The New Psychology of Success – How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential
Life gets busy. Has Mindset been gathering dust on your bookshelf? Instead, pick up the key ideas now.
In Mindset, Carol Dweck applies her expert knowledge of mindsets to outline a groundbreaking idea of improving our lives by adopting a Growth Mindset. Carol challenges preconceived ideas that natural abilities and talent are essential tools for success. Instead, with the right mindset and hard work, our children can improve their grades. Our managers can drive our companies forward, and each of us can improve multiple areas of our lives.
About Carol Dweck
Carol Dweck is a world-renowned American psychologist. She is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She has also taught at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the University of Illinois. She is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. Her scholarly book Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development was named Book of the Year by the World Education Federation. Her work has been featured in The New Yorker, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. Dweck has also appeared on Today and 20/20.
“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”– Carol Dweck
Fixed Mindsets Prevent Growth
Individuals with a Fixed Mindset generally believe that ability is set in stone. A Fixed Mindset suggests there are people in life who are naturally talented and those who are incompetent. Those with a Fixed Mindset believe that those lacking talent will never develop their talents. Those with natural talent will never lose their skills. In a Fixed Mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail or if you aren’t the best, everything was wasted. Carol provides an example of big companies like Enron and McKinsey. They encourage their HR departments to invest substantial amounts of money into scouting naturals from universities. However, the issue with this mentality is that these talented graduates are considered so talented that they are not given proper training. Additionally, these graduates are not expected to progress in their jobs or grow into new roles. Instead of blaming the process of assuming natural talent is enough, managers will often blame the graduates. As these companies have a Fixed Mindset, they will also be quick to sack people who are not perfect from day one. The reasoning behind this being that they do not believe people can learn or improve.
People with a Fixed Mindset are often worried about what other people think. As they often judge others based on their aptitude for a task, they also assume others judge them all the time. Hence, people with a Fixed Mindset are obsessed with showing how talented and smart they are. In fact, Carol suggests that those with a Fixed Mindset revolve their whole personality around their talent. Subsequently, they need approval from others to protect their personalities and egos.
Growth Mindsets Encourage Development
Carol uses the example of curious children as the classic individual with a Growth Mindset. Children with a growth mindset will be given a complicated math problem at school and rise to the occasion. Then, they go home, and they want to do more challenging math problems. Children with a Growth Mindset understand we learn more when we solve problems.
A Growth Mindset is a fantastic asset to have. The sky’s the limit for people like this, as they are always seeking to find new ways to learn. Importantly, individuals with Growth Mindsets are not fixated on being better than other people or receiving the best grades. These individuals obtain satisfaction from pushing themselves to the limit to help themselves grow. They will practice relentlessly and are aware that you have to work your hardest, and overcome some failures, to improve.
People with a Growth Mindset enjoy being around people who are more skilled than them. They see spending time with more talented individuals as opportunities to learn new skills. Additionally, these people are always willing to discard a strategy if it is no longer working and replace it with a new approach.
As well as improving themselves, individuals with a growth mindset encourage the surrounding people to continue learning and working on themselves. They understand that life is about working as a team. When others are happier or more successful, they are more likely to succeed themselves. As business owners, individuals with a Growth Mindset are respectful to their team members and grateful for their work. Additionally, they are open to others’ opinions.
Fixed Mindsets Seek Approval; Growth Mindsets Seek Development
Carol provides the example of Lee Lacocca, who was previously CEO of Chrysler Motors. He took over the company when they were on the brink of collapse. Through swift decision-making and the effective motivation of his employees, Lee brought the company back to life. However, after this, his behavior changed abruptly. He started relaxing too much and started flaunting his superiority. All he wanted was further approval from his colleagues. Lee was clearly showcasing a Fixed Mindset.
Comparatively, Lou Gerstner took over IBM when it was similarly in a difficult spot. The environment was in a Fixed Mindset and wasting energy on internal disagreements. Each employee was merely doing what was best for themselves. Subsequently, the company was not meeting its customer needs. Gerstner changed this by breaking down the company’s hierarchy, emphasizing teamwork, and rewarding employees who supported their coworkers. Additionally, he put himself on the same level as his employees. This allowed him to engage with as many employees as possible. Gerstner was adopting a Growth Mindset, and this enabled shared development.
Gerstner’s Growth Mindset enabled him to create a new work environment based on teamwork and development. The focus moved away from individuals’ success and towards shared development. He was able to bring about lasting success at IBM.
