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mindset-book-summary

Mindset Book Summary – Dr Carol Dweck

What you will learn from reading Mindset:

– The difference between a fixed and growth mindset and how they influence success.

– How a growth mindset can help you to embrace failures and allow for continuous learning and resilience. 

– How to cultivate a growth mindset by implementing actionable strategies. 

Mindset Book Summary

 

 

Chapter 1: The Mindsets

Growth mindset sees setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth.

Individuals with a growth mindset not only persevere through setbacks but view them as opportunities for learning and growth. This belief in the malleability of intelligence and personality fosters resilience and a commitment to improvement, promoting a proactive approach to self-betterment. The mindset emphasises that abilities can be cultivated through dedicated effort and learning from experiences.

 

Why do people differ?

In challenging conventional thinking, Alfred Binet, the visionary behind the IQ test, crafted his assessment not to confine intelligence within limits but to identify children struggling in the Paris public school system. His goal was to pave the way for innovative educational programs tailored to reignite their academic journey in early twentieth-century Paris.

 

What does all this mean for you? The Two Mindsets

Your adopted perspective significantly influences your life. The transformative power of a simple belief over your psychology and life is evident in the growth mindset, which asserts that fundamental qualities can be cultivated through effort, strategy, and support from others. Rather than continually proving greatness, embrace improvement. Conquer shortcomings and seek companions who challenge rather than merely affirm, fostering genuine personal growth.

Why spend time repeatedly proving how great you are when you could be getting better? Instead of hiding deficiencies, overcome them. Look for friends or partners who challenge you to grow, not just those who shore up your self-esteem.

 

A view from the two mindsets

Imagine a day centred on a beloved class—anticipation deflates with a disappointing C+ on the midterm. On the way home, a parking ticket adds to the frustration. Seeking solace, you call your best friend, only to be brushed off. Some may adopt a cynical stance, yet others navigate this setback while maintaining optimism, brilliance, and attractiveness. Their resilience stems not from higher self-esteem or perpetual optimism but from their cultivated growth mindset.

 

What’s new?

People’s views on risk and effort stem directly from their fundamental mindset, specifically the cultivated growth mindset. It’s not just about recognising the value of effort and challenging themselves; it’s an inherent understanding.

Self-insight: Who has accurate views of their assets and limitations?

Dweck found that people often misestimate their abilities, primarily driven by the fixed mindset. In contrast, those with a growth mindset show remarkable accuracy. The fixed mindset focuses on judgment, while the growth mindset prioritises improvement.

 

Chapter 2: Inside the Mindsets

Ability manifests in two facets: a fixed trait seeking validation and a changeable quality developed through learning.

Upon entering a mindset, one steps into a new world. In the realm of fixed traits, success hinges on proving innate intelligence or talent, and validating oneself. Conversely, in the world of changeable qualities, success involves stretching oneself for personal development.

Mindsets, at their core, are beliefs—changeable beliefs that you control.

 

Is success about learning – or proving you’re smart?

From childhood self-evaluation onward, some fear challenges, and dread the perception of not appearing smart.

In a fixed mindset, the focus lies on feedback about ability, not on learning. Those with a fixed mindset value fixed qualities in a partner, while those with a growth mindset seek companions who foster development, challenge, and encourage learning.

People with a growth mindset don’t merely seek challenges; they thrive on them. The greater the challenge, the more they stretch. This resilience is evident in various aspects, including the world of sports.

For example, Dweck’s research uncovered striking differences in how individuals define feeling smart. The fixed mindset leans towards perfection and ease, while the growth mindset celebrates overcoming difficulty and persistent effort.

In the fixed mindset, individuals expect abilities to manifest without the need for learning. Succumbing to this mindset, they interpret results as a direct reflection of inherent ability, giving every test significant power to define them.

In contrast, a growth mindset views potential as the capacity to develop skills through sustained effort and coaching over time. Success, in this mindset, is about continuous development, not superiority.

 

Mindsets change the meaning of failure

In a fixed mindset, failure shifts from an action (I failed) to an identity (I am a failure), a profound transformation.

The fear of transitioning from success to failure looms large in this mindset, raising questions about competence and potential. Rather than learning from failures, fixed mindset individuals seek reaffirmation, resort to blame, and perpetuate cynicism.

A fixed mindset leads to higher levels of depression, rooted in ruminating over setbacks and feelings of incompetence. Conversely, a growth mindset, even in the face of depression, encourages proactive problem-solving, diligence, and perseverance.

