Boek: Spiral Dynamics

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Mindset: A book written by Carol S. Dweck
Summary by Deanna Eloise Lind, june 2016

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Author: Carol Dweck

Uitgeverij: Random House | 2006 |
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Mindset, de weg naar een succesvol leven - Ouderschap, bedrijfsleven, sport, school, relaties

Auteur: Carol Dweck Uitgeverij: SWP | 1e druk, 2011 |
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      A. Fixed Mindset
      B. Growth Mindset
      C. View from the Two Mindsets
      D. Why Fixed Mindset?

Mindset by Carol S. Dweck explores the concept that the power of belief can have profound effects on individual success. The author explains that success is not solely rooted in our inherent abilities. She admits that applying a growth mindset when approaching our goals can lead to success irrespective of one’s genetic endowment.

The novel draws from various real life examples depicting that such a mindset can be applied to all facets of life, be it in your academic, professional and personal, emotional careers to affording you the command to tap into your true potential.

Mindsets are key elements of an individual’s personality but the key message the novel imparts on the reader is that mindsets can be changed. A simple formula about the brain can “create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area” in order maximize one’s true potential.

“You have a choice by spelling out the two mindsets and the world’s they create. The point is that people can choose which world they want to inhibit”.

An individual’s mindset is twofold: fixed or growth. The distinction between the two is derived from your position on whether human qualities are fixed or capable of evolution. We are all bestowed with ‘unique genetic endowment, with different temperaments and different aptitudes’. However it is evidenced from real-life case studies that with ‘experience, training and personal mentality’, we are able to facilitate the advancement of our skills and expertise, exceeding our god given traits. As Robert Sternberg (present day guru of intelligence) put, “…is not some fixed prior ability but purposeful engagement”.

A.           Fixed Mindset
A fixed mindset is the belief that your qualities are set. One is simply dealt a hand of cards, end of story.

This principle inevitably manifests into an urgency in proving yourself to others. If you only have a ‘certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, a certain moral character, you are constantly seeking validation to confirm these characteristics’.

Every situation calls for verification and evaluation of these attributes - Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or loser? Owing to this perception, fixed minded cannot cope with failure or rejection stunting development and success.

B.           Growth Mindset
A growth mindset is the belief that your traits are qualities fostered through your efforts. The hand you’re dealt with is in fact the starting point for development, not the ceiling.

This notion therefore doesn’t dispute the fact that everyone is bequeathed with different basic attributes. It does however insist that everyone can change and grow through ‘application and experience, building upon your primary skills’.

Thus a person’s true potential is “unknown and unknowable”. As a result, it impossible to forsee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil and training.

Box: Dweck's definition of fixed and growth mindsets from a 2012 interview

"In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that's that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don't necessarily think everyone's the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it."

C.           View from two mindsets

Case Scenario
One day, you go to a class that is really important to you and that you like a lot. The professor returns the midterm papers to the class. You got a C+. You’re very disappointed. That evening on the way back to your home, you find that you’ve gotten a parking ticket. Being really frustrated, you call your best friend to share your experience but are sort of brushed off.

When the people with the fixed mindset were asked how they felt, they provided the following responses:
“I’m a total failure.”
“Life is unfair and all efforts are useless.”
“I’d feel worthless and dumb – everyone’s better than me.”
“I’m stupid. Nothing good ever happens to me.”

When asked how they would cope:
“Do nothing.”
“What is there to do?”
“Pick a fight with someone.”

When the growth minded individuals were asked, they responded like so:
“I need to try harder in class, be more careful when parking my car and wonder if my friend had a bad day.”
“The C+ would tell me I’d have to work a lot harder in the class but I have the rest of the semester to pull up my grade.”

When asked how they would cope, they said words to the affect of:
“I’d start thinking about studying harder or studying in a different way for my next test in the class, I’d pay the ticket, and I’d work things out with my best friend the next time we speak.”

Fixated by seeking constant validation, the fixed mindset were unable to cope with obstacles. Success to the fixed minded is proving you’re smart and talented. Failure to do so leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy that you are unintelligent and an inferior individual, incapable of success. Your basic qualities are capped ergo your capability of success is capped.

In contrast, despite feeling distressed, the growth mindset were more than willing to confront the challenges and viewed the impediments as red flags to improve. Failures, though painful, do not define them. Setbacks are perceived as opportunities to improve. The growth mindset are driven by the ‘desire to learn, confronting challenges head on and making progress’. Achieving ‘immediate perfection’ does not incentivize them. Unlike the fix minded, the growth mindset are not driven by the outcome. Instead they ‘value the process and what they are doing regardless of the result’.

