Mindset by Carol Dweck will transform your thinking. It will show how many times you gave up in life because of the fixed mindset. The book is full of inspiring stories with thought provoking theories designed to improve your attitude in life.
I recommend this book for people looking for extraordinary growth in all areas of life. It’s one of my all time favorites. Below are my notes from the book.
Biggest lesson: your success depends on your mindset and you have full control of it.
My rating: 10/10
Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
Wasn’t the IQ test meant to summarize children’s unchangeable intelligence? In fact, no. Binet, a Frenchman working in Paris in the early twentieth century, designed this test to identify children who were not profiting from the Paris public schools, so that new educational programs could be designed to get them back on track.
Or, as his forerunner Binet recognized, it’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.
For twenty years, my research 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.
Believing that your qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset—creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.
This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. 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.
Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” or “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
We often see books with titles like The Ten Secrets of the World’s Most Successful People crowding the shelves of bookstores, and these books may give many useful tips. But they’re usually a list of unconnected pointers, like “Take more risks!” or “Believe in yourself!” While you’re left admiring people who can do that, it’s never clear how these things fit together or how you could ever become that way.
In fact, studies show that people are terrible at estimating their abilities.
Howard Gardner, in his book Extraordinary Minds, concluded that exceptional individuals have “a special talent for identifying their own strengths and weaknesses.”
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.
In one world, effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort. In the other world, effort is what makes you smart or talented.
You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs.
Benjamin Barber, an eminent sociologist, once said, “I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures.… I divide the world into the learners and nonlearners.”
But for children with the growth mindset, success is about stretching themselves. It’s about becoming smarter.One seventh-grade girl summed it up. “I think intelligence is something you have to work for … it isn’t just given to you…
People with the growth mindset hoped for a different kind of partner. They said their ideal mate was someone who would: See their faults and help them to work on them. Challenge them to become a better person. Encourage them to learn new things.
People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch.
If you only go through life doing stuff that’s easy, shame on you.
When do people with the fixed mindset thrive? When things are safely within their grasp. If things get too challenging—when they’re not feeling smart or talented—they lose interest.
“This is hard. This is fun.” That’s the moment I knew I was changing mindsets.
There was a saying in the 1960s that went: “Becoming is better than being.” The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming. They have to already be.
As a New York Times article points out, failure has been transformed from an action (I failed) to an identity (I am a failure). This is especially true in the fixed mindset.
Even in the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.
College students, after doing poorly on a test, were given a chance to look at tests of other students. Those in the growth mindset looked at the tests of people who had done far better than they had. As usual, they wanted to correct their deficiency. But students in the fixed mindset chose to look at the tests of people who had done really poorly. That was their way of feeling better about themselves.
John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, says you aren’t a failure until you start to blame. What he means is that you can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them.
When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them. And if abilities can be expanded—if change and growth are possible—then there are still many paths to success.
After all, everyone knows you have to show up in order to win.
Malcolm Gladwell, the author and New Yorker writer, has suggested that as a society we value natural, effortless accomplishment over achievement through effort. We endow our heroes with superhuman abilities that led them inevitably toward their greatness.
From the point of view of the fixed mindset, effort is only for people with deficiencies. And when people already know they’re deficient, they have nothing to lose by trying.
It’s also important to realize that even if people have a fixed mindset, they’re not always in that mindset.
However, this point is crucial: The growth mindset does allow people to love what they’re doing—and to continue to love it in the face of difficulties. The growth-minded athletes, CEOs, musicians, or scientists all loved what they did, whereas many of the fixed-minded ones did not.Many growth-minded people didn’t even plan to go to the top. They got there as a result of doing what they love. It’s ironic: The top is where the fixed-mindset people hunger to be, but it’s where many growth-minded people arrive as a by-product of their enthusiasm for what they do.
Incidentally, people with a growth mindset might also like a Nobel Prize or a lot of money. But they are not seeking it as a validation of their worth or as something that will make them better than others.
The growth mindset also doesn’t mean everything that can be changed should be changed. We all need to accept some of our imperfections, especially the ones that don’t really harm our lives or the lives of others.
People are all born with a love of learning, but the fixed mindset can undo it. Think of a time you were enjoying something—doing a crossword puzzle, playing a sport, learning a new dance. Then it became hard and you wanted out. Maybe you suddenly felt tired, dizzy, bored, or hungry. Next time this happens, don’t fool yourself. It’s the fixed mindset. Put yourself in a growth mindset. Picture your brain forming new connections as you meet the challenge and learn. Keep on going.
Next time you’re tempted to surround yourself with worshipers, go to church. In the rest of your life, seek constructive criticism.
Yet Darwin’s masterwork, The Origin of Species, took years of teamwork in the field, hundreds of discussions with colleagues and mentors, several preliminary drafts, and half a lifetime of dedication before it reached fruition.Mozart labored for more than ten years until he produced any work that we admire today.
