they are born with the only strengths and talents they will ever have will avoid efforts to grow those strengths and talents.
Those with a growth mindset will make completely different choices. Luckily, if you have a fixed mindset, you can take important steps to change it.
2. FIXED MINDSET VS GROWTH MINDSET.
“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you live your life.”
“They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your mind, and you can change your mind.”
The fixed mindset can kill the desire to learn which we are all born with. When kids with the fixed mindset figure out how to assess themselves and compare themselves to others, they become afraid of challenges. As soon as this fear takes over, it squashes the desire to learn.
They learn that proving their intelligence or talent is the way to achieve success.
When things get too difficult for someone with a fixed mindset, he or she is likely to become unengaged or give up. Those with the fixed mindset need to be perfect right away because they tend to take failure very personally. Since they avoid challenges in which they might possibly fail, they often have few coping mechanisms. Instead of learning from mistakes, they look for others who did worse than them, blame someone else, or make excuses for their failure.
Those with the growth mindset are willing to challenge themselves and try to learn new things in order to develop their intelligence or talents. They are huge believers in the power of effort. Failure may be difficult for them, but it is always considered something to learn from. Since they embrace challenges and learn from their failures, people with this mindset not only develop their intelligence and skill levels, but they also develop excellent coping skills.
3. FIXED MIND-SETTERS VIEW EFFORT AS NEGATIVE.
“From the point of view of those with the fixed mindset, effort is only for people with deficiencies.”
People with a fixed mindset believe they have natural talent or intelligence and should not need effort to succeed. They do not believe their deficiencies can be changed, so they see no use in putting forth effort to change them. They tend to develop a fear of failure that is so strong that they refuse to even try if there is a chance they could fail.
Effort is scary to those with the fixed mindset because it brings doubt to their greatness, and it removes the opportunity for excuses. They see failure as something that measures and defines them and effort as something they should not need.
4. EARLY ACHIEVEMENT (OR LACK THEREOF) IS A POOR INDICATOR OF WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR A PERSON.
“Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training.”
The fixed mindset limits achievement while the growth mindset promotes it.
The low-effort syndrome is one way that students sometimes protect themselves in school. If they don’t allow themselves to be measured, they are the ones in control. If they refuse to try, they can’t look unintelligent to others. Those with the fixed mindset study for the upcoming test by memorizing information. Those with growth mindsets study to learn rather than just to pass the upcoming test.
Famous high achievers were studied by Benjamin Bloom who discovered that most of them were not predicted to be successful as children. It was curiosity, motivation, effort, and support that led them down their paths to great success.
The mindsets of parents and teachers regarding the children they influence have a huge impact on the development of those children. Teachers with fixed mindsets about the potential of their students are dangerous. Those with growth mindsets help their students stretch themselves and reach their full potential.
Praising children for their abilities is dangerous and fosters a fixed mindset. Praise should instead be given for hard work or effort. In one study, students who were praised for their ability on a test did not want to try a more challenging activity afterward because they feared it could call their intelligence into question. Those who were praised for effort were eager to take on a challenging task and learn something new. Another hazard of incorrectly offering praise is that placing too many positive labels on students can set them up for major failure later on in life when they can no longer live up to those labels.
Negative labels, of course, can also jeopardize achievement. People with fixed mindsets will obsess over stereotypes and their desire not to fall into them; this distracts them from achieving the success that they could achieve. Those with a growth mindset are better able to see stereotypes as unfair judgments and generalizations and strive to prove them wrong. They refuse to let their failures or other people’s opinions of them define them.
5. THE GROWTH MINDSET BUILDS CHARACTER—A KEY COMPONENT TO SUCCESS.
“Character is what allows you to reach the top and stay there.”
The world of sports is made up of stories of great athletes with natural physical characteristics and talents. Truth be told, most of the greats had to overcome significant physical and mental deficiencies through motivation, hard work, and relentless practice. The greats like Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan worked extremely hard and learned from their own deficiencies and failures to achieve their greatness. Still, our society likes to call what they had natural talent instead of recognizing that practice leads to improvement and a growth mindset leads to improved performance.