A fixed mindset risks being defined by failure, and depleting coping resources. On the other hand, a growth mindset allows failures to sting without defining individuals, offering numerous paths to success.

 

Mindsets change the meaning of effort

A growth mindset values effort, embraces challenges, and prioritizes learning over fixed outcomes.

In a fixed mindset, effort is dismissed as a sign of a lack of inherent ability. Those with a growth mindset acknowledge that even geniuses need to work hard.

The fear of effort in a fixed mindset stems from the belief that true geniuses should not need it, casting doubt on one’s abilities. In a growth mindset, not putting in effort when you desire something badly is inconceivable.

While people with a fixed mindset may understand principles like success and effort theoretically, their ingrained belief in fixed traits hinders practical application.

 

Questions and Answers

People can harbour different mindsets in various areas, creating a nuanced understanding of personal growth.

Effort is crucial, but rich, educated, and connected effort tends to yield better results.

In the fixed mindset, everything revolves around the outcome, seeing failure as a waste. The growth mindset values the process regardless of the outcome.

The growth mindset posits that abilities can be cultivated, without specifying the extent or duration of change.

Remarkably, the growth mindset doesn’t always require confidence. Even when you think you’re not good at something, you can plunge into it and stick to it—a wonderful feature that doesn’t demand pre-existing greatness.

 

Chapter 3: The Truth About Ability and Accomplishment

Mindsets and School Achievement

In the fixed mindset, adolescence becomes a comprehensive test: Am I smart or dumb? Am I good-looking or ugly? Am I cool or nerdy? The perception of being a loser is entrenched as teens, with their skewed sense of time, see everything as forever in the now.

Contrastingly, students embracing a growth mindset take charge of their learning and motivation. They go beyond rote memorisation, seeking underlying principles and themes across lectures. Their focus shifts to understanding, not just acing the test, resulting in higher grades and a genuine drive to comprehend.

While test scores and achievement measures offer a snapshot of a student’s current standing, they fall short in predicting where a student could ultimately end up, underscoring the dynamic potential inherent in a growth mindset.

 

Is Artistic Ability a Gift?

Misconceptions about improvable skills, such as drawing, stem from the belief that they are inherent rather than learned. For example, the unfamiliarity with drawing components—perceiving edges, spaces, relationships, lights, and shadows—leads to the perception of creative pursuits as unattainable gifts.

Drawing demands the acquisition of individual skills, skillfully combined. While some naturally develop these skills, others must work to learn and integrate them.

The key message is clear: Natural talent doesn’t preclude the possibility of achieving, or even surpassing, results with proper training.

 

The Danger of Praise and Positive Labels

In a study by Dweck and colleagues, students were praised for high scores, either for their ability or effort. Ability-praised students nudged into the fixed mindset, shied away from challenging tasks, fearing flaws exposure and questioning their talent. Conversely, effort-praised students embraced challenging tasks, with 90 percent willing to tackle and learn. When faced with difficult new problems, ability-praised students’ confidence waned, interpreting less-than-success as a deficiency.

Performance-wise, ability-praised students saw a decline even when presented with easier problems after encountering difficulty. On the contrary, effort-praised students displayed improving performance, using challenging problems to sharpen their skills, and positioning them ahead when revisiting easier tasks.

 

Negative Labels and How They Work

Research by Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson reveals that even checking a box indicating race or sex can activate stereotypes, lowering test scores, particularly for those in a fixed mindset. This impact is pronounced when individuals think in terms of fixed traits.

Negative labels disrupt thinking; a growth mindset maintains confidence despite stereotypes.

In the fixed mindset, both positive and negative labels disrupt thinking. Positive labels create a fear of losing them, while negative labels evoke a fear of deserving them. Stereotypes not only affect abilities but also contribute to feelings of not belonging.

Despite encountering stereotypes, individuals with a growth mindset can maintain confidence and confront prejudice with intact abilities.

In grade school classrooms, Dweck observed a stark contrast: boys received eight times more criticism for their conduct than girls. The frequent use of terms like “slobs” and “morons” among boys diminished the power of their evaluations. In contrast, the sparing use of such evaluations among girls might explain their inclination to place more value and trust in external assessments of themselves.

 

Chapter 4: Sports: The Mindset of a Champion

The Idea of the Natural

Physical endowment, unlike intellectual endowment, is readily visible—size, build, agility—all on display. Practice and training, too, are apparent, yielding tangible results. One might expect that this visibility would dispel the myth of the natural.

Contrary to the emphasis on individual effort, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that society often places higher value on natural endowment than on earned ability. The cultural narrative tends to cast champions as born superheroes rather than individuals who transformed themselves from ordinary to extraordinary. This perspective acts as a mirror, challenging those not actively striving for greatness.