The growth mindset “live in a world of changing qualities, it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.” Thereby, if abilities can be expanded, if change and growth are possible then there are still many paths to success.

D.           Why Fixed Mindset?
The awareness of the two mindsets therefore begs the question how does one become a fixed mindset individual? Dweck suggests it is normally something from an early point in your life that “measured” you. This could be in the likely form of an exam score, a teacher’s feedback or rejection. This one measurement, one evaluation has the power to define you forever.

For example, I scored in the 90th percentile, I am smart. I am naturally gifted and I should excel in all exams and tasks. This transpires to the perpetual need prove yourself to others that you continue to fit this definition.

Now the other side of the coin. I scored in the 10th percentile, I am stupid. I am not naturally gifted and I will underperform in all exams and tasks. The unwillingness to develop yourself ensues.

One must remember that ‘an assessment at one point in time has little value for understanding a person’s ability, let alone their potential to succeed in the future.’

III.          Sports
The book shares true stories of many sporting greats and the almost greats that most of us look up to as superheroes with superhuman abilities. These accounts will surprise and lift spirits in equal measure revealing that mindset is the key to sporting success rather than the common and in fact mistaken belief of natural physical ability.

John McEnroe
There is no denying McEnroe was a great, natural talent on the tennis court. He was so consumed and complacent by his own talent however, he did not ‘love to learn’ nor ‘thrive on challenges’. He was of a fixed mindset. His talent being incredible and innate, he believed there was no need to exert effort and thus, his career should be faultless. Unfortunately, this gave rise to his demise. It has been said that ‘when the going got tough, he often folded. By his own admission, he did not fulfill his own potential’.

This doesn’t take away the fact McEnroe was ranked number one at one point of his career but had he been of the growth mindset, he would have remained in the number on rank for a longer period of time.

Billy Beane
Beane was another natural who lacked mindset of a champion. By the time he was a sophomore in highschool he was highest scorer on the basketball team, quarter back of the football team and best hitter of the baseball team. These labels transcended him into the fixed mindset manifesting the inability to deal with failure.

“As Billy moved from minor leagues to the majors, things went from worse to worse. Each at-bat became a nightmare, another opportunity for humiliation and with each botched at-bat, he went to pieces”. He was trapped by his fix mindset and failed to fix the problem as he was of the belief that natural talent needs no effort.

Years later as a general manager for Oakland Athletics, he made history. Armed with a new mindset he pioneered a radically a new approach to
scouting and managing. He led the team to a season of 103 wins, winning division championship and almost breaking American League record for consecutive wins whilst having the second lowest payroll in the league. This new mindset consisted of the idea of scoring the most runs instead of recruiting talent.

Mohammed Ali
Now, this will come as a surprise to all of you. Mohammed Ali, the ultimate boxing legend, was not a natural in this sport. He “failed all the physical measurements, fist, reach, chest expansion and weight”. In fact, he boxed ‘all wrong’. Although his brain, “was always in perfect working condition”.  

His brilliance was his mind. He would study opponents style and life outside the ring to get an understanding of how his opponents mind works and use it against them. Evidently, it worked.

Michael Jordan
Jordan, who many consider to be the greatest basketball player of all time, was also not a born natural. His road to success was not a glittery path. He was cut from his highschool varsity team. He wasn’t recruited by the college he wanted and he wasn’t drafted by the first two NBA teams that could have chosen him.

Instead of allowing the setbacks to undermine himself, he proceeded to perfect his craft. His mother recalls what Michael did after being cut from the varsity team saying, ‘he would leave the house at six in the morning to practice before school every day’. His college coach admitted that he was “taken aback by his unwillingness to work harder than anyone else” further commenting that he ‘constantly worked on his weaknesses, which were defensive game and ball handling’. The coach also recalled, “once after the team lost the last game of the season, he went and practiced shots for hours, he was preparing for the next year”.

Jordan lacked the natural talent but proved himself to be “the hardest working athlete, perhaps in history of the sport”. Jordan’s Chicago Bulls Coach, John Bach called him “a genius who constantly wants to upgrade his genius”.

The book deduced three conclusions:
i.   Growth minded athletes found success in doing their best in learning and improving
ii.  Growth minded athletes found setbacks motivating and informative
iii. Growth minded athletes took charge of the processes that brings success and maintained it

IV.          Business
In the business world, the author reveals that the secret to corporate success lies in growth and development of the company as a whole instead of individual success – growth mindset. The path to failure appears to be rooted in the belief of superiority, “feeding the need to display supremacy using subordinates to validate this belief rather than fostering the development of their workers” – fixed mindset. Drawing from real life examples, the author demonstrates mindsets can accommodate for corporate meltdowns and successes. As the CEO or Managing Director, it is your prerogative which mindset to apply.

