Every once in a while, I read a book and want to shout its lessons from the mountaintops. It’s that mind-blowing.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is one of those books. The author, Dr. Carol Dweck, is a Stanford psychology professor and pioneering researcher in the field of human motivation. She studies why people succeed and how we can foster success. When you learn about Dweck’s theory of two different mindsets, it will explain a lot about how you respond to challenges in life.
With a fixed mindset, you see intelligence and talent as static. You either have them, or you don’t. Challenges threaten to unmask your flaws and turn you from a winner into a loser. And a loser is forever.
With a growth mindset, intelligence and talent can be developed. You can become much smarter and more skilled through effort and practice. Challenges (and the mistakes and failures that typically result) are an opportunity to get better and better. Your ability now doesn’t determine your ability in the future.
As I’m reading the book, I’m resonating with example after example of someone with a fixed mindset. I don’t like doing things I’m not immediately good at; I avoid taking risks so I won’t look dumb or incompetent. I take mistakes and failures hard, because they feel like a referendum on my abilities and worth. I excelled in school but have often struggled with adult life, which often requires charting your own path into the unknown.
This awareness is painful; life would be so much easier if growth mindset came more naturally to me. But Dweck is clear that it can be learned, and it’s something I’m cultivating every day. When I think, “I can’t do this,” I add “YET.” (See “The Power of Yet”, one of Gill’s and my favorite anthems.) When I feel weak or unskilled in a certain area (ahem, money management), I’m working on turning toward the challenge with curiosity instead of avoiding it with anxiety.
I’m also modeling the growth mindset for my kids so they have it from the start. When Evan gets frustrated that Kung Fu is hard, I tell him, “Everything is hard before it gets easy.” Darren and I make a point of praising him and Avery for their effort, their perseverance, and their improvement rather than their intelligence or talent (as Dweck writes plainly, “That has failed. Don’t do that anymore.”).
The human mind is incredible, and we still don’t know its limits. If you have a fixed mindset in any area, even if it’s been that way for decades, you can change it. Start cultivating your growth mindset by reading this Farnam Street piece summarizing Dweck’s work, or watch her TED talk. Then we can shout her research from the mountaintops together. 🙌