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Why do some people flourish when faced with a challenge, while others crumble? This is the question that has defined Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck’s decades of research, resulting in her ground-breaking theory of mindset. Dweck believes that talent and intelligence do not tell the full story about one’s ability to achieve. Instead, what determines personal success is whether one has a fixed or growth mindset; the first is a belief that our qualities and strengths cannot be altered, and the second way of thinking supports the idea that they can change over time.
Based on meticulous research, and with anecdotes about successful CEOs, athletes, artists, and educators who achieved greatness through attitude as much as ability, Mindset offers new ways of thinking about motivation and personal development.
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Summary and Analysis of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential
Based on the Book by Carol S. Dweck, PhD
By Worth Books
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2017 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Dr. Carol S. Dweck, PhD, a Stanford University psychologist, wrote Mindset after her students encouraged her to share the discoveries they had made together in class: mainly, that a "mindset," rather than natural talents or abilities, determines failure or success in a given situation. Dweck's book aims to show people how they can change the way they experience their work, friendships, relationships, and goals by changing their perceptions. The key is adopting a flexible mindset that allows room for growth to succeed rather than seeing our personalities as fixed.
Chapter 1: The Mindsets
Dweck's concept of different mindsets came out of her experience researching how people deal with failure. In a study observing children who were asked to solve increasingly difficult puzzles, Dweck was surprised to see that several of the kids seemed to actively enjoy the harder puzzles. Rather than viewing the puzzles as chances to fail, these children saw solving them as chances to learn.
Debates over whether our trajectory in life is determined by nature or nurture have raged for centuries. Dweck notes that the IQ test, invented by French psychologist Alfred Binet, was not developed to prove that intelligence is fixed, but rather to identify children who were being failed by the Parisian school system.
Dweck believes that there are two mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. In the former, one believes that his personality and talents are predetermined and cannot be changed. The growth mindset, on the other hand, says it is possible to change and improve intellect, skills, and talents. Dweck notes that many celebrated individuals — like Charles Darwin and Leo Tolstoy — were considered unremarkable early on in life. Their passion for self- improvement and their constructive responses to failure were what allowed them to succeed.
Dweck presents a scenario to determine subjects' responses to three situations in a challenging day: a low grade, a traffic ticket, and a dismissive friend. People with the fixed mindset took the upsets of the day personally and became despondent. People with the growth mindset were philosophical and examined what had happened during the day to see what they could learn from it.
The mindsets are distinct in their attitudes toward risk and effort. The fixed mindset fears risk, as it carries the possibility of failure. Effort is similarly suspect, because surely if you have to try at something, it means you weren't that good in the first place. This mindset results in an inaccurate perception of one's own capabilities. In studies, it is those with the growth mindset who estimate their own abilities accurately, because they can see both their strengths and weaknesses and are not afraid to receive criticism.
You can determine your own mindset by deciding whether you agree that intelligence and personal qualities are unchangeable or whether significant changes are possible. Dweck asks the reader to imagine himself in both mindsets and notes how those in the growth mindset are more likely to confront obstacles and see them as opportunities for growth.
Need to Know: Many other researchers support Dweck's theories. Psychologist Robert Sternberg, who performed poorly on IQ tests in grade school, characterizes intelligence as heavily influenced by opportunity and stimulation rather than a quality fixed from birth. Neuroscientist Gilbert Gottlieb supports Sternberg's belief, saying "not only do genes and environment cooperate as we develop, but genes require input from the environment to work properly." Martin Seligman, known as the founder of Positive Psychology, "estimates that talent and practice account fairly equally for our ability, but he also draws a distinction between 'talent' inborn and involuntary, and 'strengths', healthy ways of thinking that we are able to learn" (Olson, 2017).
Chapter 2: Inside the Mindsets
When Dweck was young, she envisioned her future: the perfect job, the perfect husband, all her desires met not by hard work, but simply because she deserved them. It was only through her research that she realized her mindset had been fixed on proving her worth, and she decided to adopt a new mindset, one open to mistakes, failures, and growth.
Dweck's studies of children and teenagers have shown again and again that those who believe intelligence is fixed refuse to participate in tests that they might find difficult, resulting in them becoming "nonlearners." They "expect ability to show up on its own, before any learning takes place." Those who believe intelligence can be changed are more likely to be up for a challenge.
This attitude carries over into the life partners we choose: Those with the fixed mindset are more likely to want mates who idealize them. Those with a growth mindset report they want partners who see all their flaws, yet still love them, and who challenge them to improve themselves.
The fixed mindset can result in disappointment from an early age. Dweck showed fifth-graders a box and told them it held a test that measured an important part of their abilities. She then asked them if they thought the test could measure how smart they would be when they grew up. Students with the growth mindset said no, the test only measured the specific ability there and then. Students with the fixed mindset believed the test determined their levels of intelligence from that moment on.
