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What mindset do you have?

My normal holiday reading list consists of several books I have received from family for Christmas – it’s a box of chocolates; you never know what you’ll get. But on a recent holiday, I was lent a gem of a book – ‘Mindset’.

The book is the brainchild of American psychologist, Carol Dweck, and it explores her idea that people either have a ‘fixed mindset’ or a ‘growth mindset’. As simple as it may sound, the impact and difference is critical to one’s success.

Photo - Jessica Podzebenko

Dweck describes our mindset as our set of beliefs – what we believe to be true about ourselves and about our fundamental character traits.

People with a fixed mindset think their qualities and traits are fixed – you get what you are born with and can’t change it. This mindset can go to qualities like intelligence, artistic ability or sporting talent – you are born ‘bright’ or ‘sporty’. That given talent, rather than hard work, will determine your success.

The result, she argues, is that people of this mindset worry if they are musical enough or bright enough, and feel that they constantly have to prove both to themselves and others that they pass muster – that they have a certain degree of sporting talent, or a particular level of intelligence.

In contrast, people with a growth mindset view their qualities as evolving – they can work on their inherent qualities and abilities, and through hard work and commitment, grow and develop these qualities throughout their lives. Instead of being limited by a fixed view of their talent, those with a growth mindset relish a life of learning and self-development. There is the sense of the unknown – what I can achieve with a significant degree of persistence, hard work and passion? It is accepted that people are indeed born with a certain level of intelligence, physical co-ordination or musical prowess, but the growth mindset is that human potential really is unknown until we push and stretch ourselves.

In Dweck’s view, living with a growth mindset spurs on a passion for self-development and cultivates resilience – key ingredients for success. Instead of fearing failure, someone with a growth mindset sees failure as an opportunity to learn and grow.

This book struck a chord with me - both in terms of some recent work I did with a personal coach (click here for my story on coaching) and my role as a parent. The lessons learned reminded me of many things I worked on with my coach – personal beliefs and values, persistence and setting limitless goals.

For me, the coaching experience involved a lot of introspection, probing and, I might add, hard work and stretch on my part. Without blowing my trumpet too much, the book resonated with me as I truly felt like I could stake a claim to having (at times!) a growth mindset – I grew a fair bit, and realised I could grow a lot more.

In terms of my children, it made me wonder, how might I help foster a growth mindset in my boys? Ironically, the principal of my sons’ school recently promoted the philosophies underpinning this book and the need for our kids to develop a ‘growth’ mentality. For kids, this translates to praising the amount of effort they put in, instead of saying ‘my, how clever you are!’ (amongst other strategies).

Dweck's ideas also tie in with advances in neuroplasticity and the ability for our brain to change and develop, another area I found fascinating while working with my coach.

For me, the book linked a lot of ideas and concepts I knew about, such as not praising children for intelligence, constant self-improvement and resilience; but it tied them together in a simple, cohesive way. By using and exploring the concept of ‘mindset’ in this way, the penny seemed to just drop for me. The easy to read book is well worth it.

Source: and ‘Mindset’ by Carol Dweck.

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