I really enjoyed the holiday break, using the opportunity to read several books. One title that I finished this morning was Mindset: How We Can Learn to Fulfill our Potential, by Carol Dweck. The premise of the book is simple. People either have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset, and depending on your particular bent, it can make or break you.
My interest was captured early in the book as the author cited research claiming that if one took a classroom of students and complimented half of the them on “how smart they are,” then complimented the other half on “how hard they work,” those who were complimented on their hard work would out perform those who were complimented on their intelligence.
So what is the difference?
A fixed mindset believes that intelligence is innate and static. In other words, a person is either smart or not. Those with a growth mindset, however, believe that intelligence can be developed and cultivated depending on their responses to particular life circumstances. Dweck summarizes as follows:
A fixed mindset avoids challenges while a growth mindset embraces them.
A fixed mindset gets defensive or gives up easily when faced with challenges while a growth mindset persists in the face of setbacks.
A fixed mindset avoids potential failure while a growth mindset seeks to learn from failure in order to improve.
A fixed mindset sees effort as fruitless while a growth mindset sees effort as the pathway to mastery.
A fixed mindset hears criticism and ignores useful negative feedback while a growth mindset strives to learn from criticism.
A fixed mindset feels threatened by the success of others while a growth mindset finds lessons and inspiration from the success of others.
As a result, those with a fixed mindset may plateau early in life and fail to live up to their potential. Those with a growth mindset will reach ever-higher levels of achievement.
Dr. Dweck, who serves as the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, has plenty of hard research as well as human interest stories to support her findings. It is a book that would be very helpful to those who believe that growth remains a possibility and that the best is yet to be.