If success is tied to self-esteem, then failure is a blow. People with growth mindsets see mistakes or failures as chances to learn; people with fixed mindsets see them as criticisms of themselves. They become discouraged and work less hard in the future — or don't even try at all.
Our society admires people who seem to achieve effortlessly; there's an implicit belief that the "coolest" people never look like they're trying too hard. To the fixed mindset, this makes sense: Those who are great shouldn't need to work hard. But this masks the fear that trying and then failing leaves you with no excuse.
Need to Know: What determines our achievements in life is not our intelligence but our willingness to learn. Actor Christopher Reeve faced great adversity — he was paralyzed after a horse- riding accident in 1995 — but he never stopped trying to push beyond the bounds of possibility. When doctors told Reeve he would never have movement or sensation below the neck again, the actor embarked on an exercise program to try to reboot the signals from his brain to his body. By 2002, Reeve had regained movement in his fingers and one leg and he had sporadic sensation elsewhere in his body. This contradicted previous wisdom about spinal cord injuries and helped push research on paralysis further toward a cure. That year, Reeve told The Guardian, "Not letting negativity get the upper hand is really, really critical" (Burkeman, "Man of Steel").
Belief in one's innate talent can also result in a sense of superiority. Despite being considered one of the most talented male tennis players in history, John McEnroe is remembered as much for his temper tantrums as his strokes. He was outraged at setbacks and blamed others for mistakes. He screamed at umpires, threw his racket, and smacked balls at line judges. Ultimately, his actions contributed to the institution of fines for bad behavior on the court (Rubinstein, "Profile of John McEnroe).
Like with John McEnroe, a fixed-mindset CEO "feels he can do no wrong and refuses to concede any mistake. He begins to surround himself with sycophants" (Byrne, "CEO Disease"). The results for a business can be catastrophic. As CEO of Chrysler Motors, Lee Iacocca failed to innovate because he was afraid that breaking away from traditional styles would dampen sales. But customers were bored with the same offerings, and they turned to Japanese car companies' innovative models instead.
Chapter 3: The Truth About Ability and Accomplishment
When we picture great achievers such as Thomas Edison, we tend to picture them working alone. Yet Edison had thirty assistants in a well-funded laboratory. He wasn't great because he created the modern lightbulb on his own; what made Edison great was his tenacity and drive.
Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to a fixed mindset that assumes accomplishment should come easily as they resist adult demands in order to establish their own identities. Dweck believes that no student is "naturally" unintelligent and argues that resistance to being evaluated — especially because of a belief that smart people don't have to try — can mask students' abilities.
Dweck studied pre-med college students and found that those with the growth mindset performed better on tests because they approached learning differently: Instead of trying to learn by rote or memorize textbooks, they went over their mistakes until they understood them or looked for themes across the course material. Lack of adaptability hampered the fixed-mindset students, who believed they should simply be able to soak up the information, regardless of how they approached their studies.
In 1975, educator Marva Collins funded her own private school, taking inner-city children who had previously failed and instructing them as if they were geniuses. By the end of the academic year, her second- grade class was reading at a fifth-grade level, taking on Aristotle, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy. Collins remarked, "Kids don't fail. Teachers fail, school systems fail. The people who teach children that they are failures — they are the problem" (Roberts, "Marva Collins").
We also tend to view certain abilities, such as drawing, as binary — meaning people either can or cannot draw. But artist Betty Edwards argues that drawing is a skill that can be learned. When she gave non-artists a five-day course on drawing faces, their work went from basic shapes to nuanced, detailed drawings with shade, texture, and correct proportions.
Dweck recommends thinking about those we admire and why we admire them. Are your heroes people who appear to have achieved amazing feats with little effort? If so, find out about the hard work that went into their achievements. Consider situations where you may be letting negative stereotypes affect you and remember the growth mindset — you're here to learn and improve, not be perfect. Avoid labeling others, such as your kids or those in stereotyped groups, even if you think those labels are positive.
Need to Know: Everyone needs praise, but it's important to praise effort rather than ability. Belief that our talents are natural can mean that we will take failure as a personal attack. Dweck gives the example of Adam Guettel, a prodigy of musical theater. Guettel came from a family of greats and ended up buckling under the pressure, struggling with OCD and drug abuse. In his case, the expectation to live up to his innate talent was too great a burden.
Just as positive expectations can hobble us, so can negative stereotypes. Women and certain ethnic groups have long been stereotyped as having fewer natural abilities in certain subjects. This undermines the groups' confidence in subtle ways; just being asked to state one's gender or race on a test paper lowers the scores of both groups. Neuroscientist Cordelia Fine explains that this comes from knowing "people are going to judge you because you're a woman and [if you fail] that you're going to confirm what everyone already 'knew'" (Fine, 2010).
