By Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
288 pages. Random House (February 28, 2006)
- You can learn new things, but you can’t really change your basic intelligence.
- To be honest, you can’t really change how much talent you have.
- You can do things differently, but the important parts about who you are can’t really be changed.
Do you agree with those statements?
After more than 20 years of research in motivation and personality psychology, Carol S. Dweck introduces her findings in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Mindsets are basic beliefs about you and your intelligence, personality and talents. They form a foundation for how we interpret our world. Starting in childhood, they shape our goals, our attitude towards work and relationships, and how we approach new tasks. Dweck reports that people tend towards one of two basic groups: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
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People with a fixed mindset must constantly prove themselves and believe their abilities cannot be significantly changed. Convinced that personality, talents and intelligence fall like lucky numbers in the lottery, you either have it or you don’t. Those with fixed mindsets do not challenge their abilities; they cannot risk failure. Further, they often need to excel in comparison to others and cannot tolerate mistakes. Fixed mindset people spend their resources trying to look smart and talented at all costs.
People with a growth mindset seek to improve themselves and believe their intelligence, talents, and abilities can be developed over time. They believe abilities, such as athletic or musical ability can be improved through hard work and persistence. When a task gets difficult, they see a challenge to overcome with effort. They do not fear failure, but welcome the opportunity for self-improvement.
Dweck writes, “When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world--the world of fixed traits--success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other--the world of changing qualities--it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.”
Everyone understands that an athlete needs to practice, practice, practice. In the sports arena, excellence requires dedication and hard work. No one makes fun of Michael Jordan for practicing on the court. “Even at the height of his success and fame--after he had made himself into an athletic genius--his dogged practice remained legendary.” His former coach labels him “a genius who constantly wants to upgrade his genius.”
Success stems from our approach, our mindset. Jordan says, “The mental toughness and the heart are a lot stronger than some of the physical advantages you might have.” Dweck continues, “But other people don’t. They look at Michael Jordan and they see the physical perfection that led inevitably to his greatness.” They look past the years of dedicated effort perfecting his skills, past his determination after defeats, and only see the phenomenal athlete.”
Your mindset is not permanent. The belief in change at any life stage forms the basis for the growth mindset. Accepting growth challenges people “to give up on using personal fixed traits as a source of self-esteem and instead derive their self-esteem from effort and embrace things formerly thought of as threatening such as challenge, struggle, criticism, and setbacks.”
Respected child psychologist, Dr. Haim Ginott, says, “Praise should deal, not with the child’s personality attributes, but with his efforts and achievements.” Praise should be given to the effort and persistence rather than intelligence or talent. This holds true not only for children, but also for adults.
Mindset shares stories of school achievement, artistic ability and the positive and negative effect of labels. Corporate examples from Enron, Ford, GE and AOL Time Warner, among others, illustrate the damage fixed mindsets at the helm of our nations’ greatest companies can do.
Dweck offers clear and convincing advice to a general audience based on over two decades of well-defined research. Her research on the whys behinds success has been featured in The New Yorker, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe and she has appeared on Today and 20/20. She is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and has held professorships at Columbia and Harvard Universities.Stretching across multiple arenas, she gives parents, teachers, coaches, and business leaders tools to practice a growth mindset and realize meaningful success. Read the book and prove it to yourself; your mindset shapes your life.
Will you choose a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?