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Need a New Mindset? Check out the Book!

I read this fantastic book a few months ago and have found it immensely helpful! So below, I will do a review of the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck.

Dweck presents an immensely useful manual to living a life full of learning, resilience, and success through hard work and life-long growth.  I had no idea that I would enjoy this book the way I did.  Easy to read and hard to put down, Dweck poses bold statements about life-altering ideas.  Mindset illustrates the various beliefs that guide every part of achievement and success.  Dweck systematically takes the reader through the two different mindsets: the growth and fixed mindset, the dangers of praising natural ability and intelligence, and explains how these mindsets are formed.  Dweck ends the book with helpful tools for changing your mindset so that you can set appropriate goals, achieve them, and continue to experience growth beyond your initial objectives.  This book has something for everyone.  Dweck reaches out to a multitude of readers through examples from almost every imaginable discipline from jockeys to musicians to politicians and comedians.  Reaching your full potential seems so much more accessible after reading this book and I have already ordered copies for some of my friends!

Two Mindsets:

There are two types of mindset: the growth mindset and the fixed mindset.  Those with the fixed mindset will avoid struggles, mistakes, and ultimately will have trouble persevering because of the possibility of failure.  Those with the growth mindset are more likely to accept challenges, move beyond “losing,” and ultimately achieve a continued growth in knowledge, understanding, and skill.  Dweck provides a wealth of examples to reach audiences from all backgrounds, ages, and disciplines.

The most desirable thing about the growth mindset is the passion for learning that seems to be present in those who possess it.  In a study with young children, those with the fixed mindset tuned out any critiques of their work.  Those with the growth mindset, however, wanted more information about what they could do to improve and even accepted further challenges.

I found myself immediately thinking of the difference between my husband and myself regarding our mindsets.  He has always been a perfectionist but gives up easily if met with obstacles.  Criticism is one of the hardest things for him to handle and I even gave him the book in the middle of reading it.  Dweck even discusses the challenges in relationships where one has the growth mindset and one has the fixed mindset.  In hindsight, perhaps I should have read the section on the workshops for changing the mindset before giving him the book.  As would be expected of someone with the fixed mindset, he was completely against the book from the beginning.

The Dangers of Natural Ability & Intelligence:

Dweck warns against praising pure intelligence, talent, and ability as it discourages hard work and perseverance.  In one chapter, she addresses a prevalent issue in not only those with the fixed mindset, but particularly with young women.  It is this idea of flawlessness that is so highly desirable.  How often have young women been told “you want to wear enough makeup to improve your appearance without anyone knowing you are wearing makeup.”  While I have always strictly adhered to this ideal version of beauty, I always found it kind of strange.  I remember one girl who was so afraid to be seen without makeup that she would wake up earlier than all of the other girls at slumber parties to put on makeup before anyone woke up.  How sad it is that young women feel so much pressure to achieve flawlessness, or at least the appearance of it.  As I read the section on flawlessness, I recognized my own desire for this.  I have always been so jealous of those who seem to be naturally intelligent.  I have always had to work harder than my peers and I was always jealous of the ease that seemed to exist with so many of them.   When you are in the fixed mindset, it is not enough to achieve success and to display signs of intelligence and talent, results must look flawless.

Changing the Mindset:

Dweck makes it clear that the growth mindset is certainly ideal for fostering a love of learning and a lifetime of growth.  Although many have been raised with a fixed mindset, this can be changed, as can the growth mindset.  Educators must be keenly aware of the words they use, the praise they give, and the mindset that they are encouraging.  Dweck recommends workshops for changing the mindset from fixed to growth through study skills and applications in the thoughts and actions for students in the fixed mindset.

Once again, Dweck warns the educator against praising students purely for being intelligent, smart, or talented, but encourages that we praise the effort and improvement of students.  As we continue to instill a desire for effort, students will begin to see improvement as more desirable than natural “perfection.”  The importance of work ethic pervades the entire book, and it is essential that the educator continues to praise good work.

I cannot recommend this book enough to everyone in our class and even to my friends and family!  I had never given much thought to whether I am praising sheer talent or hard work in the past, though I think it was always there in the back of my mind.  I have already began to apply the recommendations regarding praise and the mindsets to my professional work as well as to my educational endeavors.

I also have to mention that I love Dweck’s simple writing style.  It would be easy to be intimidated by a professor at Stanford University, but even in her introduction, she explains the poor grammar that is seen throughout.  Something about her own acceptance and admittance of this made me like her from the very beginning!

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