Character comes from the growth mindset and the idea that when things go wrong, there are effective strategies that can be used to cope with or overcome them. Character gives a person the ability to keep going even when things get really difficult. It is the ability to stretch yourself beyond what you think is humanly possible, to maintain focus and positivity when things get unbearable, and to consistently work hard.
Those with the fixed mindset focus on proving that they are better than everyone else, while those with the growth mindset strive only to be the best they can possibly be. They figure out and take the steps necessary to succeed and to keep succeeding. Many great athletes shared that they have found more fulfillment in personal growth than in winning or achieving fame.
6. THE GROWTH MINDSET IS ESSENTIAL FOR BUSINESS LEADERS TO HAVE SUCCESS.
“Great leaders are made, not born, and made more by themselves than by any external means.” —Warren Bennis
The natural talent mindset invaded the business world in a big way in 2001 when big corporations began to seek out and overpay leaders for their talent. When a person is hired because of his or her natural talent, he or she will do anything to prove that that natural talent truly exists. As a result, improvement attempts do not occur, and sometimes, instead, cheating and lying do, as was the case with Enron.
Corporations that attain great success have leaders with the growth mindset who are not afraid to look at the failures of themselves and their companies. These leaders continuously ask tough questions and never give up on the vision of success. When studied, these leaders are conscientious about not acting like they are superior to others. They do not take credit for the work of others, or talk down to their peers. They also use any feedback they can get their hands on to make necessary changes. Unlike leaders with the growth mindset, those with the fixed mindset are only concerned with proving how great they are. They put no work into developing their staffs and do not learn from their failures. This leads to the mistreatment and unhappiness of peers and subordinates. Often fixed mindset leaders will target others who are intelligent and talented because they see these people as threatening. The best leaders are strong, yet compassionate, and most importantly, they truly believe in learning from mistakes.
Open and truthful communication is also valued in any successful business setting. Fixed mindsets can lead to groupthink in which nobody in a group thinks for themselves because they believe in the greatness of their leader. Leaders may also create groupthink by punishing individuals who do not agree with the group. Obviously, honest discussion and debate reaps the best ideas and solutions to problems and is sorely missing in a groupthink situation.
With the new generation of overpraised youth entering the workforce, many are not succeeding. They are unable to face tough challenges, accept constructive criticism, or admit to mistakes. Businesses are scrambling to continue rewarding and praising them which will only exacerbate the problem. Just like children, the proper way to praise employees is for hard work and effort rather than for brilliant ideas.
7. THE GROWTH MINDSET IS AN IMPORTANT INGREDIENT FOR ANY HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP.
“In every relationship issues arise. Try to see them from a growth mindset: Problems can be a vehicle for developing greater understanding and intimacy.”
The growth mindset allows relationships to develop and grow. People with both mindsets were interviewed and shared that they have been hurt deeply by rejection. The biggest difference was in how those with each mindset reacted to that rejection. Those with the fixed mindset allowed themselves to be identified by the rejection, and often admitted to becoming obsessed with getting revenge. Those with the growth mindset had no interest in revenge. They worked to understand what had happened in the failed relationship, what fault(s) they could own, and how to change for the better. They also sought to forgive the person who had hurt them.
When looking at relationships, they should be viewed with a growth mindset. Desired qualities that are not present in the other person can be developed along the way. Those with the fixed mindset do not believe there should need to be work or development in a relationship. They see problems as insurmountable while those with the growth mindset see problems as opportunities for working together to solve them.
Often people don’t even pursue potentially good relationships because of the fixed mindset. They are so obsessed with finding the perfect mate right away because they do not believe that people with characteristics they do not like can change.
Those with the growth mindset have an easier time developing and maintaining friendships and romantic relationships. They are open to growing themselves and helping others grow. They encourage the success of their friends or significant others rather than becoming threatened by it.
8. MINDSETS DEVELOP FROM CHILDHOOD, OFTEN AS A RESULT OF THE MESSAGES WE RECEIVE FROM OUR PARENTS.
“Just learning about growth mindset can cause a big shift in the way people think about themselves and their lives.”
Parents need to be aware of the messages they are sending their children. A fixed mindset message tells children that they have traits that cannot be changed or improved upon that they are judged by. A growth mindset message says you have traits and characteristics that can be developed, and I will do anything I can to help you develop them. Children take these messages to heart, and they can have a huge influence on who they eventually become.
