Self Improvement

The Book That Got Me Started — Mindset by Carol Dweck

He could just be hungry, but maybe there’s more going on behind his focused eyeballs.

A Review of a Classic That Pretty Much Everyone Should Read

This is a review of a classic of the genre, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. This book explained the fundamentals of self-improvement to me and propelled me down a path of creative success.

At the time I read it, I was frustrated that my dreams of being a writer seemed farther away in my forties than they did as a teenager. I thought I had to be lucky to become a writer. I had been writing for two decades, and thought I was getting better. What I didn’t realize was that I was only writing within my limited abilities. I hadn’t figure out how to clear the hurdles in my way.

Not that success comes easily or quickly just by reading this book. Mastery of a skill takes time. It’s truly a long path to walk, mostly by yourself, and you must navigate the journey on your own. Mindset can give you the basic navigation skills you need to make the journey.

Without that book, I’m certain I would have had zero chance for success.

So What Is So Special About Mindset?

Dweck makes a compelling case of why the limitations in our life are often self-imposed. With numerous examples and convincing research, she demonstrates why some people master a given field and enjoy success, while others falter, struggle, and frequently fail. Why, you may ask? How?

  • From our early family and social situations, many of us learn that our intelligence and talent is determined, at birth, by our genes; i.e., we have a fixed mindset of our abilities.
  • Roadblocks and hurdles along a chosen journey will be rationalised as proving that our abilities are fixed. So if we struggle at soccer, flute, or the study of medicine, we give up, accepting those limitations.
  • People with a growth mindset find a way to achieve their goals. When roadblocks are encountered, they don’t see their own limitations; instead, they see a challenge to overcome, and find a way to learn what is needed, and continue their journey.

Fixed Mindset

If your parents ever told you that you were bad at math, or that you were just not meant to play soccer, or something like that, you may have been taught a growth mindset. They rarely mean to limit your growth. Rather, they don’t want you to feel bad about yourself, or feel frustrated with the challenges you will face.

But by protecting your feelings, they may be contributing to the destruction of your dreams.

You would not be alone if you developed a growth mindset. It is a belief that answers a lot of questions, and may give you a modicum of comfort. I think a great number of us struggle with this.

In fact, many businesses, when hiring employees, operate on the principle that people have limitations, and the key to success for them and the company is to find a place where they can thrive by doing whatever it is that they’re good at.

Is ‘Accepting Limitations’ the American Dream?

That is a limiting version of the American dream. Sure, if it’s a successful company and the pay and benefits satisfy your needs, you can live a comfortable life.

But you will be living someone else’s dream, not your own.

By accepting those limitations of a fixed mindset, you are more likely to give up on your dreams — for me, it’s to be a writer — and work on someone else’s dream — such as working a job at a company.

What Does a Growth Mindset Do?

A growth mindset sees a roadblock as the next step in the journey. It’s a road sign telling you what you need to learn next. They really are a gift, because they allow you to adapt to the shifting landscape of your field.

The trick is to figure out how to learn what is demanded by that roadblock, or if maybe there is another way around it. Often, you need help. You may need lessons or a coach.

The One Simple Trick of Growth Mindset

If that book were to be summarised in a single sentence, it is: When you realize you don’t know something, or how to do something, admit to yourself that you need help and then figure out how to get help.

But I urge you to read the book, because it is the compelling evidence presented in the book that helps you see your limitations in yourself, and how to go about getting the help you need in a given situation.

Take Care of Yourself

The new year is coming, so do something nice for yourself, and read Mindset by Carol Dweck. Then take the lessons to heart and care for yourself from now on.