Review – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Growth Mindset

Grow your mindset for success! Many of us make resolutions for change each year and most of us don’t accomplish our resolutions, yet we recognize a need for change. I’ve spent the last few years researching and applying elements of wellness, the recipe for a healthy life. This year I’m reviewing my favorite wellness books, one each week. I do this in an attempt to bring together the best minds on the subjects of health, nutrition, exercise, breathe, mindfulness, habits, stress, motivation, energy and wellness to provide a framework on which to build a life full of vitality.

Week One: Mindset, The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Who should read this book? Anyone who is interested in learning, changing, or excelling in anything. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do or learn? What’s stopping you? If your success was guaranteed, would you go for it? Grow your mindset and overcome your stumbling blocks.

Starting this year off we are exploring the concept of mindset using, Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Why start with growing your mindset? Critical to our ability to learn is the acceptance that we can learn. “What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.” (Mindset, page 65) Do you agree? Dr. Dweck provides compelling evidence for this premise breaking free from the belief that our weaknesses are part of our character and set when we are born. By learning to have a growth mindset, in which we believe one can learn almost anything with effort and persistence, we rid ourselves of fixed judgements both of ourselves and others.

The concept seems simple, but as I read I realized situations in which my mindset was fixed such as when I beat myself up for making a mistake and instead of examining the mistake to learn from it, I accept that I am ‘not good enough’ or that I don’t ‘measure up’.

A growth mindset helps a breadth of situations including:

  • managing anger
  • dealing with depression
  • reaching our dieting goals
  • succeeding sports
  • thriving in school
  • learning anything new or difficult
  • building relationships and strengthening marriage
  • solving problems

As well as many roles we fill such as teacher, coach, parent or business leader.

How to read this book:

Read chapters 1, 2, and 3 which help you get your head around fixed verses growth mindsets. The application of a growth mindset is so ubiquitous that it is beneficial to really explore what it means as Dr. Dweck shares examples and insights.

Next, to grow your mindset… if you are someone who likes to dive in and get started then skip ahead to chapter 8, Changing Mindsets, in which you will learn a 4-step pattern to follow to identify situations where your mindset is fixed, discover the triggers, create a fixed-mindset persona, and educate it.

Going through this process I discovered, my fixed-mindset persona, Prideful Penny, who cares far too much what other people think, yet somehow thinks herself very insignificant. When Prideful Penny surfaces sharp words blame others and herself for not being good enough or not doing enough. Words like always and never invade her vocabulary and not in a good way. Soon after Prideful Penny expresses her contempt, she is smashed down by a vow to not react in prideful anger again. What I discovered is that Prideful Penny needs training to stay away. Vowing, even intense vowing, is often useless.

So, what does Prideful Penny need? A vivid, concrete plan. A plan where the situation is visualized in great detail to explore the what, where, when and how. My plan includes giving myself grace and reminding myself of the wonderful things I’ve accomplished instead of focusing on where I’ve fallen short. In my mind’s eye I create feelings of value and worth. As I’ve visualized, essentially ‘mentally practiced’ my plan, it becomes a part of me and ready to play out in the real world, in real situations keeping Prideful Penny away or helping me send her away more quickly. The more I do this, the less concerned I am of others’ opinions and judgements of me. In return, I find myself less critical of myself and others.

Once you have the solution, don’t stop there!

Chapters 4-7 explore developing a growth mindset in sports, business, leadership and relationships as well as in roles of parent, teacher, or coach. The examples are helpful, engaging and clearly show the application of a growth mindset. At the end of each chapter “Grow Your Mindset” challenges are presented.

Something I found helpful: Learning how to talk with my children so they learn a growth mindset. Often in this day of positive praise we actually foster a fixed mindset in our children by praising how magnificent they are. And they are magnificent! But praising the process and the effort instead of talent and intelligence will help them see that they are in control of themselves and that they are changeable beings capable of learning almost anything. Where as talent and intelligence are considered fixed. They will see that it is their effort making them who they are not an inborn trait. What a gift that is to give our children!

Read this book with a pen in hand to highlight your favorite parts. I’m pretty whimsical in my marking… sometimes underlining, sometimes bracketing, other parts receive stars, exclamation points, or smiley faces. Key words or thoughts that come to me are often written in the margins. Maybe you’re more methodical in your approach, just so long as you mark it up.

A few favorite quotes:

“When people drop the good-bad, strong-weak thinking that grows out of the fixed mindset, they’re better able to learn useful strategies that help with self-control. Every lapse doesn’t spell doom. It’s a reminder that you’re an unfinished human being and a clue to how to do it better next time.”

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success page 252

“Opening yourself up to a growth mindset makes you more yourself, not less.”

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success page 236

“You don’t get a growth mindset by proclamation. You move towards it by taking a journey.”

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success page 217

Grow Your Mindset Challenges:

  • In all that you study and learn this coming year, apply techniques and tools you’ve learn from Mindset: A New Psychology of Success
  • Family Activity: Dinner table discussion
  • Family or Group Activity: Use story cubes and create a story which explores a growth mindset
  • Family or Group Activity: Have a growth mindset movie night. Choose a movie with rich characters. Evaluate some of the situations the characters found themselves in. Did their actions show a growth or fixed mindset? One idea My Fair Lady
  • Read a book and examine the mindset of the characters. Some good ones to try:
    • The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington – one of my all-time favorite books and winner of the 1918 Pulitzer Prize (also a movie from 1942) How does mindset effect the success of the Amberson family through the generations?
    • Hatchet by Gary Poulsen – great family read
    • Sea Biscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
    • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (or really any Dickens novel)
    • Picture Book: Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
    • Long Picture Book: The Value of Believing in Yourself: The Story of Louis Pasteur by Spencer Johnson, MD – a family favorite, read almost daily at one point as the bedtime book!
  • Follow the 4-Step plan to develop a growth mindset. See pages 254-262 of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
  • Print and display fixed vs growth mindset infographic
  • Analogy for the Foodie in you: Make Growth-Mindset Soup – Soup making doesn’t require a fixed recipe. Use the techniques here to create something new without a prescribed recipe.

A last thought and caution: One thing I learned from researching and learning about mindset is that it is often misunderstood and misrepresented. I saw many discussion questions, for example, that clearly led to developing a fixed mindset not a growth mindset. Growth mindset is not just positive thinking! Read the book. Discover what growing your mindset is all about. Apply it to your life!