Bodhi Book Summary: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success


 by Carol S. Dweck 

Summarized and Reviewed by Tim Delson

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The Brief Summary

According to Carol Dweck, psychologist at Stanford University and author of the book, the mindset that you take on has a huge impact on the trajectory of your life.

There are two mindsets – "fixed" mindset and "growth" mindset.

A fixed mindset individual believes that you're born with certain traits, abilities, intelligence, etc. and that there's not much you – or anyone else – can do about it. As an extension of that, they believe some people are just superior to others. They see a world of judgements and fear. They avoid obstacles and difficulty. When faced with failure, they blame others and make excuses.

Growth mindset people look at the world and see wonder and opportunities to learn and grow. They see challenges and difficulty as opportunities to learn. They practice relentlessly. They don't give up because they take control of the process and they are obsessed with the journey, not the outcome.

Growth mindset people live happier, more fulfilling lives. You have the power to be either one. It's your choice! It's not easy to develop a growth mindset, but you CAN retrain your brain. Reach out to others for support. Talk about our faults and mistakes. Make viable, concrete plans for achieving your goals. Focus first on the areas of your life where you'll get the most value from it.

Adopt a growth mindset and make the impossible possible.


The Long Summary

Carol Dweck is a professor of psychology at Stanford University. For her book Mindset, she builds on the work of sociologist Benjamin Barber. In the book, she illustrates how the mindset you take on has a huge impact on the trajectory of your life.

Are you the kind of person who feels like you can't change all that much? That you are the way you are, at least the important parts, and that can't really be changed? Or are you the kind of person who can change substantially? Even the most basic things about you can be rewritten?

If you're the former, you have what Dweck calls a "fixed mindset." If you're the latter, you have a "growth mindset."

Those with a growth mindset are more likely to live a happier, more fulfilling life. But even if you have a fixed mindset, good news – the only person who decides that is YOU. So YOU have the power to change it. Let's dig into the two mindsets a little more and understand how you can start building a better life by utilizing a growth mindset.

The Fixed Mindset

We're not born with a fixed mindset. Obviously as babies and then children, we're sponges. Little learning machines.

Somewhere along the way, some of us develop a fixed mindset. Kids can start showing signs of this as early as 4 years old. They may start evaluating themselves against some arbitrary "norm." Parents play a huge role in determining whether their child develops a fixed mindset. Instead of encouraging them to continue learning, a fixed mindset parent is always judging their children, telling them what is right or wrong, good or bad.

Teachers also play an important role. Fixed mindset teachers may believe thier students are either "good" or "bad" and that their performance is unchangeable, instead of believing that their students are capable of learning anything.

Children who are developing a fixed mindset may come to "realize" that some kids are "more intelligent" than others. Some "more athletic" than others.

And if they're on the path toward a fixed mindset, these insights are problematic, as they exacerbate this mindset's development.

When fixed mindset people grow up, they believe that some people are superior to others. They think talent is king. That one's abilities and intelligence are set in stone. If they happen to be particularly talented or intelligent, they can be crippled of their abilities to grow because they don't feel they need to. When fixed mindset people are confronted with failure, they make excuses and place the blame on others. They tend to avoid difficulties.

If this fixed mindset person happens to be in a leadership position (Dweck uses Lee Iacocca as her example here), behaviors might include belittling their direct reports and scaring everyone around them until their subordinates agree with the boss simply to avoid being yelled at.

The Growth Mindset

Where fixed mindset children see a world of judgements and fear, growth mindset people see a world of wonder and things to learn. They relish in any opportunity to learn and see challenges as opportunities for learning as opposed to insurmountable obstacles. They practice relentlessly. In sports, they play knowing they are serving the team. When they run a business, they show respect to their employees and are grateful for thier work.

Dweck uses several examples, including the painter Cezanne and basketball player Michael Jordan, to illustrate that even the most talented poeple in the world start somewhere. They leverage their growth mindset to work hard at getting better. That this is the behavior pattern of all of successful people in the world. They don't give up because they take control of the process and they love the journey, not the outcome.

Developing a Growth Mindset

Anyone can adopt a growth mindset. No one has to be a victim of his or her surroundings. The brain can be trained. How? Reach out to others for support. Talk about your faults and mistakes. Make viable, concrete plans for achieving your goals.

It won't be easy. Fixed mindsets become emotional crutches. But find solace in that you needn't get rid of your fixed mindset completely. Start by focusing on certain circumstances – the areas of your life where you need this mindset the most/where you'll get the most value from it.

Dealing with Fixed Mindsets

So let's say you've now adopted a growth mindset, but you've still got to work with people who have a fixed mindset. How do you do this?

Dweck offers the example of John Wooden, a very celebrated coach of the UCLA basketball team. He didn't push his players to win. He treated every practice and every game as a learning opportunity. If he didn't think his players were putting in a full effort to learn, he turned the lights off and went home.

That may work for a college basketball coach. But what about for the rest of us? Start by asking the person: What are you learning? Don't focus on their success or failure, but on what they're learning. Make it clear this is the only path to success.


Our mindset shapes our beliefs in accomplishing something. Adopt a growth mindset and make the impossible possible.


Enjoyable to Read: 4 out of 5

Dweck was very thorough in her book, for better or worse. She provides MANY examples in each chapter, perhaps because she's been involved and conducted MANY studies on this topic. She is afterall the preeminent, undisputed expert on mindset.


Reviewer's Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

First and foremost, we recommend this book simply because of its importance in the field. Beyond that, we recommend it because it stuck with us.

Do you know how sometimes when you read a book, you start to see the application of that book in the real world over and over again? You know when that happens, it's an important book with practical application. That happened to us after we read Mindset. "Oh, there's a great example of fixed mindset right there..." "She's clearly exhibiting a growth mindset..."


Actionable Info: 3 out of 5

The main concept is simple, concise, and laid out in a way that's easy to understand. There are examples of others who exude a fixed or growth mindset.

That being said, how to get there is not crystal clear. Most of the book is spent exploring the nature of the archetype of the "fixed mindset" vs. "growth mindset" individual and providing examples, but little time is spent on what actionable steps can you take to become more growth-minded.


Quality of the Ideas: 4 out of 5

People have a "fixed" mindset or a "growth" mindset.
Fixed mindset people think you're born with certain intelligence and abilities and that's that.
Growth mindset people know that they can constantly learn, grow, and get better with study and practice.
It's within our ability to change this about ourselves, and maybe even about others.



Quotability: 3.5 out of 5

“Becoming is better than being”
“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”
“No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”
“It’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.”
“I derive just as much happiness from the process as from the results.”






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