Book Recommendation: The Mindset by DR Carol S. Dweck

Writer: DR Carol S. Dweck

Where to find: ,

What is it about?

As a personal development enthusiast, I was so excited when reading this book. The most important aspect of personal development to me is the mindset. The way you are thinking will determine the way to take action in your life. There are two types of mindset in this book, can you guess what is the answer? Yes, the answer is fixed mindset and growth mindset.

Each of us possesses a fixed mindset at some point in our life, some might only think in their fixed mindset way. What is a fixed mindset? A fixed mindset is defined as thinking strictly. There is only success or failure, smart or stupid, talented or no talent at all. When you are constantly getting straight A’s at school, you will view yourself as smart. But if you face failure and get a couple of C’s, you will feel like a loser and refuse to try again one day. There is nothing you can do about it, there is nothing that can be learned from it. A fixed mindset makes you believe that your qualities are a definite thing that can never change. It made you feel like you have to prove yourself to other people over and over again to gain other people’s validation/approval. 

On the other hand, in the growth mindset way of thinking, failure is an opportunity to learn what was wrong in the process, what can we do better about it, what lessons can we take from it. Unlike a fixed mindset, there is more option than just being smart or stupid in a growth mindset. A broader way of thinking especially when we face difficulties in life. A growth mindset provides other options on how to interpret success in life.

My Favorite Highlights of the book are:

Failure Is an Opportunity to Learn

The book says “people in the growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch”. A lot of people view failure as the end of everything. Once failed, you can never bounce back and will not even bother trying again. People in a growth mindset can still flourish in failure. From failure, they analyze the situation, what makes them fail, what can make it better, how to try again next time. I absolutely agree with this, difficulties make you learn from your mistakes and stretch helps you to stretch your ability to improve yourself.

Praises Can Be Dangerous

Adults and children love being praised. How smart, talented, and amazing they are. However, too much praise can lead to a fixed mindset. According to the Mindset book, we often focus on praising the outcome of something. For instance: we praise our kids for winning a competition, for getting straight A, for being so talented at sport. These types of praises often cause their mind to think “I am born this way”, “I am already smart anyway, so I don’t have to try as hard”. As if being smart is their fixed character even without trying. Therefore, the next time they failed on a test, they will feel as if it is not their fault, other people must have been responsible for their disappointment.  Instead of praising only the outcome, the writer suggests that we should praise more on children’s effort in achieving something. The effort of practicing to get better and the struggle they overcome in accepting failure and learning from it.

Growth Mindset in Sport and Work Place

The book describes the application of growth mindset athletes in sport and leaders of companies. In a sport where a lot of athletes who are so talented have issues with a fixed mindset. Their fixed mindset thinks that they are born with talent so great that they do not need practice. The fixed mindset would think doing practice is for those who are less talented. The talented one does not have to try as much. Although it might be true that some people are more talented than others, there is always room for improvement. However, those athletes with fixed mindset views improvement aren’t significant. When they lose the game, they don’t know how to deal with failure.

On the contrary, an athlete with a growth mindset when face with challenges, they take it as an opportunity to evaluate themselves. Study their performance and learn how to do a better strategy to win next time, they don’t think of it as the end of their career. They stay humble and eager to expand their abilities.

The same goes with leaders of big corporations with a growth mindset focused on increasing company performance to withstand difficulties in many years to come. Whereas, those leaders with a fixed mindset prefer to surround themselves with people who never challenge them and eliminate people who dare to criticize them.

False Growth Mindset

There is a misunderstanding on how a growth mindset is supposed to be:

1)      People mistook a growth mindset as an “open mindset”.

A growth mindset is basically believed that you can develop your abilities, meanwhile, open-mindedness is more like being flexible on receiving new things. A growth mindset is focusing on the hard work to grow your abilities.   

2)      Many people believe that a growth mindset is only about effort.

It is necessary to highlight the process that goes hand in hand with the effort you put in. The process includes learning a new strategy in doing the effort, not using the same way over and over again when it does not work.

3)      A growth mindset equals telling kids they can do anything

A growth mindset cannot be developed just by simply saying to kids that they can do anything. It happens by helping them gain the skills and find the resources to make progress toward their goals. Otherwise, it’s an empty reassurance

Sustainable Growth Mindset

Making changes into a growth mindset is certainly a journey that needs to be continuously done. It is a journey of a sustainable growth mindset. It is like the journey of losing weight. You try so hard to lose weight and get the body you wanted by improving your diet, eating habits, exercise pattern,s and of course your mindset about health. As the writer says “It’s amazing—once a problem improves, people often stop doing what caused it to improve”. Once you get the body you always dream of, would you keep doing the same exercise habit and eating the same healthy diet you have been working on so hard? You must sustain those changes, right?

The same goes with having a growth mindset, it is a journey too. The writer gives 4 step journeys to help to maintain your growth mindset:

Step 1, Embrace your fixed mindset

We all have some of it, a mixture of growth and fixed mindsets and we need to acknowledge that fact.

Step 2, Become aware of your fixed-mindset triggers

Think about what kind of situation usually triggers your fixed mindset persona to appear. It could be when you lose a competition, under pressure at work, starting a new job, or it could be a certain people in your life.

Step 3, Give your fixed-mindset persona a name

I think this is a brilliant idea from the writer. Named your fixed mindset persona. You know those judgmental voices in your head that always say you can’t do anything right, that you will certainly fail if you dare to try. Yes, name that inner voice of a fixed mindset.

Step 4, Educate your fixed mindset persona

Just like educating other people, educate your fixed mindset persona too. The writer states that “Educate your fixed mindset persona in the new growth mindset ways that it can support you: in taking on challenges and sticking to them, bouncing back from failure, and helping and supporting others to grow”.

Teaching Growth Mindset to my son

I really enjoy reading The Mindset book. It resonates well with the way I am thinking. Plus, it is also applicable for children and adults. As soon as I finish reading this book, I share the useful content with my son and teach him about the growth mindset. And it looks sort of like this:

I outline the benefit of having a growth mindset in the simplest way that he could understand. I explained to him along with an example that is applicable in real life. Such as my son’s own experience learning to ride a two-wheel bicycle. My son previously rides a 4 wheels bike, and to be able to ride a two wheels bike, he was faced challenges like falling off the bike multiple times. That is a part of the learning process, from it he will learn how to balance himself on his bike better. There are moments where he feels like he wants to give up trying to ride a two-wheel bike. He also thought that maybe he cannot ride it, and could never be balanced on a bike. I told him that he should just practice more each day. Since then, he improves his balance and finally manages to ride his two-wheel bike. We do not have to use fancy terms to teach about growth mindset to kids, just use a simple yet relatable example. The point is for them to understand the main concept of a growth mindset: people can develop their abilities through process and effort.

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