People with a Fixed Mindset seek approval; those with a Growth Mindset seek development.
Fixed Mindsets See Failures as Disasters; Growth Mindsets See Failures as Opportunities
Failures Define Us
Failures can define us in either a negative or positive way. Carol provides the example of a golfer, Sergio Garcia, as somebody who adopted a Fixed Mindset and subsequently withered after failure. Sergio Garcia had a bad streak during one tournament. He then fired one caddy after another in fits of rage before blaming his shoes. He took his shoes off and threw them at an innocent bystander. This commotion ruined Garcia’s reputation.
Impact of Your Mindset
Carol explains that individuals with a Fixed Mindset do not believe they can learn from their mistakes. Any failure is used as justification for their future being filled with failures. Additionally, any defeat cancels out all the individual’s previous successes. As this approach diminishes their self-confidence, Fixed Mindsets will often blame other people or circumstances for their failures. Alternatively, they will seek ways to cheat to get ahead. Instead of analyzing their weaknesses and improving based on their failures, they try to forget. These behaviors are underpinned by Fixed Mindsets believing that they are the finished product rather than a continual process.
Carol provides basketball legend Michael Jordan as an example of an individual with a Growth Mindset. Although Jordan is arguably the greatest sportsman ever to live, he was imperfect. He missed some dunks, and he missed some game-winning shots. However, the critical matter is how Jordan responded to these misses. After making mistakes, he would practice the missed shot over and over again. Jordan’s ability to learn from his mistakes and practice these weaknesses brought him so much success. Jordan did not find fault in his teammates or his shoes for his own mistakes. Additionally, it is well-known that Jordan was a driving force behind his teammates’ improvements. Jordan wanted his teammates to be the best they could be. So, he always supported them in improving their game.
“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.”– Carol Dweck
Fixed Mindsets Avoid Difficulties; Growth Mindsets Relish Difficulties
While people with a Fixed Mindset get a thrill from easy things, people with a Growth Mindset get a thrill from what is complex. Fixed Mindsets struggle with difficult situations because they have to invest in making a positive outcome out of these situations. Effort is fundamental to success. However, people with a Fixed Mindset see situations where they have to spend more time and energy as a risk. The more time or energy they invest in a situation, the harder it becomes to blame external factors if they fail. The Fixed Mindsets avoid difficult situations as they do not want to question their talent or potentially make a fool of themselves.
Examples of Fixed and Growth Mindsets
Carol provides the example of violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg to show how a Fixed Mindset interacts with challenging situations. Nadja was a highly talented violinist. By the age of 10, Nadja was already critically acclaimed. However, she used this success as an excuse for not having to practice as much. Subsequently, by 18, she held her violin incorrectly, and her fingers were becoming stiff. These characteristics prevented her from performing more challenging pieces of music. Therefore, every time she was given a new song to learn, she would become overwhelmingly frightened of failure. This fear of risk meant she would stop bringing her violin to lessons and avoided playing altogether.
Comparatively, the actor, Christopher Reeve, had a Growth Mindset. He experienced an extremely difficult situation when he obtained paralysis from the neck down after an accident. He was told this paralysis should last his entire life. However, he was willing to take a risk. He took control of his situation and decided to undertake a nuanced training program. After significant hard work, Christopher eventually learned to move his hands, then his legs, and, finally, his entire upper body. This improvement was considered a miracle by some. Still, it is just an example of how rejecting a Fixed Mindset for a Growth Mindset can help you overcome difficult situations.
Additionally, difficult situations are vital for instilling motivation. Difficult situations give us a purpose in life; therefore, we will improve ourselves if we match this purpose with sufficient energy.
Childhood Role Models Define Our Mindset
“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”– Carol Dweck
Impact of Your Parents
Our mindsets start developing from birth. However, all babies are born with a Growth Mindset. Babies are curious about the world and want to learn and grow as much as possible each day. Therefore, it is the child’s environment growing up that determines whether the child maintains this Growth desire or eventually adopts a Fixed mindset. The most crucial agent in this shift is usually your parents. Parents have their mindset, and this will set an example for their children.
Parents with a Growth Mindset will encourage their children to continue learning and questioning everything. Comparatively, parents with a Fixed Mindset will parent through judgment, punishment, and telling the children what is right and wrong. These parenting styles impact babies as young as 1. For example, babies with a Growth Mindset will help other babies when they are crying. In contrast, babies with a Fixed Mindset are annoyed when other babies are crying.