These negative stereotypes contribute to higher dropout rates in minorities in college and women in science and math courses, leading to self-reinforcing stereotypes — e.g., "women just aren't as interested in STEM subjects as men." A fixed mindset leaves people more vulnerable to these stereotypes, because they are likely to internalize such statements rather than see them as objectionable beliefs they are free to reject and disprove.
Chapter 4: Sports: The Mindset of a Champion
Our tendency to believe that talent is innate is exemplified by our view of successful athletes: We see them as possessing almost supernatural physical characteristics that set them apart from us mere mortals. Yet, the truth is that success in sports takes constant effort. Muhammad Ali was anything but a natural boxer — he didn't have the right build, the natural moves, or the strength of a champion like Sonny Liston did. Still, Ali beat Liston by being mentally stronger and studying his opponent relentlessly both in and outside of the ring. Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, and Jackie Joyner- Kersee are also examples of athletes who the world tends to view as "naturals," but they, too, put in thousands of hours of grueling practice in order to perform their best.
Even when we recognize that much of sports success is mental, we fall prey to the idea that athleticism is an innate physical skill. On the other hand, Marshall Faulk, a successful running back for the St. Louis Rams, believes he has a high "football IQ" because he spent years watching football and questioning every move. This gives him the ability to picture the position of every player on the field, what each player is doing, and what each is about to do. Like Ali, much of Faulk's practice happened off the field, inside his head.
By contrast, Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martínez was a victim of the fixed mindset. Showered by praise, he believed any mistakes were the fault of other people. When the Red Sox began losing to the New York Yankees in October 2001, Martínez didn't work on his game; instead, he threw a tantrum, hurling balls, attacking his own coach, and threatening players. His inability to deal with a setback created a full-blown failure, and the Yankees won the game.
Part of the champion mindset is acknowledging that — even if you play an individual sport — trainers, managers, fans, family, and friends all play a part. Diana Nyad swam one hundred miles and broke the open-water record, but her achievement was enabled by a fifty-one-person team.
Need to Know: As with intelligence, our beliefs about athletic ability are divided between those who see it as innate and those who think work can improve it. The latter mindset, Dweck says, is that of champions. As researcher Brené Brown points out, accepting the possibility of failure is what makes us full human beings. Her interviews with thousands of people led her to conclude "the people living the happier, more successful lives were those who ... embraced vulnerability" (Olson and Kaye, Success). People with this mindset don't just fixate on winning; they take pride in the process of preparation. Runner Jackie Joyner-Kersee agreed: "I don't mind losing as long as I see improvement or I feel I've done as well as I possibly could. If I lose, I just go back to the track and work some more."
Chapter 5: Business: Mindset and Leadership
One of the most well-known failures of a business was the collapse of energy company Enron in 2001. Dweck believes its decline was not due to incompetence or corruption, but mindset. The New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell characterizes this as "talent mindset": the belief that successful people are innately so and do not need to work or improve to be better.
Business researcher Jim Collins's five-year study of successful companies showed that a good leader is not, as we often believe, a charismatic or confident individual, but rather someone who questions things, takes nothing for granted, and is always striving to be better. Alan Wurtzel, former CEO of Circuit City, held debates with his board and demanded detailed updates. He took the company from near-bankruptcy to record returns.
Arrogance is often the downfall of business leaders. Their belief in their own superiority means they don't respect their workers, viewing them as minions and easily tipping from authoritarian to downright abusive. Paul Kazarian, former CEO of Sunbeam-Oster, was known to throw things at his employees. David Rockefeller, leader of Chase Manhattan Bank, was known to mentally abuse his workers, leaving them feeling lucky to work a day without being reprimanded.
By contrast, former CEO Jack Welch turned General Electric around by asking workers what they thought needed changing, sacking autocratic bosses, and replacing the elite executive club with a community volunteer force. Former CEO Lou Gerstner transformed IBM by similar means, talking to lower-level employees, encouraging teamwork by basing bonuses on overall performance rather than individual sales, and attacking entrenched hierarchy. Gerstner met with "the people who [could] help solve a problem, regardless of position."
Former CEO Anne Mulcahy turned Xerox's failing fortunes around by educating herself about financial process and constantly questioning the way things were being done. She didn't court approval and was honest with employees that the company was failing. She eliminated redundancies with compassion. Female CEOs remain in the distinct minority, making up only 5% of America's five hundered largest publicly traded companies (Long, "Female CEOs"). Dweck hopes this figure will rise significantly as companies begin to appreciate the benefits women can bring to business.
Excerpted from Summary and Analysis of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential by Worth Books. Copyright © 2017 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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