Carol Dweck: a Summary of Growth and Fixed Mindsets

In the book “Mindset”, author and psychologist Carol S Dweck, makes an analyze, based on years of research, about the difference of a fixed mindset and a flexible, growth mindset. This mindset being the one highly responsible for people’s success or failures because it is related to how people think about themselves. I wanted to read this book in order to change my perspective regarding failure and improvement. The book is divided in 3 main parts. The first part: Chapters 1-3 sets out the basic theory and supporting evidence. The second part: Capters 4-7 tests the theory in domains like sports, business, relationship and teaching. The third and last part expires the ways of changing mindset in yourself and others and is made of the last Chapter 8.

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In the first chapter of the book Carol explains the difference between fixed and growth mindset. The people with the first one believe that they are born with some amount of qualities like intelligence and talent and they cannot be improved. This is why they fear being seen as stupid or not good enough because they think it is unchangeable. Whereas the second type if persons don’t care about other’s opinion. They know that they can learn and become better at anything they try to do so, so they are not afraid of challenges and even embrace them.

In the second chapter the author emphasis is on the fact that mindsets can be changed, even fixed ones. Just by looking at children pushing themselves to learn talking, walking, we can see that humans have this born appetite towards learning and challenging themselves, yet they loose it with age by overthinking and fearing failure or being seen as stupid if they won’t make it. If people with fixed mindsets would try to act like these children, they might accomplish great things and change their perspective. Unfortunately in adulthood if they fail once, these kind of people just believe that they are not good for the specific task and quit trying.

It happened many times to myself to give up too soon and think that “I’m not good at it”. Now reading these rows I understand that we are not born taught and we have to try until we make it.

An interesting topic in the chapter 3 of the book is about a low-achieving school class. The school teacher treated the children as if they were geniuses and they beginning having confidence, believing they can do more and actually having higher grades. Criticism penetrates children’s mind and teachers and parents who are giving labels to their children can easily just influence how they perceive themselves and as a result, act accordingly.

This a very sensible topic. When I was in high-school I felt that my math teacher believed I am not a good student and when I had to solve exercises in from of the class I was simply blocked, intimidated by him and trying to show that I am not stupid. When I had a private tutor for the baccalaureate, who believed in me and encouraged me I just felt smart and good at math. It was all about perspective, I became how I felt. And I did great in my exam.

In chapter 4 the author is giving examples of both success and failure stories from the life of some well-known athletes and sports people in order to outline the differences in their mindset and character. Dweck definition of character is: “the ability to dig down and find the strength [to carry on] even when things are going against you”. With a combination of both growth mindset and character sports people have a more successful career than those “native talented” ones who play for their ego and easily give up when failing. For example tennis star John McEnroe never played mixed doubles for 20 years after performing bad once). Successful champions perceive their failure as motivating and become more eager to succeed afterwards.

Chapter 5 revises the same concepts, now through the perspective of business and leaders. It is proved that business owners and CEO’s who have a rigid mindset are self-oriented, need to be praised and don’t accept criticism. This factors restrict creativity and employee’s opinion. In this way the company itself becomes a rigid one and instead of being a strong, collaborative team only the leader’s voice is heard and is in fact the only one that matters. Whereas, leaders with a mindset of growth are inclusive with other people, ask for feedback and develop a powerful and eventually successful team. Failure is only an obstacle on the path to success for such teams.

As an entrepreneur and future business owner I can say that I want to develop a growth mindset company where people encourage each other, but also give constructive feedback when needed. In fact this is what a team is about, when you see things wrong you need someone there to open your eyes, this does not mean you are not good enough, or stupid.

Chapter 6, which talks about mindsets in romantic and platonic relationships, was very perspective changing for me at the moment when I read the book. Back then I was very unhappy in a relationship. I bought that fighting is a proof that we are not made for each other, I was putting the blame on my partner sometimes and other times on faith. When I found out that this is the definition of a fixed mindset, I had a paradigm shift. People with growth mindset understand that a good relationship is based on the work of both partners and that it is normal not to have a perfect parter with whom you always agree. Another interesting topic developed in this chapter is that of bullies and victims who believe they are in the way the bully tells them (if they have a fixed mindset). This creates suffering, frustration and sometimes even suicide and terrorism (like the armed attacks in schools in America).

Chapter 7 is illustrating the differences between the two mindsets when it comes to parenting and teaching. Contrary to general beliefs, praising children’s abilities or talent is very negative for their development. Parents, good-willing of course, who want to raise children’s confidence usually do that but what they don’t know is that creates a fixed mindset. The children grow believing that they are smart and talented and it is a risk that they won’t make effort, become egocentric and for sure gain a fixed mindset. Instead, children’s efforts and hard work should be praised. Those are what make the kid good at specific subjects or sports and will make them eventually successful.

In my personal case, my parents were always telling me how intelligent and smart I am. At the age of 4 I was able to read and write with uppercase letters. Then in middle school I had great grades and I was the 69th at the national evaluation at the end of the 8th grade. I knew this makes me smart. In high-school things changed. My grades at math were low, I did not give interest anymore. When I saw that, not only that I felt stupid and that I lost myself, but I did not know who I am anymore. I was down. I’ve putted very much pressure on myself to have maximum grades in baccalaureate exam in order to prove myself and others that I am not stupid. I took 9.95 at math and I was disappointed. Nothing good comes out if you tell your child he/she is smart when having good grades. I know it myself. I am going to praise effort and hard work of course but never put labels regarding inherited qualities when I will have children.

The final chapter revises the author’s suggestions and advices regarding the mindsets. I found this book’s chapter lacking here so I am going to say how I deal with changing my mindset. Firstly I’ve learnt about neuroplasticity and there are evidences that our brain can be trained to become better, bigger, faster. We cam become more intelligent so these facts are supporting the main point of this book. So when my mind whispers: “you are not good enough” I am trying to remember that I can become.

In comparison with the book “The power of positive thinking” and may other books, which, just as the title says, promotes thinking you will make it, you are good and smart and intelligent, this book discourages doing so. Unfortunately, the main idea of the book could be summarized in only 3 chapters. The author repeated herself many times and it became annoying after a few chapters. Besides that, the learnings were really perspective changing.

My main learnings from this book were the fact that there is no such thing like perfect relationship. Without hard work relationships can’t be successful, so it is in our hands. I am neither smart or stupid, I am the sum of efforts I give in a certain direction. I want to create a growth oriented organizations when I am going to be the leader. In my bad days, when things will go wrong I will remember myself that it is in my power to change them and this will fight little depressive moments.

As a conclusion, I believe that “Mindset” is a book which keeps a secret of success. Written in too many pages, this secret can be resumed like this: “ Success is in our hands. We are neither talented or intelligent, we are the result of how hard we work for a goal. Failure is part of the process, not the end.’

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Carol Dweck: A Summary of Growth and Fixed Mindsets. (2021, Dec 30). Retrieved December 3, 2022 , from

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