Parents should be careful about the ways they communicate success and failure. As Dweck writes, “every word and action can send a message.” The author studied hundreds of children and found that excessive praise of intelligence slows the motivation and performance of kids. Right after the praise, children get a great burst of self-esteem and may even be more motivated. However, as soon as they hit a challenge, they lose confidence because they see failure as unacceptable. The best way to help children develop is to teach them how to embrace a challenge, learn from mistakes, and value learning and growth. Again, it is extremely important to keep praise focused on effort and growth rather than natural intellect or ability.
It is also important to avoid trying to shield kids from failing. When we do this, there is no suggestion for growth or improvement. Children need feedback that is truthful and helpful.
Discipline is not a good form of coaching or teaching. The only thing it truly teaches a child is that if they don’t do what someone else wants them to do, they will be judged and/or punished. This does not help them learn how to make good decisions independently. Effective discipline pushes a child to think about their choices and learn from their mistakes.
Finally, parents need to be careful when setting goals for their kids and make sure they are aspirations that are achievable through hard work and do not involve only what is perceived as natural intelligence or talent.
9. THE GREATEST TEACHERS AND COACHES PROVIDE STUDENTS WITH HIGH STANDARDS AND A NURTURING ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH TO ACHIEVE THEM.
“The great teachers believe in the growth of the intellect and talent, and they are fascinated with the process of learning.”
Lowering standards is a dangerous trend used by teachers to make students feel better about themselves and their achievements. It causes students to expect work to be easy and cheats them out of solid educational experiences. Equally destructive is raising standards without providing the steps and support for students to reach them. Successful teachers have a growth mindset and highlight the importance of learning itself rather than innate talent and intelligence. The most successful educators set standards high and then provide an encouraging and supportive environment in which all students can thrive. The best teachers are also the ones that truly care about each and every student and believe that all can grow and improve.
Although some students with fixed mindsets may pretend they do not care about being successful, this is simply a defense mechanism. Remember, if they don’t try, they can’t fail. Growth-minded teachers see teaching the most difficult students as a challenge and an opportunity to learn new things themselves.
Similar to teaching is coaching. Growth-minded coaches give the same amount of coaching to all players, not just the best. They teach athletes to learn from their mistakes, and they promote the power of consistent practice. They show all of their players respect, allowing them to maintain their pride even in moments of great challenge or failure. Sometimes, too much success can push a person from a growth to a fixed mindset.
10. THE GROWTH MINDSET IS BASED ON THE BELIEF THAT ALL PEOPLE CAN CHANGE.
“Even when you change, the old beliefs aren’t just removed like a worn-out hip or knee and replaced with better ones. Instead, the new beliefs take their place alongside the old ones, and as they become stronger, they give you a different way to think, feel, and act.”
One of the most effective types of therapy is called cognitive therapy and it is based on the idea that when people pay close attention to their beliefs, it is easier to change those beliefs. People with fixed mindsets evaluate all input coming at them and judge themselves based upon that input. Those with a growth mindset also interpret input, but they think carefully about what can be learned from that input rather than using it to judge themselves and/or others.
Learning about the two mindsets and then how to pay close attention to your own internal monologues is a great way to change from a fixed to a growth mindset. The new research that tells us the brain is like a muscle that gets stronger whenever we use it is important to think about as well. Try to visualize new connections being formed and strengthened in your brain each time you learn or practice something new.
Change is difficult. Many people have grown up with a fixed mindset as part of who they are. That mindset is a part of the self that helped build what self-esteem they have, so it is not easy to discard. It is also difficult to change to habits that accept challenge and constructive criticism. Although changing your mindset can be difficult, it will be well worth it. Adopting a growth mindset will open doors to a whole new world of successful endeavors and relationships!
- Approaching your goals with a growth mindset is the key to achieving them and reaching your full potential.
- Identify areas of your life in which you may have a fixed mindset, and work to change it. The results will be amazing.
- It’s important to offer praise for effort and hard work rather than natural intelligence or talent.
- Learn to see failures as opportunities to learn about yourself and the world and people around you.
About the Author
Carol Dweck Carol Dweck is a world-famous psychologist, researcher, professor, and author. She is best known and admired for her research on motivation and success.
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