I love getting book recommendations from friends, and Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential came highly recommended. Based on my friend’s praise, the description on Amazon, plus all the great reviews (seriously, it has over 1,700 hundred 5 star reviews!), I couldn’t wait to read it.
So I started reading it. Three years ago.
I’m Nothing If Not Persistent
I’m not sure why it took me so long to finish this book but I’m even more puzzled as to why I persisted. It’s okay to stop reading a book if you aren’t that into it (I learned this from Gretchen Rubin—it is her #1 tip for getting more reading done). And, while it can be hard to abandon a book in the middle, I have done it on occasion.
In this instance, I think I kept at it because of vanity. What would it say about me if I quit reading a book that explains the importance of adopting a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset? Would that mean I was not open to self-improvement?
Fortunately, I no longer have to contemplate these questions as I have finally finished the damn book. And I’m not sorry I did so because I did learn a lot about myself and the role mindset plays in shaping not just success but how we even define success. I’m still really, really glad to move it to the finished pile, however.
To help you avoid a similar dilemma—although, who knows? Maybe you would have an easier time getting through it!—here are my top takeaways from the book.
A Growth Mindset Beats a Fixed Mindset
Throughout the book, Carol continually provides examples to help illustrate the difference between the a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. This is helpful because it’s not as simple a concept as you would expect. Here are some of the passages I underlined that I found most useful in explaining the difference:
- “The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate….everyone can change and grow through application and experiment.”
- With a growth mindset, you don’t “waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better…hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them… [or] look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow…. The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.”
- If you have a fixed mindset, “risk and effort are two things that might reveal your inadequacies and show that you were not up to the task…. The idea of trying and still failing—of leaving yourself without excuses—is the worst fear within the fixed mindset….”
- People with a fixed mindset have “one consuming goal of proving themselves—in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Ever situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or loser?”
I think I have a growth mindset about most things in life. I don’t mind working hard and I believe hard work will improve my skills and lead to future successes. I don’t like to fail at something, but I don’t think my inner dialogue when I do fail is “I am a failure.” I think it’s “well, that sucked. What’s next?”
The Power to Adopt a Growth Mindset is Within Us
One exception to this is my weight. After being overweight for so much of my life, it is hard to keep trying to lose weight as each time I do so and either don’t lose weight—or actually gain weight—is devastating.
It’s very tempting to blame it on genetics, or my chaotic childhood, or anything else that sounds remotely plausible, which is something someone with a fixed mindset would do. But that isn’t who I want to be. I have to believe that eventually my hard work will pay off.
Thomas Edison is often credited with saying that he didn’t fail over and over again, but instead found 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb. Maybe I have just figured out 10,000 ways not to lose weight.
Parent, Teachers, Coaches, and Bosses Can Help
Most of the book was focused on advising parents, teachers, coaches, and bosses on how to cultivate a growth mindset. If any of these titles applies to you, I would recommend reading the book for good examples of both what to do and what not to do.
As someone who does not have kids or supervises anyone, I found myself more likely to underline a passage because it explained why my interactions with someone were ultimately so destructive.
One quote I have gone back to several time summarized why good bosses succeed: they believe “leadership is about growth and passion, not about brilliance.”
What Did You Think of Mindset?
Have you read Mindset? What did you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!