Patton's Pick from the PMA Library: "Mindset"

March 2020

"Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" by Carol S. Dweck


If you're looking for book recommendations in the productivity and professional development genre, Patton offers a weekly summary of some of the essential and emerging titles from the PMA Library.


In her great book Mindset, Stanford psychologist Carol S. Dweck explains the differences between fixed and growth mindsets, and the implication of both on personal development, teaching, and parenting. 

The two mindsets outlined by Dweck are 1. fixed: people who believe that talent is everything, and is predetermined, with no opportunity to improve, and 2. growth: people who believe that they are not limited by genetics, and can achieve goals through hard work and practice. 

"Mindset" is the recommended book of Chris Delisio, the guest of Episode #24 of the Path Podcast. 


Three takeaways:

  1. The downside of praising smarts. If you praise what appear to be set characteristics, such as brains or talent, a person will panic when their fixed traits don't appear to be enough to overcome a challenge. This line of thinking limits a person's progress in the long term, as the "fixed mindset" individual avoids difficult situations because they would rather preserve their own sense of self image rather than to risk looking bad. 

  2. The key is praising change.  The most successful people are those who have a desire to learn, improve, and put in the effort. Those with this sense of resilience will trump those with perceived innate strengths because they are not afraid to disprove or exceed their perceptions fo self. By cultivating one's desire to continue learning and improving, one will be putting in the time and effort towards successful progress rather than fearing that they will squander some pre-existing skillset. A growth minded person sees challenges as an opportunity to get better. 

  3. Be wary of influencing others. Authority figures, especially those relating to children such as parents or teachers, can have a huge impact on establishing how people see and reward themselves and their accomplishments. Praising process improvements and challenges that have been overcome is a much healthier line of encouragement, which assuredly leads to greater long term improvement tahn compliments of a fixed nature, which leads to insecurities about one's capabilities. 


By understanding the impact of having fixed vs growth mindsets, readers are encouraged not only to reconsider how they see themselves and one's own capabilities, but reconsider the effects they can have on others. Perhaps it is comforting not to know what one is good at, rather than be told and subconsciously limited to specific compliments.

Carol S. Dweck (born October 17, 1946) is an American psychologist. She is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Dweck is known for her work on the mindset psychological trait. She taught at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the University of Illinois before joining the Stanford University faculty in 2004. She is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science.