Mindset will change your life.
This summary of the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck, will explain how a growth mindset is the key driver for a happy, fulfilling and successful life.
- Bullet Summary
- Mindset by Carol Dweck: Summary
- Chapter 1: The Mindsets
- Chapter 2: Inside the Mindsets
- Chapter 3: The Truth About Ability and Accomplishment
- Chapter 4: Sports and the Mindset of a Champion
- Chapter 5: Business Mindset and Leadership
- Chapter 6: Relationships and Mindsets in Love (or not)
- Chapter 7: Where do Mindsets Come From?
- Chapter 8: Changing Mindsets
- Fixed Mindset believe their qualities can’t be changed, growth mindset believe they can improve
- Growth mindset people work harder, embrace challenges and maximize their potentials
- Growth mindset people build better relationships, better companies and leader better lives
Mindset by Carol Dweck: Summary
Chapter 1: The Mindsets
Carol Dweck quickly outlines the major theory of the book:
Fixed mindset people believe their qualities are set at birth and carved in stone.
You are who you are, and there isn’t much you can do about it.
Characteristics such as intelligence, personality, and creativity are fixed traits, and you can’t change them or develop them.
A growth mindset comes from the belief you can cultivate your qualities through effort.
Yes, people differ greatly – in aptitude, talents, interests, or temperaments – but everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
Chapter 2: Inside the Mindsets
The two different mindsets lead to very different experiences and developments in life. Let’s see:
Consequences of a fixed mindset
Little growth over time
People who believe their qualities are fixed will not grow much because, of course, there is nothing to develop when you believe your qualities are fixed: you either have it, or you don’t.
Many people with a fixed mindset believe indeed that high effort equals low ability. Skilled people, they think, use and rely on their innate skills and should not need to work hard at all.
Fixed mindset people do work hard as well though. They work hard protecting their egos by avoiding challenges and boosting their self esteem through validation seeking.
This is because your qualities, being fixed, determine who you are. Thus fixed mindset people often build their ego around their qualities, which makes them horrendously dependent on results and people’s judgment. Performing poorly means you’re bad, performing well and receiving compliments means you’re great.
Have you ever noticed people battling to be “right?” That’s an hallmark of fixed mindset.
People looking at how many likes their picture got on Facebook? Major fixed mindset component.
The ones plastering their social profiles with “I don’t care what people think” and “I’m me, fuck the world” ? Mostly a front hiding a fixed mindset.
Urgency to succeed
People who believe in fixed traits also have an urgency to succeed, because there’s no “getting better”, no “testing yourself”. Succeeding means you’re good, losing means you’re bad. And when they do succeed, they often feel a sense of superiority, because success means their fixed traits are better than others’.
When people with a fixed mindset lose they try to “repair their self esteem” rather than learning from their failures. Failures indeed often take the shape of denying, blaming someone else, looking for those who are worse off, making excuses or, of course, never competing at all. Never competing at all feels safe for fixed mindset people because a great fear for them is that of failing and being left without excuses.
Consequences of a growth mindset
Major growth over time
As opposed to a fixed mindset, a growth mindset makes you concerned with improving, which leads to major growth and development over time.
In the growth mindset, failure can of course be a painful experience, but failure does not define you. Failure is a problem to be faced, learned from and overcome, which makes you more anti-fragile.
Grit and determination
The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset, as well outlined by Angela Duckworth in Grit.
Indeed the growth mindset allows people to love what they’re doing and continuing doing so in the face of difficulties and struggles.
While the fixed mindset is all about the outcome -because if you fail you’re a failure- the growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome.
Chapter 3: The Truth About Ability and Accomplishment
Carol Dweck says that fixed mindset people tend to become “scarred” after failures because they interpret failure as a lack of ability.
And since they don’t think they can grow ability, they will shirk away from trying again in the future.
A growth mindset person instead is both more open to new challenges and more open to keep trying again and again after failures. They enjoy testing themselves and going beyond their limits and, consequently, end up growing their skills and talents.
The author, being a scholar herself, discusses how the different mindsets also affect people in school and in their studies. People with a fixed mindset tend to study with the test in mind, they simply want to do good in the test.
People with a growth mindset instead study with life in mind: they want to learn and take the skills that will make them successful outside of school.
Fixed mindset work to prove their abilities and protect their egos, while the growth mindset people work for life.
Chapter 4: Sports and the Mindset of a Champion
In chapter 4 of Mindset Carol Dweck goes into some famous sport personalities.
I believe one of the keys of this chapter is that many people look at top athletes and think they are extremely talented and were born with and gifted with great genes and skills.