Enron was viewed by the world as the “corporate poster child” and “the company of the future”. Therefore the demise of such a promising business sent tremors across the globe begging the question, how did it derail so badly?

It boiled down to a “fixed talent mindset”. Enron only recruited individuals who displayed natural talent for business, namely ‘fancy degrees from fancy institutions.’ The company had placed complete faith in talent to carry the company to success. Praises were only sung for ingeniousness, harboring a culture of superiority derailing employees into a fixed mindset. Employees were fixated by the need to prove this superiority. Driven by selfish motives, employees were not concerned by the bigger picture and how the firm was performing as a whole. Captivated only by individual performances, the company flopped.

Iacocca, Dunlap, Lay & Skilling, Case & Levin
In each case, every person placed the company in jeopardy because measuring themselves and their legacy outweighed everything else. This misplaced importance led to the eventual fall of Ford, Sunbeam, Enron and AOL.

At critical points, these players opted to “act within their own best interest over what would serve the longer-term corporate goals”. The overall performance as a company was not paramount to them. These players were purely driven by how to position themselves better rather than to truly develop and expand the business. They often ‘blamed others, covered mistakes, pumped up stock prices, crushed rivals and critics, screwed the little guy – these where the standard operating procedures’.

They were also perceived as “brutal bosses”. They belittled and patronized employees. They had no regard to develop individual roles and performances. They believed they were greater given their position in the company, often looking down on their juniors creating a social hierarchy in the work place.

Jack Welch
When Welch took over GE motors in 1980 it was worth $14 billion. Twenty years later the company was valued at $490 billion, establishing itself as the most valuable company in the world at the time.

He was described as being hands on and involved in all facets of the business, frequenting the factories speaking to frontline employees to hear their insights on the company. He had respect for his employees as he learned from them and in turn, nurtured them. He also ‘shut down elitism, fired brutal bosses who didn’t practice the company’s values, and rewarded teamwork not individual performance’. He was of the belief that corporate success was founded in collective not individual efforts therefore crediting overall company expansion to individual development. He once noted that, “…I learned I was looking for people who were filled with passion and desire to get things done. A resume didn’t tell me much about that inner hunger”. Unlike others, he did not recruit on a talent basis. He treated employees as equals as he commented once, ‘I wanted to be a guide, not a judge’.

Welch was in fact a growth minded convert. He would have followed the footsteps of the likes of Iacocca and Dunlap but after a change in mindset, he was committed to growth.

Anne Mulcahy
As CEO of Xerox, Mulcahy turned the company around within three years with her growth mindset. Prior to her takeover, the company was in debt of $70 billion, it had a destroyed credit rating and stock prices had dropped from $63 to $4. Three years on it had four straight profitable quarters. How did she do it?

First, Mulcahy made it her utmost responsibility to educate herself on the business. She took home ‘large binders over the weekends to study the company’. She learned about ‘debt, taxes, inventory and currency to enable her to forecast how each decision would play out on the balance sheet’.

She then adopted a transparent approach with her juniors telling ‘employees that the business model is not viable or that the company was close to losing money’ clueing in not just the big fish but also the little guys because teamwork was key. Morale and development were vital to her and even in the ‘height of the cuts, she refused to abolish employee’s raises, gave birthdays off and carried on lavish retirement parties and reunions’. She wanted to ‘save the company in body and spirit, not for herself but for all the people who were stretching themselves to the limit for the company’.

Leadership is about growth and passion, not about brilliance. Growth minded leaders were full of gratitude. There was mutual respect shared between such leaders and their employees. There was no distinction between individual or overall development to them. They perceived themselves as guides, to foster the improvement of their employees. They believed in teamwork and treated they juniors as equals.

V.           Relationships
The author submits the mindset notion can also be applied to relationships. Depending on which mindset you inhabit you may either have successful partnerships or set the foundations for a doomed relationship.

Fixed mindset views on relationships are three fold:
i.   Your qualities are fixed
ii.  Your partner’s qualities are fixed
iii. The relationship’s qualities are fixed

They are of the belief that relationships should be ‘perfect, constant, demonstrating perpetual compatibility’. They perceive ‘ideal love as no disagreements, no compromises and no hard work therefore problems are a sign of deep-seated flaws’. If you have to ‘work at it, it is not meant to be’.

