BOOK-REVIEW – Learning about and living the growth mindset

Book Review

Mindset – Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential

Author(s): Dr Carol Dweck

320 pages

ISBN: 147213995X

The main idea explored by this book is the existence of the growth mindset, the benefits it can offer us in many areas of life, including sports, businesses and relationships, and how to nurture a growth mindset, either in oneself or others.

Growth vs Fixed Mindset

The growth mindset pivots around the core belief that people can change and improve their abilities over time. Eagerness to learn and develop, clarity and focus on valuable goals, along with hard and smart work deliver this change. Overall, people with the growth mindset achieve more, are less impacted by fear of failure and display greater resilience.

In contrast, the fixed mindset is characterised by a belief in natural talent and abilities above effort, the overwhelming desire to preserve status and to avoid failure. This is a limiting mindset in which the holder seeks to preserve their achievements or praised status by avoiding new undertakings, due to insecurity and fear of failure.

From the earliest days

In exploring the differing importance placed on success resulting from natural talents and hard effort in the growth and fixed mindset respectively, the book delves into some interesting and subtle consequences. The way in which each type of success is recognised and praised, usually by parents or teachers, sets expectations and conditions responses, which can shape mindset and behaviour for life. As a result, I am personally more aware of how I praise my child and my choice of words.

Continuing the theme of childhood, an observation which I found fascinating is how we are all born with the growth mindset, but many of us lose it along the way, during schooling and late evolving childhood. The learning and play behaviour of small children is growth mindset embodied and is very similary to the innate freedom and self-expression found in art and truly creative tasks, which eludes many adults. Finding a good balance between educating and maintaining this creativity, exploration and openness poses a complexed and nuanced challenge to all educators and parents.

Learn and improve

I found the final chapter – ‘Changing Mindsets’ – to be particularly valuable, as it elegantly moved matters back to a higher-level viewpoint, which was then mapped to the real-world, firmly putting the reader in the driving seat. In a brief few pages, where every word seems to be chosen with care and precision, the author outlines the journey towards a more growth oriented mindset, with practical steps and beliefs, together with acknowledgement of challenges, which serves as a clear guiding beacon.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book, took a lot from it and I concurred with many of the author’s views. However, I felt the book was excessively long, with too many needless examples, and while the beginning and end were very strong, I found much of the middle part to be a flat, featureless plain which could usefully have been drastically shortened.

The author mentions in the foreword that this is her first foray away from academic papers and into popular writing, so perhaps she was still finding her feet and moved too far in the direction of perceived simplicity and accessibility in the structuring and editing of this book. That said, hopefully she has learnt and improved from this experience, in-keeping with her growth mindset thesis, and it must be acknowledged that this book was a massively successful and very widely read.