Impact of Your Teachers
In addition to parents, teachers are also fundamental role models in defining children’s mindsets. Some teachers adopt a Fixed Mindset by believing the ability of their students is unchangeable. In effect, they believe that some children are naturally intelligent, and others are destined to fail. However, there are many good teachers, also. These teachers will adopt a Growth Mindset by believing all their students are capable of learning anything. The teaching style of these teachers is more adaptable and places faith in the students. Generally, this teaching style helps all students perform better, even those who seemed doomed to fail.
Anyone Can Adopt a Growth Mindset
“Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way. When people…change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework. Their commitment is to growth, and growth take plenty of time, effort, and mutual support.”– Carol Dweck
Moving Towards Growth Mindsets
The brain is like a muscle. We can train it over time through repetition. Therefore, each of us can adopt a Growth Mindset by frequently teaching ourselves to think in this way. One example would be if you failed an exam. If you adopt a Fixed Mindset, you might claim you are an idiot or blame your result on the questions that came up. However, you can choose to adopt a Growth Mindset. In this instance, somebody with a Growth mindset would accept they are not content with this result. They will find ways to improve their studying for the next exam.
A journey towards a Growth Mindset also opens opportunities for developing concrete life plans. Developing a Growth Mindset will take time and the support of others around us. Therefore, we want supportive and honest people who are willing to talk to us about our mistakes and weaknesses.
Breaking Away From Fixed Mindsets
Breaking away from a Fixed Mindset can be particularly challenging. Fixed Mindsets are habits we have built over many years to protect us emotionally from our failures. Additionally, a lot of us will be reliant on our Fixed Mindset for our self-confidence. Suppose you are genuinely struggling to kick your Fixed Mindset. In that case, Carol suggests that adopting the Growth Perspective in certain situations is enough to have a positive impact. For example, you might accept you are terrible at sport. Despite this, you will apply a Growth Perspective to the most important things: Work, parenting, or studying. Additionally, you don’t only possess one mindset. Most people have elements of both that apply to different areas of their life. Therefore, your first task is to identify which areas you possess which mindset.
Carol outlines that a Growth Mindset helps make the impossible possible. She encourages each of us to look at the most successful people globally and consider how they would respond to failure. Likely, you will find that they used failures along the way to reach their success.
Some Have Greater Opportunities, but We All Have a Chance
It would be naive to say that effort is the only thing that’s important in succeeding. Effort is significant and is why those with a Growth Mindset increase their chances of success. Though, many other factors influence your chances of success. For example, Carol explains that resources and opportunities are useful for success. Those born into influential families with better access to education have a much higher chance of success. However, although your starting point matters, this does not mean you shouldn’t improve and create the best endpoint possible based on your opportunities.
Importantly, Carol concludes by stating that a Growth Mindset does not mean we should try to improve everything. Sometimes the wisest decision is to accept our imperfections, especially those that will cause little harm.
Applying the Growth and Fixed Mindsets to Business
The most successful business managers are not natural talents who ooze ego. Instead, they are the individual who is continuously looking to learn. They are also willing to ask questions and are not afraid to fail in front of their employees. They keep faith in their team to improve when they have made a mistake, rather than deeming them failures.
In contrast, Fixed Mindset bosses are dangerous. They often seek to be controlling and abusive to showcase their superiority. These behaviors push their fellow employees to adopt Fixed Mindsets, as well. Hence, instead of moving forward through learning, the company will be fixated on individual goals. Additionally, they will aim to obtain short-term goals by covering up mistakes and screwing other people over.
Applying the Growth and Fixed Mindsets to Love
Relationships can often be complicated, and most of us will have multiple failed romantic relationships throughout our life. Individuals with a Fixed Mindset see these failed relationships as a defining feature of themselves. They label themselves as unlovable and want revenge for the rejection they have experienced. People with a Growth Mindset will also find rejection difficult. However, they will also see it as an opportunity to reflect on where things went wrong in the relationship.
Additionally, the two mindsets have different levels of success in relationships. Relationships based on Fixed Mindsets are destined to fail, as both parties will be expecting everything to be perfect with no effort. Additionally, both parties believe that love can solve everything.
Comment below and let others know what you have learned or if you have any other thoughts.
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