Author(s): Carol Dweck
Published: 2006

Overall Thoughts & Roadmap

I think this is one of the most important and influential books students and teachers can read! It (re)shaped my views on failure, effort, relationships, and much more. The main message of this book is that there are two mindsets that you can have, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, and which mindset you have has importance consequences for how you lead your life. A person with a fixed mindset believes that abilities are fixed and can't be developed. A person with a growth mindset believes that ability is largely due to effort.

Fixed vs. Growth mindset

What is the difference between the growth and fixed mindset?

  • Fixed mindset: Believes that your qualities (e.g. intelligence, sporting prowess, emotional intelligence) and your relationship qualities (e.g. compatibility between partners) are carved in stone.  
  • Growth mindset: your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others.

Dweck argues that the mindset you have can profoundly affect your motivation to work on things. For example, a person with a fixed mindset who believes he is bad at Maths won't try to improve because (under that mindset) such efforts would be pointless. Any potential for improvement will not be realized and thus the belief can be self-fulfilling.

Differences between the growth and fixed mindset

Attitude towards effort

  • Fixed mindset = "effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn't need effort"
  • Growth = "effort is what makes you smart or talented"

Attitude towards failure

  • Fixed = “when people believe in fixed traits, they are always in danger of being measured by a failure”
  • Growth = “When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them”

Attitude towards outcomes vs. results

  • Fixed: “The top is where the fixed-mindset people hunger to be, but it’s where many growth-minded people arrive as a by-product of their enthusiasm for what they do”
  • Growth: “The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome”

Definitions of success

  • Fixed = success is when your work is validated by others
  • Growth = “personal success is when you work your hardest to become your best”; “A successful student is one whose primary goal is to expand their knowledge and their ways of thinking and investigating the world”

Attitude towards learning/challenges

  • Fixed: Wishes to avoid any challenges/topics that might undermine their status/intelligence.
  • Growth: Actively seeks challenges/difficult topics to learn so that they can improve their intelligence/growth.

Attitude towards ease of being in a relationship

  • Fixed: “In the fixed mindset, the ideal is instant, perfect, and perpetual compatibility. Like it was meant to be. Like riding off into the sunset. Like 'they lived happily ever after.'”
  • Growth: “people in this mindset don’t expect magic. They believe that a good, lasting relationship comes from effort and from working through inevitable differences...“t doesn't mean there is no 'they lived happily ever after,' but it’s more like 'they worked happily ever after.'”

Attitude towards compatibility of views

  • Fixed:  “people with a fixed mindset believe that a couple should share all of each other’s views...they felt threatened and hostile after talking about even minor discrepancies in how they and their partner saw their relationship”
  • Growth: accepts that it's impossible for couple to share all of each other's assumptions and expectations.
Source: Accredited Online Training

How to encourage a growth mindset in others

Believe in other people's potential

  • Fixed mindset: Sees human potential as fixed; simply look for existing talent; judge employees or students as competent/incompetent at the start
  • Growth mindset: Believes in human potential and development - both their own and other people's.

Praise effort, not performance

  • Don't praise others for the smartest idea or brilliant performance, praise them for effort, for taking initiative, for seeing a difficult task through, for struggling and learning something new, for being undaunted by a setback, or for being open to and acting on criticism.

Cultivate in others a love for learning

  • “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, seek new strategies, and keep on learning”
  • “Growth mindset teachers love to learn. And teaching is a wonderful way to learn. About people and how they tick. About what you teach. About yourself. And about life...Fixed-minded teachers often think of themselves as finished products. Their role is simply to impart their knowledge”

How to change your mindset

“Mindsets are an important part of your personality, but you can change them.”
  • Step 1: Embrace your fixed mindset. We all have some of it.
  • Step 2: Be aware of what triggers your fixed-mindset. Is it when you think you've failed at something? Is it when you're struggling with something and keep hitting dead-ends? Is it when you encounter someone who's a lot better than you in the very area you pride yourself on?
  • Step 3: Give your fixed mindset a name/persona. Recognise that your fixed mindset is not you. Remember that your fixed-mindset persona was born to protect you and keep you safe.
  • Step 4: Educate your fixed mindset persona. Talk to it. Get it to understand why it needs to take a backseat and let the growth mindset flourish.
“The more you become aware of your fixed-mindset triggers, the more you can be on the lookout for the arrival of your persona. If you’re on the verge of stepping out of your comfort zone, be ready to greet it when it shows up and warns you to stop. Thank it for its input, but then tell it why you want to take this step and ask it to come along with you: 'Look, I know this may not work out, but I’d really like to take a stab at it. Can I count on you to bear with me?' "