Mindset: A Book Review of a Must-Read, with Further Discussion on Reaching Your Full Potential

I have the book for you!


…since I am pretty sure that most people want to be more awesome. One clue that confirms this is the abundance of self-help books out there, and many of those are even making the best seller lists.

My email newsletter subscribers got a preview of this book a couple of weeks ago before I was even finished with it. Authored by psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., Mindset, The New Psychology of Success, is one of those books where it seems like it could impact one for life

The following first bit of this article is excerpted from my newsletter dated 5/21/19. So, for those of you who already read it, you can skip down to the heading that says, “Now for the New Stuff” for the, you guessed it, new material, if you don’t want to read it again. However, I do admit to adding or changing a few words for clarity.

Here are some quotes from the cover of Mindset:
“Everyone should own this book.” –Chip Heath & Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick and Switch.

“Highly recommended…an essential read for parents, teachers and coaches…as well as for those who would like to increase their own feelings of success and fulfillment.” —Library Journal

“Will prove to be one of the most influential books ever about motivation.” –Po Bronson, author of NurtureShock

“A good book is one whose advice you believe. A great book is one whose advice you follow.  This is a book that can change your life.” –Robert J. Sternberg, author of Teaching for Successful Intelligence

These comments are pretty compelling.

My Friend Was Right!

So, recently a guy at work recommended this book, telling me he thought I would really like it. Thanks, Dennis. Then a week later I saw it on my daughter Lindsay’s bookshelf when I was visiting her in Washington. Serendipitous! So I borrowed it, and was immensely impressed with what I read.

Basically, the author Carol Dweck maintains that research shows that people can have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Whichever one you have makes all the difference in how you approach things and whether you will reach your full potential. She claims that one is not locked into either mindset, and a person is able to shift their mindset. Towards the end of the book Dweck explains some ways on how to change your mindset.

Briefly, a fixed mindset is one where you think things are just a certain way and you have to accept this and work with it, such as IQ; or some physical ability like running, dancing, playing the piano; or a creative ability like what an author or artist might have. Dweck describes the fixed mindset in this way: “…that your qualities are carved in stone.” An example of a fixed mindset would be saying, “Oh, I am just not good at playing Scrabble.” (Something I have actually said more than once.)

On the other hand there is the growth mindset. Dweck says, “This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.” And that persistence, hard work, embracing challenges, diligence in learning, and being inspired by others can help you attain much higher levels of achievement.

Now catch this: Interestingly, according to Dweck, babies are all born with a growth mindset. For instance, when they are learning how to walk, if they fall down the first 3 times, they don’t think to themselves, “Oh, I am just not good at walking. I will just crawl from now on.” No, they keep on trying, and sooner or later, they are able to figure it out, and end up becoming great at walking. So, we actually learn somewhere along the line to have a fixed mindset.

I admit that I have a fixed mindset in some areas and a growth mindset in others. However, I am looking forward to changing those fixed mindset areas into growth mindsets. That I have the amount of growth mindset that I do now I owe in large part to my parents. My dear dad had me read the Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale when I was probably in the 6th grade, and then a number of times again after that. And I was also told frequently by my parents that I could do anything if I put my mind to it. I am very thankful for their influences.

Now for the New Stuff

Dweck details a lot about mindset from a sports, business, relationship, parent/teacher/coach point of view.

So, you have probably been able to deduce by now that a fixed mindset is limiting, and therefore not desirable.  Dweck gives real person examples of people with a fixed mindset, such as college basketball coach Bobby Knight; prior CEO of Chrysler Motors Lee Iacocca; tennis great John McEnroe; plus many more.  These descriptions made me feel a bit uncomfortable because they weren’t exactly complimentary accounts, although the author did handle it more matter-of-factly rather than blasting the individual.

As for those with a growth mindset, Dweck provided accounts of such persons as basketball hero Michael Jordan; boxing champion Mohammed Ali; one of the greatest college basketball coaches, John Wooden; and a handful of others including Mozart, Thomas Edison, and Darwin. Dweck provided such fascinating information about what helped these people achieve such great successes. It was truly inspiring.

The last section of Mindset, Dweck discusses ways we can change our mindsets. She includes a chart that one can copy and tape to their mirror as a daily reminder. I think it would be helpful to add a copy to one’s journal as well. (I find that to really make changes that we need frequent reminders of what we want to focus on. Life is just too dang distracting.)

It really goes without saying that, yes, I would recommend this book. In fact, I highly recommend it and think its concepts are life-changing. I have caught myself more than a few times limiting myself with a fixed mindset. It really helps to be mindful of it, and to counteract that rigid, immovable, confined mentality. Note to self: Start working on your Scrabble game.

If You Really Think About It

We have a huge capacity to learn new things, to master new things, to improve. Driving a car, using an iPhone, and reading are some examples of things most of us have been able to learn, which probably seemed difficult at one time. We must have had more of a growth mindset with those things than a fixed mindset or we would have given up.

One example of a growth mindset I have seen in my life: My husband Kevin is famous for using this saying frequently: “Every day just move the ball down the field, even if it is just a little bit”. Obviously, it is a football term with a goal in mind, literally. That saying exemplifies a growth mindset and one thing Kevin did with that was to run a successful small business for over 30 years. I saw him live this out in various ways in good times and in very difficult trying times. If he had had a fixed mindset the business would not have succeeded as he would not have pushed through the obstacles.

A Growth Mindset is Even Biblical

For me as a Christian, powerful sounding thoughts and ideas have to pass through the Grid of Truth before I will adopt them, and for me that is the Bible. It didn’t take me long to think of specific examples and general principles scripturally affirming the growth mindset as wise and righteous. Here are just a few:

Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:11 says that, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am”. Learning = growth mindset.

In Colossians 3:12, Paul tells us to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”. Character changes = growth mindset.

The 10 Commandments = Growth mindset. God gave these commandments as things He expected His people to obey. A fixed mindset would say we are how we are, so we cannot do it.

Joshua in Joshua 1:8 told the people to be strong and courageous during a very scary time. What would be the use of saying that unless conjuring up those things was doable. Strength and courage = growth mindset.

Jesus implored people, “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them” (Matthew 7:12). Striving to treat people right = growth mindset.

10 Reasons Why I Think You Should Read Mindset

  • It will inspire you to accomplish hard things
  • It will help stop negative thinking
  • It will help you be a nicer person
  • It will help you be a more influential person
  • It will help you reach your full potential
  • It will motivate you to be more tenacious
  • It will encourage you to learn more and figure things out
  • It will improve your relationships
  • It will help you understand people better
  • It will help you make a bigger impact in this world

Okay, I said “will” on all of those reasons. Maybe I should have said “can” instead.  But I am feeling pretty hopeful that you “will”.

Action Steps to Be More Awesome

Read the book. I really do believe that Mindset is an important book for parents, coaches, teachers, entrepreneurs, athletes, and pretty much everyone else.  So I encourage you to buy the book Mindsetor borrow it from the library or off your daughter’s bookshelf, and flip on the growth mindset switch.

Take a few minutes to try to identify areas or times when you have had a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. Analyze your life now identifying these 2 mindsets.

Remind yourself frequently that your qualities, even your intelligence level, is not locked in stone.

Get into the habit of having a growth mindset in all areas by challenging yourself, trying new things, learning more.

Borrow and use one of my sayings I tell myself frequently when faced with something difficult: “I can do hard things; I have done them before”. And then list in your mind a few formidable challenges that you were successfully able to get through or do. Recording them in a journal might be helpful too.

Watch out world!

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You might also be interested in reading this other article I wrote:
You Are Never Too Old: Exploring Your Possibilities

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