Carol Dweck instead says that the truth, most of the times, is that at the very least that talent was backed by huge amount of work. And, many times, top athletes didn’t even show great talent when they were younger.
Carol Dweck also provides some very interesting examples of some top athletes who failed to reach their full potentials because of fixed mindsets (Pedro Martinez and John McEnroe).
Growth mindset athletes instead were able to see failures as opportunities to learn and that allowed them to get closer to their full potential and to bounce back from major losses and setbacks in their careers.
Chapter 5: Business Mindset and Leadership
Carol Dweck then delves into examples of growth and fixed mindset in business. Skilling for Enron and Iacocca for Chrysler are the examples of fixed mindsets.
Skilling used to say that his genius defined and validated the whole company, and created value. Iacocca would not allow skilled and empowered managers around him to weigh in with their opinions so that he could keep looking the smartest man in the company.
As for many other successful fixed mindset people, Skilling and Iacocca believed their talents made them superior to others by birthright.
The example of growth mindset CEOs are Jack Welch -not my favourite as explained in Leaders Eat Last– , Lou Gerstner from IBM and Anne Mulcahy from Xerox. All of them were great leadership examples and you can read them all in the full version of the book.
Chapter 6: Relationships and Mindsets in Love (or not)
Relationships is another extremely interesting realm to explore how the two different mindsets leads to very different experiences.
Carol Dweck reminds us that fixed mindset people perceive rejections as reflection of their flawed personality.
It’s a very painful rejection that hurts them at the core of who they are, so they can lash out when rejected and can sometimes plot revenge.
People with a growth mindset instead are more able to detach themselves from the ebb and flows of relationships and use them as feedback mechanisms to actually improve that relationship. And when rejected, they are more able to move on.
Also very interestingly which I have noticed personally, Carol Dweck says that fixed mindset people tend to see relationships more as battles and they will try to exploit the mistakes and shortcoming of their partners to feed their own ego.
Chapter 7: Where do Mindsets Come From?
Carol Dweck says that teachers have a strong influence in shaping whether or not we will grow with a fixed or growth mindset.
For example teachers who compliment students for being smart reinforce a fixed mindset. And teacher who reward students for doing well because they worked hard help instill a growth mindset.
Also telling pupils they are very fast learner can nudge towards a fixed mindset as when in other fields they might justify not learning afst enough in other fields with the idea they are not talented enough.
Chapter 8: Changing Mindsets
After having taken on the whole journey on how kick-a** it is to sport a growth mindset, Carol Dweck finally dedicates the last chapter on how you can go from a fixed to a growth mindset. But unluckily I found the book a bit lacking here, so I will add my own research on it:
- Hear your fixed mindset voice ;
- Recognize you have a choice
- Talk back to the fixed voice with a growth one (a mentor I follow repeats “I can do it” 3 times in his head every time someone says some disempowering BS)
- Choose the growth mindset.
Also I found useful:
- Read and acknowledge brain plasticity: fixed mindset is plainly unscientific
- Fixed mindset is fear of looking bad. Re-enact your worst moments while feeling great. Understand you are stronger because of them
- Change your identity: a great way is by building the habits of the person you want to be
- It’s all practice: I find it useful to always look at things as practice. Worry not about final results, it’s all practice
Update: I dedicated a whole post to developing a growth mindset.
How to Get a Growth Mindset?
The book gives you all this fantastic overview of what a fixed and a growth mindset are. And you are itching to become a growth mindset person. But then.. It doesn’t tell us how.
Mindset is strong strong on the dichotomy fixed/growth, but I doubt most people are fully on the extremes: what about all the mixes? Carol Dweck does say there are mixes, but I would have liked to read more on it.
If you are not in a growth mindset yet, I am cheering for you: you have now the chance of jumping to a whole new level in your personal development.
It helped me develop in three major ways:
Mindset by Carol Dweck is possibly THE most foundational book for an empowered life.
It explains how a fixed mindset will constrain our potential, stunt our growth and condemn us to a life of ego validation and excuse making.
I can certainly recall when that was me. And it will show the way out of it with a growth mindset.
Mindset by Carol Dweck not only kick-started my own self development, but also opened a further door in understanding human psychology.
Suddenly all the mental games of excuses and blaming used by the men living under the shackles of a fixed mindset made sense.
Extraordinary is… Doable
A growth mindset also takes away top performance from the realm of “out of this world”, “genius” or whatever you have it and places it within reach of each one of us (willing to put in the work).
Because here’s the secret nobody wants you to know: every single top performer busts is ass. And they’re no better than you, and if you put in the work you will do just as extraordinarily.
So yes, absolutely get the book here.