George Dantzig was a graduate student in math at Berkeley. One day, as usual, he rushed in late to his math class and quickly copied the two homework problems from the blackboard. When he later went to do them, he found them very difficult, and it took him several days of hard work to crack them open and solve them. They turned out not to be homework problems at all. They were two famous math problems that had never been solved.
Remember, test scores and measures of achievement tell you where a student is, but they don’t tell you where a student could end up.
The fixed mindset limits achievement.
Twyla Tharp, the world-famous choreographer and dancer, wrote a book called The Creative Habit.
So telling children they’re smart, in the end, made them feel dumber and act dumber, but claim they were smarter. I don’t think this is what we’re aiming for when we put positive labels—“gifted,” “talented,” “brilliant”—on people. We don’t mean to rob them of their zest for challenge and their recipes for success.
Research by Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson shows that even checking a box to indicate your race or sex can trigger the stereotype in your mind and lower your test score. Almost anything that reminds you that you’re black or female before taking a test in the subject you’re supposed to be bad at will lower your test score—a lot.
Aside from hijacking people’s abilities, stereotypes also do damage by making people feel they don’t belong. Many minorities drop out of college and many women drop out of math and science because they just don’t feel they fit in.
In short, the growth mindset lets people—even those who are targets of negative labels—use and develop their minds fully.
Think about your hero. Do you think of this person as someone with extraordinary abilities who achieved with little effort? Now go find out the truth. Find out the tremendous effort that went into their accomplishment—and admire them more.
Think of times other people outdid you and you just assumed they were smarter or more talented. Now consider the idea that they just used better strategies, taught themselves more, practiced harder, and worked their way through obstacles. You can do that, too, if you want to.
Ali’s victory over Liston is boxing history. A famous boxing manager reflects on Ali: “He was a paradox. His physical performances in the ring were absolutely wrong.… Yet, his brain was always in perfect working condition.” “He showed us all,” he continued with a broad smile written across his face, “that all victories come from here,” hitting his forehead with his index finger. Then he raised a pair of fists, saying: “Not from here.”
Michael Jordan wasn’t a natural, either. He was the hardest-working athlete, perhaps in the history of sport.It is well known that Michael Jordan was cut from the high school varsity team—we laugh at the coach who cut him. He wasn’t recruited by the college he wanted to play for (North Carolina State). Well, weren’t they foolish? He wasn’t drafted by the first two NBA teams that could have chosen him. What a blooper! Because now we know he was the greatest basketball player ever, and we think it should have been obvious from the start. When we look at him we see MICHAEL JORDAN. But at that point he was only Michael Jordan.
Former Bulls assistant coach John Bach called him “a genius who constantly wants to upgrade his genius.”
But, as Billie Jean King tells us, the mark of a champion is the ability to win when things are not quite right—when you’re not playing well and your emotions are not the right ones. Here’s how she learned what being a champion meant.
All at once, she understood what a champion was: someone who could raise their level of play when they needed to. When the match is on the line, they suddenly “get around three times tougher.”
Character is what allows you to reach the top and stay there.
Mia Hamm tells us, “After every game or practice, if you walk off the field knowing that you gave everything you had, you will always be a winner.”
“Some people don’t want to rehearse; they just want to perform. Other people want to practice a hundred times first. I’m in the former group.”
Those with the growth mindset found setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wake-up call.
“I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots. I’ve lost almost three hundred games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot, and missed.”
A superstar’s talent can win games, but it’s teamwork that wins championships.
Worrying about being a nobody is not the mindset that motivates and sustains champions.
“If you work hard at something, you get out what you put in.”
It’s what makes great athletes and it’s what comes from the growth mindset with its focus on self-development, self-motivation, and responsibility.
We know from our studies that people with the fixed mindset do not admit and correct their deficiencies.
When bosses become controlling and abusive, they put everyone into a fixed mindset.
Real self-confidence is not reflected in a title, an expensive suit, a fancy car, or a series of acquisitions. It is reflected in your mindset: your readiness to grow.
In the early 1970s, Irving Janis popularized the term groupthink. It’s when everyone in a group starts thinking alike. No one disagrees. No one takes a critical stance.
Groupthink can occur when people put unlimited faith in a talented leader, a genius.
Groupthink can happen when the group gets carried away with its brilliance and superiority. At Enron, the executives believed that because they were brilliant, all of their ideas were brilliant. Nothing would ever go wrong. An outside consultant kept asking Enron people, “Where do you think you’re vulnerable?” Nobody answered him. Nobody even understood the question.
Managers with a growth mindset think it’s nice to have talent, but that’s just the starting point. These managers are more committed to their employees’ development, and to their own.
Most exciting, the growth mindset can be taught to managers.