Growth minded on the contrary think that all three facets of a relationship are capable of growing and change. They view complications as a ‘vehicle for developing greater understanding and intimacy’. Just as there are ‘no great achievements without great setbacks, there are no great relationships without conflicts and problems along the way’.

When the fixed minded encounter problems they assign blame usually the partner and accuse a trait, a character flaw as the reason. Seeing as they under the belief that traits are concrete, it cannot be solved therefore they become contemptuous of them and dissatisfied with the whole relationship. As with personal achievement, this “belief that success should not need effort, robs people of the very thing they need to make their relationship thrive”. This could be the “very reason why so many relationships go stale because people believe that being in love means never having to do anything taxing”.

The author delivers a quote from John Gottman, in which he said, “Every marriage demands an effort to keep it on the right track; there is a constant tension…between the forces that hold you together and those that can tear you apart.”

Allow your partner to “air out their differences, listen carefully and discuss them in a patient and caring manner”.

VI.          Parents, Teachers and Coaches
In the last chapter, the author provides tips for parents, teachers and coaches on how to impart a growth mindset on their children, students and players in order to steer them in the right direction.

A.           Parents
It is imperative to send messages about process and growth, not praising smarts, intelligence and talent. Praise them for the growth-oriented process, what they accomplished through practice, study, persistence and good strategies. Ask about the work in a way that admires and appreciates their efforts and choices.

Praising intelligence rather than efforts can instill an aversion to difficult challenges.

B.           Teachers
The great teachers believe in the growth of the intellect and talent and they are fascinated with the process of learning. They set high standards for all students, not just the ones who are achieving well.

C.           Coaches
Don’t ask for mistake free games. Ask for preparation and full effort. Growth minded coaches gives equal time and attention to all players regardless of initial skills. Teach characteristics that not only make good players but good humans.

D.           The Formula
The growth mindset is based on the belief of change. The author shares accounts on how such a belief paved the way for success for her students, the sporting greats and corporate heroes. And now all of us can do just that. Here is how.

As you encounter the inevitable obstacles and setbacks, do this:

The Formula:   Read from left to right, rule after rule
Think of something you need to do --> Something you want to learn
A problem you have to confront
Make a concrete plan --> A plan you can visualize --> When, Where and How -->
Stick to it
Maintain the change --> Stay on top of it
As you encounter the inevitable obstacles and setbacks,   do this:
Make a new plan
Visualize it
When, Where and How -->
Try different methodes

Learn a new of different strategy which works -->

Practice, practice, practice

Stick to it

Maintain the change -->

Never stop












Asses your mindset: Strongly Agree Agree Disagree   Strongly Disagree

1. Intelligence is something people are born with that   can’t be changed.

2. No matter how intelligent you are, you can always be more intelligent.

3. You can always substantially change how intelligent   you are.

4. You are a certain kind of person, and there is not   much that can be done to really change that.

5. You can always change basic things about the kind of   person you are.

6. Musical talent can be learned by anyone

7. Only a few people will be truly good at sports – you   have to be “born with it.”

8. Math is much easier to learn if you are male or   maybe come from a culture who values math.

9. The harder you work at something, the better you   will be at it.

10. No matter what kind of person you are, you can   always change substantially.

11. Trying new things is stressful for me and I avoid   it.

12. Some people are good and kind, and some are not –   it’s not often that people change.

13. I appreciate when people, parents, coaches,   teachers give me feedback about my performance.

14. I often get angry when I get negative feedback   about my performance.

15. All human beings are capable of learning.

16. You can learn new things, but you can’t really   change how intelligent you are.

17. You can do things differently, but the important   parts of who you are can’t really be changed.

18. Human beings are basically good, but sometimes make   terrible decisions.

19. An important reason why I do my school work is that   I like to learn new things.

20. Truly smart people do not need to try hard.



1.ability mindset – fixed

2.ability mindset –growth

3.ability mindset – growth

4.personality/character mindset - fixed

5.personality/character mindset – growth

6.ability mindset – growth

7.ability mindset – fixed

8.ability mindset – fixed

9.ability mindset – growth

10.personality/character mindset - growth

11.ability mindset – fixed

12.personality/character mindset – fixed

13.ability mindset –growth

14.ability mindset – fixed

15.ability mindset – growth

16.ability mindset – fixed

17.personality/character mindset – fixed

18.personality/character mindset –growth

19.ability mindset – growth

20.ability mindset – fixed