Mindset by Carol Dweck is an informally written and insightful text which will shed light on your thinking through anecdotes and research on the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, one believes their qualities, talent, and intelligence are fixed and cannot be changed. In a a growth mindset, the person believes that their output and performance is a result of effort and dedication. Their thinking is process-oriented: focused on the learning and growth as opposed to reaching some final ultimate state.
This has obvious implications for parenting, business, school, and relationships; each of which Dweck explores through story telling and actual research on how a fixed mindset or a growth mindset may operate, express themselves, or what the end results of these types of thinking may be in each area of life. For parents, educators, and coaches, she points out that the type of praise we use with children, and the examples we set through verbalizing our thoughts, and being an example; will either cultivate or discourage a growth mindset in children, students, and athletes. Praising the process as opposed to the end result is her suggestion for imparting this important mindset. For example, instead of praising a student for being so smart while writing an essay, you may ask them about their process of writing and their decision making during it, or what was difficult about writing the essay, or simply what they learned. "Wow, you must have learned so much about hydroelectricity through your research. What was your approach in evaluating resources for your paper?" Instead of, "This is a brilliant essay! You are one of my brightest students!" This will orient the student towards seeing themselves as progressing in the process of lifelong learning as opposed to being satisfied to rest on their laurels. Of course, Dweck provides ample research on how this works with data and studies in education to make her point more valid and time tested.
Of course, Dweck emphasizes the importance of changing our narratives on successful people from narratives of wild genius to narratives on their extensive failures, and their long years of trial and error before achieving worldly successful such as Edison. While listening to an education expert on a show one night on TV, I listened as she quoted research that showed that certain cultures and countries are naturally more growth oriented in their textbooks such as Asian countries who often start narratives with long descriptions of the person's failures before success; while American textbooks will often start with sentences such as "Darwin is one of the greatest scientific thinkers of our time." You can imagine how a small child might think, "Well, I am never going to be a scientific genius," but a child reading a growth-oriented textbook might identify with the scientist's failures by thinking something like, "I have had many failures also."
I trained my fellow colleagues on this type of thinking through our exploration of the text, an online quiz through Dweck's website mindsetonline.com and her TED talk on ted.com. I believe that this is a really pivotal stance to take in life, especially as you may be inclined towards generativity as a parent, educator, mentor, or coach. In addition to coaching others on how to use this type of thinking to expand opportunities for English Language Learners, I believe this is an important text to use to analyze our own thinking. Although when I took the quiz, the results confirmed that I was in a growth mindset, I took the quiz after reading the book and felt my results were possibly skewed. I definitely feel that, before reading the text, I was very prone to fixed mindset thinking. I thought of myself as "smart" with fixed qualities such as a "good work ethic", "curiosity" and "compassion". I could see how transforming the way I think of myself could lead to further growth in these areas.
Recent research in neuroscience proves how malleable intelligence is. Therefore, we cannot believe we are one way or the other, if simply put, there is room for growth and improvement in every human on earth, no matter who they are! This has helped me approach life from a growth mindset, looking at setbacks as temporary bumps in the road of progress and successes as markers of strong effort and dedication.
Finally, I feel that exploring the themes in this book has helped me not be satisfied with things as they are. This has renewed my efforts to take on more and varied roles in every area of my life as I seek to cultivate previously undone experiences such as illustrating (I am a fine artist), and blogging (I always wanted to be a writer). This has helped me view myself as someone whose work is not yet finished, someone who may fail - but that is just part of the journey towards success, and someone who will see fantastic, phenomenal results with process-oriented thinking in approaching her life's work. I believe that everyone would benefit and be inspired by reading this book and teasing out the nuances of their thinking and self evaluation. Changing from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset may just open you up to a life you never imagined!