Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

by Carol S. Dweck, Random House, New York 2006

A leading expert in motivation and personality psychology, Carol Dweck has discovered in more than twenty years of research that our mindset is not a minor personality quirk: it creates our whole mental world. It explains how we become optimistic or pessimistic. It shapes our goals, our attitude toward work and relationships, and how we raise our kids, ultimately predicting whether or not we will fulfill our potential. Dweck has found that everyone has one of two basic mindsets: fixed or growth.

She reveals how creative geniuses in all fields–music, literature, science, sports,business–apply the growth mindset to achieve results. She looks across a broad range of applications and helps parents, teachers, coaches, and executives see how they can promote the growth mindset.


What could put an end to this exuberant learning? The fixed mindset. As soon as children become able to evaluate themselves, some of them become afraid of challenges. They become afraid of not being smart.

People in the growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch. And nowhere can it be seen more clearly than in the world of sports. You can just watch people stretch and grow.

What’s more, instead of trying to learn from and repair their failures, people with the fixed mindset may simply try to repair their self-esteem. For example, they may go looking for people worse off than they are.

Although students with the fixed mindset showed more depression, there were still plenty of people with the growth mindset that felt pretty miserable, this being peak season for depression. And here we saw something really amazing. The more depressed people with the growth mindset felt, the more they took action to confront their problems, the more they they made sure to keep up with their schoolwork, and the more they kept up with their lives. The worse they felt, the more determined they became.

This point is also crucial. 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.

So in the fixed mindset, both positive and negative labels can mess with your mind. When you’re given a positive label, you’re afraid of losing it, and when you’re hit with a negative label, you’re afraid of deserving it.

Think of times other people outdid you and you just assumed they were smarter or more talented. Now consider the idea that they just used better strategies, taught themselves more, practiced harder, and worked their way through obstacles. You can do that too, if you want to.

You would think the sports world would have to see the relation between practice and improvement- an between the mind and performance- and stop harping so much on innate physical talent. Yet it’s almost as if they refuse to see. Perhaps it’s because, as Malcolm Gladwell suggests, people prize natural endowment over earned ability. As much as our culture talks about individual effort and self-improvement, deep down, he argues, we revere the naturals. We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary. Why not?

Athletes with a growth mindset find success in learning and improving, not just winning. The more you can do this, the more rewarding sports will be for you- and for those who play them with you!

In our study, the students with the growth mindset were not as prone to see the bullying as a reflection for who they were. Instead, they saw it as a psychological problem of the bullies, a way for bullies to gain status or charge their self-esteem.

After seven experiments with hundreds of kids, we had some of the clearest findings I’ve ever seen: praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance.

It’s been said that Dorothy DeLay [Juilliard School of Music, violin teacher] was an extraordinary teacher because she was not interested in teaching. She was interested in learning.

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