 

Character

Character emerges from mindset, as articulated by William Rhoden. A frame of reference is sought for perseverance.

Billie Jean King posits that the mark of a champion lies in the ability to win when conditions aren’t optimal—when performance is subpar and emotions are amiss.

In the fixed mindset, setbacks become defining labels, contrasting with the growth mindset where challenges are opportunities for development.

 

 Taking Charge of Success

True success is defined as giving one’s best effort, irrespective of the outcome.

Ever pondered taking responsibility? In the fixed mindset, control over abilities and motivation is avoided. Relying solely on talent, when it falls short, the fixed mindset perceives a finished product that must shield itself through lamentation and blame—anything but taking charge.

Enter the somebody-nobody syndrome: Winning makes me somebody, and losing makes me nobody. However, true somebodies aren’t defined by wins or losses. They are individuals who wholeheartedly go for it, regardless of the outcome. In this mindset, the focus is not on external validation but on the intrinsic satisfaction of giving one’s best effort, irrespective of the result.

 

Chapter 5: Business: Mindset and Leadership

In a culture dominated by a fixed mindset, talent takes centre stage, pressuring employees to project exceptional skills. This dynamic poses significant risks, as those embracing a fixed mindset resist acknowledging and addressing their shortcomings. Malcolm Gladwell observes that in environments valuing innate talent, individuals find it challenging to admit mistakes, often resorting to deception rather than confronting the truth.

Within this fixed mindset, the aspiration isn’t to build great teams; instead, individuals strive to be the sole standout, driven by the need to feel superior when compared to others.

 

Fixed-Mindset Leaders in Action

When students fail tests or athletes lose games, it may signal a momentary setback. However, CEOs, wielding substantial power, can shape a reality that perpetually caters to their need for validation, showcasing their perceived superiority. This belief in one’s superiority hampers the willingness to learn.

Bosses resorting to humiliation shift the entire focus of the environment towards pleasing the leader. A CEO’s fixed mindset can permeate the company in a top-down manner, succumbing to the dark triad.

 

Growth-Mindset Leaders in Action

Authentic self-confidence in growth-mindset leaders fosters openness to change and new ideas

Authentic self-confidence, rooted in the courage to welcome change and new ideas, transcends material symbols like titles or acquisitions. It is embodied in one’s mindset—the openness to growth.

 

Group Mindsets

In growth-mindset groups, members freely share opinions and engage in open disagreement during management discussions, fostering a dynamic learning environment. Conversely, fixed-mindset groups become preoccupied with judgments, fear disapproval, and struggle to generate open and productive discussions.

Groupthink becomes a risk when a fixed-mindset leader stifles dissent. Although individuals may continue to think critically, the reluctance to speak up becomes prevalent.

Foster a growth mindset environment that cultivates thriving individuals. This involves:

  • Framing skills as learnable attributes.
  • Conveying the organisation’s appreciation for learning and perseverance over ready-made genius or talent.
  • Providing feedback in a manner that encourages learning and future success.
  • Positioning managers as valuable resources for ongoing learning.
 

Are Leaders Born or Made

Organisations fixated on natural talent risk missing out on potential leaders and stifling perceived naturals. The lesson is to prioritise the development of abilities, fostering a culture that allows true leaders to emerge. In talent-focused environments, individualistic pursuits may lead to issues like cheating and compromise teamwork. The key lies in prioritising a growth mindset and a culture of continuous development.

 

Chapter 6: Relationships: Mindsets in Love (or not)

Navigating the path of relationships is often marked by disappointments and heartbreaks. While some allow these experiences to scar them, hindering future connections, others find healing and growth. In a fixed mindset, rejection can lead to feeling permanently judged and labelled. However, a growth mindset fosters understanding, forgiveness, and learning from experiences, emphasising the importance of communication. The French expression “Tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner,” meaning “To understand all is to forgive all,” encapsulates the idea that understanding leads to forgiveness.

At times, we hesitate to acknowledge outstanding interpersonal skills as a distinct ability. Instead of viewing those with exceptional social skills as gifted, we tend to perceive them as cool or charming individuals.

 

Mindsets Falling in Love

Having a fixed mindset in relationships extends to beliefs about personal traits, partner qualities, and relationship dynamics. An issue arises when fixed mindset individuals expect everything in a relationship to happen effortlessly, including the assumption that compatibility should naturally lead to harmony. One of the most destructive beliefs for a relationship is “If we need to work at it, there’s something seriously wrong with our relationship.”

