Book Review: Mindset by Carol S. Dweck

Carol Dweck is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and she has been researching the concept of the fixed mindset versus the growth mindset for over 30 years.  On the surface the concept seems pretty straightforward. Some people have a fixed mindset, and some people have a growth mindset. It is your mindset that determines how you interact with others, how you deal with change, challenges and failure. And now all of the sudden the concept of mindset becomes a little more complicated and a lot more important. So, let’s go back a little and look at what exactly a fixed or growth mindset is.

Fixed Mindset: The fixed mindset describes people who believe that people are born with certain skills, talents and intelligence that cannot be improved upon. Their qualities are fixed traits. People who have a fixed mindset avoid challenges and have a hard time dealing with failure. A person with a fixed mindset views all forms of criticism as a personal attack. 

Growth Mindset: The growth mindset describes people who believe that their skills, talents and intelligence can be improved with effort and persistence. A person with a growth mindset embraces challenges and consider mistakes an essential part of the learning process.  A person with a growth mindset uses criticism as a tool to make improvements and they realize that failures are just temporary setbacks.

When a person with a fixed mindset fails, they say “I can’t”. When a person with the growth mindset fails, they say “I can’t yet”  

Dweck begins the book with an overview of the mindsets and how her research on failure helped her discover the two mindsets. It is obvious from the beginning of the book that Dweck feels that having a growth mindset is more advantageous than having a fixed mindset. She is also very honest that at one point in her life she was a person with a fixed mindset but through her research she has learned the value of the growth mindset and has spent a lot of time changing her mindset. 

The first three chapters of the book do a great job of explaining the mindsets and how they impact our lives.  Dweck follows these chapters with chapters that focus on sports, business, relationships, and parents, teachers and coaches.  The book ends with a chapter that illustrates ways in which you can change your mindset. Throughout the book she uses stories about real people to illustrate her points, which helps the reader gain an even better understanding of each of the mindsets.  Dweck has done a good job of taking her years of research to write a book that is interesting and doesn’t feel like you are reading a college textbook. She is definitely the leading authority on this subject as I have noticed that Mindset and Dweck’s research are often referenced when I am reading other books in this genre. 

Before I read this book, I was sure that I was a growth mindset person. I have read this book twice now and each time I read it I find more areas of my life where maybe I have more of a fixed mindset than I’d like to admit. Dweck states in the book that most people are a mixture of the two mindsets but when we find ourselves looking at something through that fixed mindset lens, we need to acknowledge that and try to change how we may be thinking about that situation. 

I have learned from reading Mindset, that having a growth mindset will allow me to challenge myself, learn more, and achieve new goals. If you are looking for ways to help you deal with changes in your life or need ideas to help you overcome some challenges that you might be facing, reading this book might be a good place to start. 

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