Reviewed by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is intended to help readers identify which mindset they view the world with and exactly how that mindset impacts their day to day life. Through real life examples, author Carol Dweck, Ph.D. explains how these mindsets are developed from childhood and discusses the effects they have on our lives. She describes how the mindsets differ, how they affect ability and accomplishment, what they mean for leadership, and how they influence our relationships. She also identifies the most effective mindsets for teachers, parents, and coaches, and ends the book with a workshop on how to change your mindset.
In Mindset, Dweck explains her interest in understanding how people cope with failures. She conducted a study where children were engaged in puzzles that increased in difficulty. Some of the children grew frustrated and gave up, while others were excited by the idea of a challenge. Because some of these children knew that their efforts would impact and influence their development, they worked on the puzzles with the purpose of learning something new. She said to herself, “I always thought you coped with failure or you didn’t cope with failure. I never thought anyone loved failure. Were these alien children or were they on to something?” (p. 3). This led Dweck to investigate “the kind of mindset that could turn a failure into a gift” (p. 4). From this she derived that everyone has one of two mindsets, either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
To elaborate, having a fixed mindset means that you believe your qualities cannot be changed. This may result in your need to continuously prove yourself. As Dweck explains, “Every 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 a loser?” (p. 6).
On the other hand, the growth mindset consists of the belief that your traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with; it’s a starting point for development. People with this mindset think, “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?” (p. 7). “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” (p. 7). This mindset is not about immediate perfection. It’s about learning something over time—confronting a challenge and making progress.
We all experience situations where our responses are determined by our mindset, whether it is a reaction to positive and negative labels, stereotypes, or other people’s opinions and character. Your mindset can determine how you act in your relationships with family, as well as with co-workers, peers, and teachers. The fixed mindset stands in the way of development and change. The growth mindset is a starting point for change.
If you are struggling with frustrations in any aspect of your life, Mindset may be just the book for you. It can help you to see which mindset you possess and the implications it may be having on your life, as well as provide you with suggestions and strategies on how to make a change for the best.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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