How does one’s mindset affect the way one sees oneself, close relationships, work, etc–virtually everything?
Carol Dweck’s Mindset makes a powerful statement about the power of having a certain mindset that affects our performance, relationships, and self-esteem. She argues that there are two types of mindsets–a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is the belief that one’s abilities, character, and self-worth are inflexible, whereas a growth mindset is the belief that they are improvable.
When someone has a fixed mindset, he or she tends to fear having to work hard for something because putting effort into something means that their abilities alone are not enough. The belief that one’s abilities are not enough in turn forecloses the opportunity to get better by practice. It is either one has it or doesn’t. A fixed mindset consequently causes one to avoid any challenge that might require effort.
In contrast, a person with a growth mindset sees his or her abilities as something that get better with effort. Only through constant practice and improvement do the abilities yield outcomes. Because achievement depends on efforts, a person with a growth mindset embraces challenges and thrives on working hard.
Dweck’s two mindsets come across important in various settings from sports arenas to C-level business and relationships. She includes various personal and episodic stories that illustrate how people with different mindsets bring about different results in similar settings. These stories about people illustrate the significance of the mindsets.
In particular, I was fascinated by the stories of various CEOs whose mindsets shaped the fare of the companies they managed because of my current interest in leadership in organizational settings. A CEO’s mindset can have impact on the lives of hundreds and thousands of people. Two questions arose for me. Does a fixed mindset have any relation with narcissism that is found in some CEOs? And what are some systematic procedures that can change a CEO with a fixed mindset into a more growth-oriented person? These questions need more research.
The different mindsets cause people to make different choices. Looking at their stories, I reflected on myself. For some time in my life, I held a fixed mindset as well. Deeply identifying with obsession with prestigious schools and social recognition in Korea, I tried to prove myself with good grades. At the same time, there were moments when I genuinely enjoyed challenges. I solved math problems just for fun, worked at painting to draw beautiful pictures, and saw college entrance exams as a means to sharpen my critical reading skills.
But after reading this book, I feel like I can become more of a growth-oriented person. This means I have to change my views on career, relationships, and life in general. For one thing, I can start believing that my interest in a particular career can grow over time and with effort. That way, I wouldn’t turn down one career just because the first impression is not right. I can also start looking for people who may not be perfect but who can help develop me and the relationship they have with me. Instead of looking for the perfect guy, I can look for a person who can grow side by side.
One final thought: having a growth mindset seems like having the courage to take full responsibility of oneself. The fact that one can improve every aspect of oneself from character to abilities means that one is responsible for every choice and outcome one makes in life. There is no room for blaming others. It is a practice of ultimate maturity and the beginning of owning one’s life.