The fixed mindset also fuels the idea of mind-reading in relationships, assuming that partners should intuitively understand each other’s thoughts and needs. Raymond Knee’s research highlights that fixed mindset individuals feel threatened even by minor discrepancies in how they perceive the relationship, leading to hostility.

Another challenge is the fixed mindset’s inclination to view problems as deep-seated flaws. When conflicts arise, blame is assigned to either oneself or the partner, often attributing the issue to a character flaw. Once people with a fixed mindset see flaws in their partners, they feel anger, disgust, and contempt towards them, leading to dissatisfaction with the entire relationship.

The belief that problems indicate irreparable flaws undermines satisfaction. Daniel Wile advises that there are no problem-free candidates; choosing a partner means choosing a set of problems. This emphasises the need to acknowledge each other’s limitations and build from there.

“The belief that partners have the potential for change should not be confused with the belief that the partner will change. The partner has to want to change, commit to change, and take concrete actions toward change.”

 

Partner as Enemy

Create a third-party judge to take an objective stance to navigate relationship challenges

In the fixed mindset, limited choices emerge when things go wrong in a relationship: blaming one’s permanent qualities or pointing fingers at the partner. Battling this tendency, Dweck and her husband created an imaginative scapegoat named Maurice. When the blame game begins, they humorously attribute it to poor Maurice, offering a lighthearted technique to navigate relationship challenges and create an objective judge.

In the fixed mindset, the constant need to prove competence can foster competition within the relationship—who’s the smarter, more talented, more likeable partner?

 

Friendship

In times of trouble, finding someone to stand by your side is crucial. Equally challenging is identifying those genuinely happy for your successes, such as finding a wonderful partner, receiving a job offer, or celebrating your child’s achievements. True companions appreciate your victories without feeling threatened, while ego-driven individuals may struggle with your assets and successes, as it challenges their sense of superiority.

 

Shyness

Beer discovered that individuals with a fixed mindset often exhibited shyness. This connection is logical, as the fixed mindset raises concerns about judgment, fostering self-consciousness and anxiety. While shyness negatively impacted the social interactions of those with a fixed mindset, individuals embracing a growth mindset were unaffected in their social relations.

 

Bullies and Victims: Revenge Revisited

Stan Davis, a therapist and school counsellor, has successfully implemented an anti-bullying program inspired by the work of Dan Olweus. His approach involves consistent discipline for bullies without criticising their personal traits. Instead, he fosters a sense of acceptance and praise for every positive step, emphasising effort rather than praising the person.

 

Chapter 7: Parents, Teachers, and Coaches: Where do Mindsets Come From

Parents (and Teachers): Messages About Success and Failure

Unlock the full potential of your child’s growth by carefully tuning in to the subtle messages embedded in your words. Seemingly positive affirmations like “You learned that so quickly! You’re so smart!” or “Look at that drawing. Martha, is he the next Picasso or what?” may sound encouraging but carry unintended messages that children internalise: “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.”

Instead of praising intelligence, empower children to embrace challenges and learn from their mistakes

  • Praising intelligence can backfire, diminishing motivation and hindering performance. Instead, empower your children to embrace challenges, learn from mistakes, relish effort, explore new strategies, and cherish continuous learning.

Eradicate any traces of a fixed mindset from your language to re-instill a growth mindset

  • Eradicate any traces of a fixed mindset from your language to re-instill a growth mindset aligned with a broader perspective of the world. Also, shift your focus in praise to encourage resilience, determination, and the joy of learning.

Foster an environment where effort and communication are prized, ensuring that your child feels encouraged

  • Embrace a growth mindset in parenting, providing support rather than judgment in the face of challenges. Foster an environment where effort and communication are prized, ensuring that your child feels encouraged to express themselves without fear.

Challenge the fixed mindset ideal that boxes children into predetermined roles of brilliance and talent.

Instead, nurture a growth mindset that allows room for errors, individuality, interests, quirks, and personal values. Provide ideas that inspire growth, offering limitless opportunities for them to realise their full potential and contribute meaningfully to society. Remember, growth knows no boundaries, while fixed ideals confine and limit.

 

Teachers (and Parents): What Makes a Great Teacher (or Parent)

Create growth-oriented environments, fostering communication, and a focus on learning and growth.

Maintaining high standards is crucial, as lowering them results in entitled, poorly educated students. However, effective teaching embraces a growth-oriented approach that unlocks children’s minds. Great teachers set high standards, combining discipline with nurturing support. They demand excellence and teach students how to reach these standards through tailored difficulty, engaging discussions, and meticulous planning.

