Top Lessons from Carol Dweck’s ‘Mindset’

If there is one book every single professional in this country needs to read, it’s Carol Dweck’s Mindset. There is no better example of a skill that will differentiate you than the idea of Growth Mindset. If you can master this, it is nothing less than a superpower for getting the outcome you want.

Here are some of my top takeaways with quotes from the book.

Skills are not a fixed set of attributes, rather something we cultivate through passion and practice.

“Growth Mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others. 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.” (7)

Growth Mindset is the simple concept that you are not a video game character with a set of fixed “attributes” that determine your skills or qualities. Instead, mastery and greatness are achieved by people who practice really, really hard at their craft and get their enjoyment out of the act of getting better. People with a growth mindset are not defined by any one setback because they are always on a path to getting better.

The Fixed Mindset is the opposite. This person believes that some people are naturally good at things and some are not. Two consequences of a fixed mindset personality:

  1. They don’t work as hard. Effort to get better is a waste of time, because attributes are fixed
  2. They don’t stretch or challenge themselves. Because attributes are fixed, people with this mindset want to “stack the game” to make it easy for them to win, because they are basing their self worth from the win, rather than from the hard work.

People who believe in natural skill and talent actually perform much worse in all aspects of life.

People who believe in fixed ability will never put in the amount of work necessary to succeed because their world view tells them that hard work is a waste of time because your results are fixed.  

“In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail — or if you’re not the best — it’s all been wasted  The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues.  Maybe they haven’t found the cure for cancer, but the search was deeply meaningful” (48)

“People with the fixed mindset have to nurse their confidence and protect it. That’s what John McEnroe’s excuses were for: to protect his confidence” (51)

It’s All About the Process

There are almost no stories about the all-time greats being just born that way.  Nearly every story of a “winner” in our society is actually a story of hard work, more practice than anyone else, and overcoming rejection over and over and over again.

Every single overnight success has had years of grinding and practice to put themselves in that position.

“Praising ability lowered the students IQs.  And praising their effort raised them” (73)

Fixed Mindset Explains Why People Get Divorced (and stop trying at other things)

“People with the growth mindset believe that a good, lasting relationship comes from effort and from working through inevitable differences.  But those with the fixed mindset don’t buy that. Remember the fixed mindset idea that if you have the ability, you shouldn’t have to work hard?  This is the same belief applied to relationships: if you’re compatible, everything should just come naturally”(152)

“In a relationship, the growth mindset lets you rise above blame, understand the problem, and try to fix it — together” (161)

Parents’ praise mold their children’s mindset

“In fact, every word and action can send a message.  It tells children — or students, or athletes — how to think about themselves. It can be a fixed mindset message that says ‘you have permanent traits and I’m judging them’ or it can be a growth mindset message that says ‘you are a developing person and I am committed to your development” (176)

“Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance” (178)

“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. It makes children doubt themselves as soon as anything is hard or anything goes wrong.  If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, seek new strategies and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise, they will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”  (179-180)

“If children’s [confidence] is protected, they won’t learn well.  They will experience advice, coaching, and feedback as negative and undermining.  Withholding constructive criticism does not help children’s confidence, it harms their future” (185)

We are always in danger of slipping back into the fixed mindset.

“Change isn’t like surgery.  Even when you change, the old beliefs aren’t just removed like a worn-out hip or knee and replaced with better ones. Instead, he new beliefs take their place alongside the old ones, and as they become stronger, they give you a different way to think, feel and act” (224)

“Mindsets frame the running account that’s taking place in people’s heads.  They guide the whole interpretation process (225)

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