Finally, it means creating a growth-mindset environment in which people can thrive. This involves:
- Presenting skills as learnable
- Conveying that the organization values learning and perseverance, not just ready-made genius or talent
- Giving feedback in a way that promotes learning and future success
- Presenting managers as resources for learning
It had to be a person with the fixed mindset who coined the phrase “Revenge is sweet”—the idea that with revenge comes your redemption—because people with the growth mindset have little taste for it.
For people with the growth mindset, the number one goal was forgiveness.
“I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit here and feel sorry for myself!”
One problem is that people with the fixed mindset expect everything good to happen automatically.
It’s probably why so many relationships go stale—because people believe that being in love means never having to do anything taxing.
Part of the low-effort belief is the idea that couples should be able to read each other’s minds: We are like one. My partner should know what I think, feel, and need and I should know what my partner thinks, feels, and needs. But this is impossible.
John Gottman reports: “I’ve interviewed newlywed men who told me with pride, ‘I’m not going to wash the dishes, no way. That’s a woman’s job.’ Two years later the same guys ask me, ‘Why don’t my wife and I have sex anymore?’ ”
It doesn’t mean there is no “they lived happily ever after,” but it’s more like “they worked happily ever after.”
Relationship expert Daniel Wile says that choosing a partner is choosing a set of problems. There are no problem-free candidates. The trick is to acknowledge each other’s limitations, and build from there.
Aaron Beck tells couples in counseling never to think these fixed-mindset thoughts: My partner is incapable of change. Nothing can improve our relationship.
Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance.
If success means they’re smart, then failure means they’re dumb. That’s the fixed mindset.
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.
We can praise them as much as we want for the growth-oriented process—what they accomplished through practice, study, persistence, and good strategies.
Everyone learns in a different way. Let’s keep trying to find the way that works for you.
Skills and achievement come through commitment and effort.
Don’t judge. Teach. It’s a learning process.
Many educators think that lowering their standards will give students success experiences, boost their self-esteem, and raise their achievement. It comes from the same philosophy as the overpraising of students’ intelligence. Well, it doesn’t work.
Welcome to success. You will read hard books in here and understand what you read. You will write every day.… But you must help me to help you. If you don’t give anything, don’t expect anything. Success is not coming to you, you must come to it.
Every day he tells his students that he is no smarter than they are—just more experienced.
But when students understand that school is for them—a way for them to grow their minds—they do not insist on sabotaging themselves. In my work, I have seen tough guys shed tears when they realize they can become smarter.
Sometimes I don’t like other grown-ups very much because they think they know everything. I don’t know everything. I can learn all the time.
You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better.
Remember that praising children’s intelligence or talent, tempting as it is, sends a fixed-mindset message.
As parents, teachers, and coaches, our mission is developing people’s potential. Let’s use all the lessons of the growth mindset—and whatever else we can—to do this.
In the 1960s, psychiatrist Aaron Beck was working with his clients when he suddenly realized it was their beliefs that were causing their problems. Just before they felt a wave of anxiety or depression, something quickly flashed through their minds. It could be: “Dr. Beck thinks I’m incompetent.”
Whether they’re aware of it or not, all people keep a running account of what’s happening to them, what it means, and what they should do. In other words, our minds are constantly monitoring and interpreting.
Just learning about the growth mindset can cause a big shift in the way people think about themselves and their lives.
But change is also hard.When people hold on to a fixed mindset, it’s often for a reason. At some point in their lives it served a good purpose for them. It told them who they were or who they wanted to be (a smart, talented child) and it told them how to be that (perform well). In this way, it provided a formula for self-esteem and a path to love and respect from others.
But opening yourself up to growth makes you more yourself, not less.
What works is making a vivid, concrete plan: “Tomorrow during my break, I’ll get a cup of tea, close the door to my office, and call the graduate school.” Or, in another case: “On Wednesday morning, right after I get up and brush my teeth, I’ll sit at my desk and start writing my report.”
Think of something you need to do, something you want to learn, or a problem you have to confront. What is it? Now make a concrete plan. When will you follow through on your plan? Where will you do it? How will you do it? Think about it in vivid detail.
The critical thing is to make a concrete, growth-oriented plan, and to stick to it.
Many people with the fixed mindset think the world needs to change, not them. They feel entitled to something better—a better job, house, or spouse.
It’s a long time before you begin to enjoy putting in effort and a long time before you begin to think in terms of learning.
Studying now has a new meaning. It isn’t about getting the highest grade to prove her intelligence and worth to her parents. It’s about learning things and thinking about them in interesting ways.
It’s a learning process—not a battle between the bad you and the good you.
First, spouses can’t read your mind, so when an anger-provoking situation arises, you have to matter-of-factly tell them how it makes you feel.
When people—couples, coaches and athletes, managers and workers, parents and children, teachers and students—change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework.
Every day presents you with ways to grow and to help the people you care about grow.
Remember, as Alex Rodriguez, the great baseball player, said: “You either go one way or the other.” You might as well be the one deciding the direction.