Mindset: A Summary

Dr. Carol S. Dweck was challenged by her student to write a book on the results of years of their research study. Dr. Carol S. Dweck rose to the occasion and has written this book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, and How we can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential” in the hope that it will help the ordinary human being understand that life is what you make it and not what was dealt to you at birth. She has written in simple language giving examples of ordinary real people like herself and her students, artists like Picasso, sportsmen like Michael Jordan, the basketball player and John McEnroe the tennis player, Marina Semyonova the great Russian dance instructor and CEOs of different companies to name a few. In the third paragraph of her introduction she writes, “… you’ll learn how a simple belief about yourself… guides a large part of your life… In fact it permeates every part of your life… ” Thus she draws the reader into the book, making the reader one of her real life examples as the reader finds himself or herself in these examples.

Dr. Dweck introduces the two types of mindsets, the fixed mindset and the growth mindset in the first section of the book. She writes how she learned from ten year old kids that failure could be turned into a gift if you had the right mindset. By giving them hard puzzles to work on, the kids cultivated their intellectual skills through effort and did not give up. These kids became her role models in her pursuit of whether human qualities are things that can be cultivated or are things curved in stone. Each person has a unique genetic endowment but experience, training, and personal effort take them the rest of the way.

Dr. Dweck’s twenty years of research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. She writes that, if you believe that your qualities and traits are curved in stone and cannot be changed then you have a fixed mindset. And if you believe that cherished qualities and traits can be developed and cultivated then you have a growth mindset.

Fixed mindset people believe that an individual’s intelligence, quality and traits are a fixed quantity which cannot be increased. If they are doing well in school then they are smarter than the others who are not doing well. If they do well in sports then they have talent dealt them at birth. They spend time to prove that they are better in the qualities dealt to them just to prove they were dealt a healthy dose and that they are not deficient. If something doesn’t work for fixed mindset people they always blame it on something else.

Growth mindset people work hard to do better always. They do not sit back and see their accomplishments as the final goal. In their minds there is always room for improvement. They have no time to sit and see themselves as the best or better than others. They have no time to sit and think that they have a special talent. They are busy thinking of how they can make it better and what changes they can make if something expected did not go right. To them if something doesn’t go right it’s not failure it is a challenge to find out ways to make it happen.

In the second section of the book, Dr.Dweck, takes us through her research journey of fixed mindset and a journey of growth mindset through several sets of eyes. Showing how these two mindsets make or break people in their daily lives. In individual sports she gives an example of John McEnroe fixed mindset in tennis. He was a brilliant player who believed on talent not effort and working hard. When he didn’t win he blamed it on something else. Like when he blamed the system for not liking the game any more. He would not take responsibility. Micheal Jordan on the other hand has a growth mindset. If he missed a goal he would go and practice for several hours trying to figure out why he missed it In team sport the author gives an example of Couch John Wooden who was tactically and strategically average but went on to win ten national championships. Coach Wooden a growth mindset, tells us he was good at getting players to fill roles as part of a team. He cared about the feelings of the players. Fixed mindset like Coach Bobby Knight picked players for talent. He was an excellent coach but used the dictator approach to win. The winning were short lived and broke individuals’ characters in the process.

In corporate companies the author uses General Electric CEO, Jack Welch, as the fixed mindset who managed to humble himself to a growth mindset and as he grew in his mindset the company grew at the same time. Lee Iacocca whose fixed mind set is good to bring the company up to the top in a hurry but then you need to get rid of him before he breaks it. Ford motor company did just that and Lee Iacocca was not happy. Fixed mindsets leaders are more concerned with being heroes and put their ego before the welfare of the company. The author gives example of Enron as a company that broke in the hands fixed mindset high echelon smart people. Enron employed smart people with talent and paid the maximum price of closing the company. Enron is a good example of groupthink where executives get carried away with their brilliance and superiority and make catastrophic decisions.

In love, these two mindsets can make or break a relationship. In her research, Dr. Dweck, found out that fixed mindsets feel judged and labeled by rejection in a break up. They also chose revenge as a means to get at the person who hurt them. Growth mindsets chose to forgive, learn from it and move on. The author gives Hilary Clinton as an example who forgave her husband and went to canceling in order to save her relationship. Time and effort is needed to cultivate the emotional skills that are needed to keep a relationship.

Dr. Dweck, ends this third section with the influence that parents’, teachers’ and coaches’ mindsets have on children that are under their care. In her research she found out that children interpret the caregivers words of support and encouragement in a fixed mindset approach. This sets them up for failure. For example, “… You learned that so quickly! You are so smart… ” is interpreted as “… If I don’t learn something quickly, I’m not smart… ” She explains that parents, teachers and coaches should refrain from giving praise that judges their intelligence or talent but praise them for the work that they put in. She goes on to say parents, teachers, and coaches need to give equal time and attention to the children regardless of their initial skills. The children will in turn give all and blossom. The author points out, “… As parents, teachers, and coaches we are entrusted with peoples’ lives. They are our responsibility and our legacy… “

In the fourth section of the book, Dr. Dweck, embarks on the most gratifying part of her work, watching people change. People are not conscious or aware of their beliefs. Dr Aaron Beck, a psychiatrist, discovered that he could teach them how to work with and change these beliefs. And cognitive therapy, one of the most effective therapies ever developed, was born. Dr Dweck, used workshops to probe the way people of fixed mindsets dealt with information they were receiving. She found that they put a strong evaluation on each piece of information. Something good led to a very strong positive label and something bad led to a very strong negative label. People with growth mindset are also constantly monitoring what’s going on, but their internal monologue is not about judging themselves or others. They are sensitive to positive and negative information, but they are attuned to it’s implications for learning and constructive action. Dr. Dweck also had workshop for students. The workshops require a large staff to deliver the material. So the workshop material was put on interactive computer modules. The teachers guide their classes through the modules, and called it Braintology. These mindset workshops put students in charge of their brain.

It is interesting to note how a simple characteristic like a mindset affects decision making in a wide spectrum of the population. A student in kindergarten, a CEO in billion dollar company, a surgeon at work in a hospital, a sportsman at practice and on the court, a chef at a high end hotel, selection of dance students and a sport team. College students drop classes or drop out of school due to having a fixed mindset. A growth mindset helps you learn to deal with anger, and deal with stereotypes in racial and gender discrimination. It’s quite fascinating.

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Aiden Harper

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