Mindset by Carol Dweck – Book Review

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Best for: 

Mindset is best for those who want to learn about Growth Mindsets. Also good for those interested in learning general psychology or frequently-cited personal development material. Those who really enjoy case studies, experiments, and examples.

Difficulty to digest:

Mindset contains a huge number of examples and moves slowly conceptually. Everyone should be able to understand the main concepts after a single read-through and minimal effort. 

Key Insights:

Mindset is essentially a deep dive into Carol Dweck’s concept of Growth Mindset. Through a wide range of experiments and case studies, Dweck explains a myriad of ways beliefs impact life from achievement to relationships to business. The book also covers strategies for fostering a growth mindset. By the end, it’s clear Growth mindset influences almost every arena of life and is worth cultivating.

What is a Growth Mindset?

As you might guess, the book starts by explaining growth and fixed mindsets. There are a few components, but in essence the growth mindset is the belief that effort creates results and traits are malleable. This isn’t to discount that baselines exist, but to explain that we can make progress in nearly every realm. 

Those with the growth mindset, who believe effort dictates results, are more likely to work harder. With a fixed mindset, individuals are likely to see traits and situations as immutable. Without belief in change, less action is taken. Accordingly, those who have a growth mindset are more likely to achieve. They see the value in effort, value growth itself, and continue striving to accomplish goals even if they aren’t immediately successful. It’s not just about valuing work, but about valuing work as a means of developing skills and abilities. 

Pitfalls of Fixed Mindsets

In contrast, a fixed mindset brings a slew of negative interactions. For example, they tend to need constant external validation, instead of looking for ways to succeed. They believe failing once is indicative of a character trait and cannot be changed. This is a self-defeating attitude, which causes even less action and more failure. 

To compound the problem, fixed mindset individuals believe talented individuals are naturals. The idea is if you have to work hard, you’re inherently not good at the task. Again, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This can result in lower self-esteem with individuals ‘failing’ and believing their not worthy instead of knowing they’re capable of growth.

The fixed mindset is also harmful to businesses. It causes individuals to feel the need to prove themselves, no matter the cost. Often, this creates short-term thinking that tanks the business. It also provides businesses with groupthink and fear of stepping out, because failure might imply character flaws. Dweck recites a number of case studies exhibiting individuals from both the fixed and growth mindset. 

Growth & Fixed Mindset in Relationships

Mindset also spends a decent amount of time discussing how mindsets affect relationships. In romantic relationships, fixed mindsets cause a short-circuiting of effort. Either we were meant for each other or not, effort means it’s not right. A growth mindset, on the other hand, believes couples are meant to work through problems as a part of growing the relationship.

Even if the relationship doesn’t work out, a growth mindset is useful because it shows an opportunity to grow. The fixed mindset, on the other hand, says you may not be worthy, and that you can’t grow into a proper relationship. All the extra judgement creates further tension on the relationship. It says I love you on my terms instead of providing a path to cooperation.

Examples & Case Studies

Mindset is completely full of examples. Each piece of every idea is explored, explained, illuminated, and dissected. With all the examples, it’s extremely easy to follow along and fairly difficult to get lost. The stories include a range of famous personas, athletes, lab experiments, and personal stories. There’s something in here for everyone, and with enough angles everyone should be able to digest the key points. 

Developing Growth Mindset

Mindset includes a number of ideas for fostering a growth mindset both in yourself and others. By simply remembering the concept, we can often shift to a more useful way of thinking. Since we’re generally growth minded in some areas and fixed minded in others, this can help us apply growth concepts more universally. Thinking this way makes us more likely to take action and get the results we’re looking for. 

For others, we can help praise and highlight effort where it exists. For example, if you know someone worked hard to accomplish a task, like studying for a good grade saying you studied a lot and it really paid off instead of you’re so smart! It also means avoiding praise of effort like I know you did your best if you know they didn’t put in much effort. Instead of saying something like That doesn’t seem like the result you wanted, how might you work on improving? (where context-appropriate, of course).

Dweck also mentions characterizing your fixed mindset in the third person can help depersonalize it and clarify thoughts. For example Dave always seems to show up in my mind when I’m learning a new skill and saying I don’t have the talent and will never learn. He’s totally wrong! While some may find this awkward or ineffective, many have found it to be a useful strategy from shifting thoughts from fixed to growth. 

Common Mistakes

As with any idea, however, there are a few nuances. Dweck takes the time to point out and clarify some common mistakes. For example believing the growth mindset is only about effort. In reality, results are important as well. The growth mindset is about knowing effort counts, but also realizing enlisting help and trying various strategies are important as well. Without this important piece of knowledge, some can overemphasize effort at the cost of other important needs. 

Another common mistake is alternating between a growth and fixed mindset depending on the circumstances. For example, trying hard for a relationship, then letting it slide later. These oscillations can give the impression effort doesn’t matter, when actually it simply needs to be sustained. This can create a fake growth mindset that looks good from the outside, but doesn’t quite hold up to scrutiny. 

It isn’t about being open minded or flexible, it’s about believing you can grow your talents. While those other traits are useful, they’re not the same. Getting this confused can, again, lead to a fake growth mindset. Dweck explains these and other common mistakes in depth. 

Final Opinion:

Dweck has probably written more than necessary to get the points across, but it’s a relaxed and easy read. Even if somewhat overlapping, the stories are entertaining and cover well-known individuals. Definitely recommended for those interested in learning a lot about the Growth Mindset.

Other considerations:

The only real consideration here is how many examples you want to see. If you simply want to get a solid, general idea of Growth Mindset, you probably don’t need to read this entire book. It may potentially feel a bit slow. The main concepts are relatively easy to grasp and can be understood through other sources. For those tight on time, there are other resources that can give you a good understanding.

Applicable Content:

  1. The growth mindset is the belief that effort and strategy impact outcomes. In what realms are you most likely to exhibit a growth mindset?
  2. In what realms are you most likely to exhibit a fixed mindset?
  3. How can you help encourage effort and create a growth mindset in others?

Want to read Mindset by Carol Dweck?

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Other books you might like:

Grit By Angela Duckworth

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