Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

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It’s the end of the school year and although every year I’m amazed at how much my daughter grows and continues to come into her own, this year was truly special. But let me take a step back. The year started off with her teacher introducing the kids to Carol Dweck’s book, “Mindset. The book’s main message is that if you can cultivate a “growth mindset” vs. a “fixed mindset,” you will learn, grow, and be able to fulfill your potential. And, yes, this book goes way beyond academics. I think of her message as a tool that should be in your “life” toolkit.

Mindset has been on my list of “must reads” for a while. So glad I finally got to it. The impact went beyond changing my daughter’s mindset about school, but the bigger picture of navigating friendships, how we view setbacks, and sitting with difficult emotions.  We can all use Dweck’s tools for shifting our mindset. On womanhood, motherhood, our professional lives, and so much more.

Here’s a quote that stopped me cold: “A report from researchers at Duke University sounds an alarm about the anxiety and depression among female undergraduates who aspire to “effortless perfection.” They believe they should display perfect beauty, perfect womanhood, and perfect scholarship all without trying (or at least without appearing to try).” Let’s pause to catch our breaths. Sound familiar to anyone?

When did making an effort become “less than”? The ultimate trap is the feeling that you are either born with innate talent (the “genius”) or not. It’s the classic case of “natural” ability vs. effort. Dweck wants to confront the assumption that traits are fixed. You can see this when people label themselves: “I’m stupid.” “I’m the smart one.” “I’m just not competent.” And, so on. She wants to help take people out of the “…framework of judgment and into the framework of growth.” We can all use this kind of support.

Dweck shares stories of sports legends, CEO’s, students, parents, and frames the ways in which moving to a mindset unfettered by fixed assumptions (or past failures) can change everything. One of the most touching moments in the book is her description of her own relationship with her mother, whom she felt never loved her. By shifting her mindset (and this was HARD) she was able to let go of a lot of pain and see her mother in a new light. Eventually, this opened a pathway to a better relationship between them. She also shares other powerful anecdotes about friendships and marriage.

Thought-provoking to say the least. What I love is that Dweck delivers practical advice and action steps that you can take immediately. The book will make you think about the way you look at intelligence (and IQ tests!), leadership, bullying, failure, and the concept of “winning”.

Mindset by Carol Dweck


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