mindset book review

I have the power

A review of Mindset by Carole S. Dweck

Imagine you saw an ad on Instagram offering you the ability to become whatever you wanted, that you didn’t need the natural talent you thought was a prerequisite. Would it seem too good to be true?

This is the beauty of mindset. It has the ability to put us back in the driving seat when it comes to our personal and professional lives. Mindset isn’t about being better than others, it is about understanding that your brain is a tool that can be taught to foster learning and nurture resilience. Both of these factors help us achieve success.

Why you should read mindset

Because whilst we can’t control everything in our lives, we can control our response. Mindset is about learning how to respond in a way that helps you move forwards, rather than having negative conversations that stop you from achieving your full potential. I still believe there is enormous power in being ordinary, so I don’t think you should read this book because you want your children to be CEO‘s or you want to become a multimillionaire. You should read it because you have one life and you might as well work out what you can do with it.

Key mindset lessons

Growth mindset matters

There are two key types of mindset; growth mindsets and fixed mindsets.

mindset carole dweck review

A fixed mindset means you believe you have little control over life, that you talent is fixed and generally that things happen ‘to you’. Whereas a growth mindset lets you see the opportunity in challenge, you will hold the belief that you can shape your future, and whilst things happen in life, you are in control of what you do next.

Praise the process

Instead of praising the result, you should focus on the effort, strategy and process. This helps transform the perception of effort and difficulty. If you can embrace that failure or challenge is you getting smarter, rather than being stupid, you have adopted a growth mindset. This allows you to work on problems for longer and ultimately when we dedicated focused effort, we have an improved result.

The praise research has been misinterpreted as “never praise your children”. It would be an awful approach as a parent! But, to help your child develop a growth mindset, it is important to think about the kind of praise you provide. Saying that they are smart or talented doesn’t help, because these are fixed attributes. Instead, the focus should be on the effort and the process. Perhaps how much time they spend studying, rather than the final mark, or the care they took to select the colours of their picture rather than their winning first price. As a parent, I haven’t got this right, it’s hard to re-write an education and phrasing you were schooled up. Rather than just saying well done I have to try and remember what I’m saying well-done for and think about what mindset I might be encouraging.

Creativity is often about hard work and dedication

We often believe that musical and creative talent is natural. That you either have it or you don’t. But like in Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, Dweck shows that a large part is to do with the commitment to practicing the skills. And for most things, be it singing or drawing, these skills can be learned and honed. It doesn’t mean that everyone can do everything and become the next Mozart, it just means that we can probably do more than we thought possible.

Letting others define you is dangerous

When you have a fixed mindset you tend to compare yourself to others, either to prove that you aren’t good enough, or to make yourself feel better about someone else having a lower performance. Growth mindset is about embracing the value of your learning and effort in the path to getting better at something or trying to overcome a challenge.

We are also impacted by what others say to us. If we already doubt our abilities (fixed mindset) then negative enforcement can quickly deter us. When you have a growth mindset you will use feedback and setbacks to fuel your progress. Many of these themes are also talked about in Grit by Angela Duckworth which talks a lot about mindset.

Failure really is ok

Michael Jordan is an exceptional sportsman and whilst he is no doubt talented, he is also hard-working. He is proof that success doesn’t come from talent alone. One year in his professional career he tried to coast and the result was that the Bulls were eliminated. However, he said:

You can’t leave and think you can come back and dominate this game. I will be physically and mentally prepared from now on.

He then put in the work and the Bulls went on to win three successive NBA titles. This Nike commercial featuring Jordan sums up how a growth mindset approach to failure can be used to drive success:

In conclusion

Mindset is a book that I will pick up time and time again. It is easy to slip from a growth to a fixed mindset and it would be foolish to think that you keep it without a little self-reflection and practice. It is also about creating mechanisms that allow you to receive criticism. If you don’t have a way of getting feedback, you are not going to be able to grow. We’d all like to think that we are wonderful, but we aren’t! We are perfectly fallible beings who will mistakes. But when we make them we need to be able to see them for the opportunity that they are. To take them in both hands and ask what we can learn and how we can grow.

See Carol Dweck in action

About Good Words Online

This blog was designed to be a home for all the content I’ve created over the years. It is a mix of book reviews, personal reflections and business learnings. There is no definitive way to live or work, we all make our own choices. I in no way think I am right about any particular subject. This is simply about sharing what I’ve learnt and creating an online reminder for myself.

The name, good words, has no religious references. We can’t be good all the time. Each of us will make mistakes. All we can do is try to learn from them and try and attempt to be a little better next time.

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