The joke goes, "There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think there are two kinds of people and those that don't."
If you fall into the latter category then Carol Dweck's book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success will bug the hell out of you.
But if you're prepared to concede even that there just might be two kinds of people, and you feel that your life is not the catalogue of successes you secretly believe it could be, then Dweck's book is definitely worth a read.
How important is talent?
Dweck's premise is that there are indeed two kinds of people: Those who have a 'fixed mindset' and those that have a 'growth mindset'.
Those of us with a fixed mindset believe that success is dependent on talent, and that talent is innate not acquired.
In contrast, those with a growth mindset believe that talent is only a small part of the success equation. And that practicing and making mistakes, in order to improve, are the real foundations of success.
Dweck argues that this view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.
"Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing. They thought they were learning."Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
What stops you from pursuing your dreams?
While at first glance this might seem pretty obvious, and you might be tempted to class yourself confidently in the growth mindset group, Dweck has a pretty persuasive set of arguments that quickly make you question your assumptions. (You can test your mindset here.)
She takes us right back into the realms of our upbringing and school experiences, to show us how we're subtly programmed by our parents and educators towards one mindset or the other - and how this profoundly affects the way our futures play out.
"...lurking behind that self-esteem of the fixed mindset is a simple question: If you’re somebody when you’re successful, what are you when you’re unsuccessful?"
Cutting-edge research in the psychology of motivation
Before you dismiss this as just so much woo woo, know that Carol Dweck, Ph.D., is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation.
Currently Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, she has also held professorships at Columbia and Harvard Universities, has lectured all over the world, and been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Her work has also been featured in The New Yorker, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe.
Dweck is definitely no armchair psychologist. But despite her academic background, her writing style is warm and accessible.
Growth Mindset versus the Inner Critic
As you're reading Mindset, something about the voice of the fixed mindset might begin to sound very familiar:
Of course! This is none other than the voice of our Inner Critic!
The Inner Critic is the very embodiment of the fixed mindset.
How to change your mindset for greater creativity and success
“Is there something in your past that you think measured you? A test score? A dishonest or callous action? Being fired from a job? Being rejected?
Dweck's good news is that, just as we've learned our fixed mindset, we can unlearn it.
And her book provides a robust set of tools to do just that.