I recently finished reading Mindset: the New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. In it, she describes the differences between the “fixed mindset” and the “growth mindset.” The fixed mindset means that some people believe character, intelligence, creative ability, and talent are all fixed at birth. In the fixed mindset, you must avoid failure at all costs or be forced to admit that you are not as smart or talented as you thought you were or were told you might be.
The growth mindset means that you thrive on challenge and see failure as a means to learn and grow. People with a growth mindset acknowledge that some people are born with certain gifts, but also believe that none of us will know our true potential until we have allowed ourselves to both fail and succeed. Our parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, and bosses can affect which mindset we believe.
People with the fixed mindset have to be “right,” in order to prove themselves worthy. They also blame other people or circumstances in order to hide their deficiencies, rather than working to improve them.
The book is peppered with examples of well-known people who fit both mindsets, but my favorite story was about George Dantzig, a graduate student in math at Berkeley who arrived late to class and copied down the homework problems. He spent several long days solving those problems, not knowing they were not homework assignments at all, they were two famous math problems that had never been solved.
Of what might we be capable that we are not currently aware we can do? What limitations have we put on ourselves or allowed others to put on us? What could we accomplish if we were not afraid to fail? What could we achieve if we didn’t give up? These are all questions this book will have you asking.
Note, I hear people confusing “growth mindset” with being open-minded and “fixed mindset” with being closed-minded. They are very different things. Read the book carefully, and you’ll see why!
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