Mindset by Carol S. Dweck


Maggie Sim

Maggie Sim

Mindset, a book written by Carol S. Dweck, is one of my January 2022 reads. I have a simple goal of completing at least one book every month in 2022 and writing a synopsis here on the Holding Space Blog.

If I had gone back into the past to tell my 10 year old self that I would need to set reading goals so as to read a book from start to end during middle age, she will probably recommend a lobotomy. Looking back now, I used to consume books at a rate that was astonishing!

Oops, I digress. Back to the book. I picked up Mindset at the recommendation of a coaching client. (I learn so much new stuff from my clients, and I love it!). Carol Dweck, a psychologist, had coined the term fixed and growth mindsets.

People often talk about having a growth mindset, but what does it mean? Our mindset is basically our belief systems. Your mindset houses a set of beliefs about a person’s basic qualities, how you define success and failure, whether you thrive or avoid challenges, how you perceive putting in effort and making mistakes. It is about how you interpret your internal and external experiences of the world you live in.

Do you struggle with navigating uncertainty, or feel anxious about stepping out of your comfort zone, or battle with your inner critic whenever you do not get the results you want? These are some of the pain-points that my clients work on in their coaching sessions with me, and one of the roadblocks that typically emerge for them has to do with their belief systems, or mindsets.

Fixed Mindset

People with a fixed mindset have the ‘you are born with it’ view of the world. They believe the following:

  1. Qualities: People are born with qualities such as intelligence, talents, aptitude, personalities and temperament. These qualities are fixed and carved in stone: you either have them or you do not have them. You cannot change them. They expect ability to show up on its own, before any learning takes place.
  2. Success: Success is about proving that you are smart and talented. They seek out experiences that validate their intelligence and talents. The opposite is also true to the fixed mindset people – if you do not have innate smarts and talent, you are a failure.
  3. Effort: If you have to put in effort, it means you are not talented or smart. Smart people do not need to put in effort.
  4. Challenge: People with a fixed mindset stay within their comfort zone, shying away from challenges and trying new things because they want to avoid mistakes or failure.
  5. Mistakes: Mistakes are to be avoided as they are associated with failure.

Growth Mindset

People with a growth mindset have a ‘you are not born with it’ view of the world. They believe that anything you want can be cultivated through efforts, strategies and with help from others.

  1. Qualities: One can substantially change their basic qualities around intelligence, talents and temperament. These qualities are not fixed and can be expanded or contracted.
  2. Success: Success is about learning, stretching and growing. It is not about how smart or talented you are.
  3. Effort: If you put in effort over time, you will expand your abilities and intelligence.
  4. Challenge: People with a growth mindset seek to step out of their comfort zone, thriving on challenges because that is how they grow.
  5. Mistakes: Mistakes are welcomed as they are viewed as a big part of learning and growing. P

One point to note is that people do not exhibit either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. We are generally somewhere in between so the key is to be aware about the stories that our beliefs are telling us.

I found this book to be an easy read. Using plenty of familiar examples in the sports and business worlds, Carol Dweck illustrated very clearly the different traits of people exhibiting each mindset.

I would have given it 5 stars if not for the slightly repetitive content in various chapters. I highly recommend this book to those who are starting out on their personal development journey and want to understand how mindsets are rooted in one’s belief systems.