Remind students that it is not about how much smarter someone is than them but whether they are more experienced. Emphasise learning and growth, rather than judgment, to help students avoid self-sabotage. Schools should be viewed as places for both students’ and teachers’ learning to enhance the overall educational experience.

 

Coaching: Winning Through Mindset

Bobby Knight, a renowned basketball coach, didn’t doubt his players’ potential for growth but held a fixed mindset about himself as a coach. This showcases the complexity of mindset, illustrating a fixed outlook in some areas while embracing a growth mindset in others. Identifying these fixed and growth areas is crucial for personal development.

Success can be a double-edged sword, tempting one into a fixed mindset of perpetual talent. The belief that success is solely due to inherent talent can infect both teams and individuals, hindering further growth and development.

 

False Growth Mindset

Parents, teachers, and coaches sometimes misunderstand the growth mindset concept. Let’s clarify what it is, dispel misconceptions, discuss how to achieve it, and explore how to pass it on.

Misunderstanding #1: Many people take what they like about themselves and call it a “growth mindset.”

  • A growth mindset involves believing in people’s ability to develop. Common misconceptions include equating it with flexibility instead of a dedication to talent growth and limiting it to praising effort without emphasising strategy and seeking input from others.

Misunderstanding #2: Many people believe that a growth mindset is only about effort, especially praising effort.

  • Avoid praising effort without progress; tie accomplishments to the process of hard work, strategy adaptation, and seeking support. “We should never be content with effort that is not yielding further benefits. We need to figure out why that effort is not effective and guide kids toward other strategies and resources that can help them resume learning.”

Misunderstanding #3: A growth mindset equals telling kids they can do anything.

  • Contrary to the misconception of just telling kids they can do anything, a growth mindset involves helping them acquire skills and resources for progress. Blaming children for a fixed mindset is counterproductive; educators must create growth-mindset-friendly environments.

“Although Dweck talks as though some people have a growth mindset and some people have a fixed mindset, in truth we’re all a mixture of the two. There’s no point denying it. Sometimes we’re in one mindset and sometimes we’re in the other. Our task then becomes to Understand what triggers our fixed mindset. What are the events or situations that take us to a place where we feel our (or other people’s) abilities are fixed? What are the events or situations that take us to a place of judgment rather than to a place of development?”

Parents, teachers, and coaches pass on a growth mindset not by having a belief sitting in their heads but by embodying a growth mindset in their deeds: the way they praise (conveying the processes that lead to learning), the way they treat setbacks (as opportunities for learning), and the way they focus on deepening understanding (as the goal of learning).

 

Chapter 8: Changing Mindsets

The Nature of Change

Dweck encounters numerous bright and seemingly resourceful young children who, despite their potential, become immobilised by setbacks. Even simple actions could improve their situation, yet they hesitate due to a fixed mindset, feeling powerless and incapable when faced with challenges.

Mindsets shape the ongoing inner dialogue, guiding interpretation. The fixed mindset prompts a judgment-focused monologue, hindering growth. Shifting the internal dialogue to a growth-oriented perspective breaks free from fixed mindset confines for continual growth.

 

The Mindset Lectures

More About Change

Children, sensing insecurity in parental acceptance, create alternative “selves” aligning with expectations. Initially providing security, this self becomes a fixed-mindset identity dominating self-esteem. Shifting this mindset entails letting go of a long-standing self-perception.

 

Opening Yourself Up To Growth

Research by Peter Gollwitzer shows vows are often useless, but detailed plans increase effectiveness

Create a growth-oriented plan that is irrespective of feelings and takes into account nerve-inducing situations, apply a growth mindset, and create specific plans for confidence in public and intimate moments.

 

People Who Don’t Want to Change

Many with a fixed mindset realise their specialness cloak was an armour, constricting growth. Transitioning requires understanding its origins and impact.

 

Maintaining Change

Sustainable change needs ongoing support. Transitioning to a growth mindset means moving from judging to learning, committing to continual growth.

The Journey to a (True) Growth Mindset

  1. Acknowledge your fixed mindset without accepting its havoc.
  2. Identify fixed-mindset triggers. Reflect on incidents and feelings.
  3. Give your fixed-mindset persona a name to undermine its seriousness.
  4. Educate your fixed-mindset persona when it arrives, explaining goals.
  5. Recognise everyone has a fixed-mindset persona. Foster compassion.
  6. Aim to stay in a growth-mindset place despite challenges, assisting others on their growth-mindset journey.