MINDSET: The New Psychology of Success
©2006 by Carol S. Dweck, PhD
What difference does your ‘inner game’ — your mindset — make to your success? Well, do you believe your talents and abilities are set in stone, or that they can be cultivated and developed over time? Your belief has a critical impact on your results.
In this compelling and engaging book, Carol Dweck, a Stanford professor and leading expert in the psychology of motivation, offers insight into how to make your ‘inner game’ your ‘success game.’
Dweck is a great storyteller and she’s not afraid to turn the spotlight on her own mindset foibles, starting with her refusal in sixth grade to enter a citywide spelling bee. “I was the best speller in my school…. Why would I risk turning from a success into a failure? From a winner into a loser?” Why, indeed.
Those of us with a fixed mindset can empathize with Dweck’s resistance, because “fixed mindset-itis” is marked by an ongoing need to repeatedly prove ourselves at all cost—which conveniently precludes putting ourselves in any situation that might allow failure. If the personality, character and smarts we’re born with represent our natural limits, it becomes essential that we prove over and over again how much we have. We must, as Dweck says, be “always trying to convince [ourselves] and others that [we were dealt] a royal flush when [we’re] secretly worried it’s a pair of tens.”
Those of us with a growth mindset believe that what we’ve been dealt is a great hand with which to build a royal flush, assuming we keep drawing from the deck of knowledge and experience and hard work. In lab experiments at Columbia University when Dweck was a professor there, subjects were identified as having a fixed mindset or a growth mindset, and then asked to answer some hard questions while researchers measured brain wave activity. The fixed mindset subjects showed neural activity only when they were told whether their answers were right or wrong. Being given information that could help them get the answers right didn’t produce the same neural activity. By contrast, the growth mindset subjects showed greater brain-wave activity when they were given information that could stretch their knowledge. It was the learning, not the validation of “You’re right” (or the dreaded judgment, “You’re wrong”), that literally lit up their brains.
Mindset is filled with inspiring stories of limitations overcome by sheer belief in our human ability to learn and grow and change and excel in spite of apparent odds-against. Dweck’s examples touch on many aspects of life: sports, arts, academics, business, relationships, parenting, and more. A legendary golfer who was gangly and uncoordinated as a child. A critically lauded photographer who flunked her first photography course. A chubby high-school wrestler who was told “You’re a joke [on the mat,]” and later brought home a bronze Olympic medal in wrestling.
Underscoring her commitment to a growth mindset, Dweck doesn’t let us dwell in “I got stuck with the fixed mindset.” In her final chapters, she offers a blueprint for changing our own mindset and for shaping the mindset of others. Acknowledging our own and others’ achievements with “I can see that took a lot of hard work,” instead of “You’re so smart (or talented)” sends a powerful message that working at mastery is something to be honored, and that it pays off in success.
Has your mindset shifted during your life and career? I would love to hear your story.