Book Review: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

You can look back and say, “I could have been…,”polishing your unused endowments like trophies. Or you can look back and say, “I gave my all for things I valued.” Think about what you want to look back and say.  Then choose your mindset.

– Carol S Dweck, PhD

What did you accomplish since last week?

What are your obstacles?

These are questions asked at every stand-up meeting. They are good questions.  Useful in work and in life.

When turned on myself and my goals, I find all too often that the biggest obstacle hindering me has been myself.

Carol S Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, goes a long way to explaining why. Her main premise is that our successes have been hindered or helped by whether we have a growth or fixed mindset.

Why this book?

Why am I reviewing this book for a Project Management blog?  It could easily be dismissed as not relevant to PMs, after all, don’t they constantly think about personal growth? Well, yes and no.  Growth in what sense?

To Dweck, the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset is a world…

  • Where success is about proving your smart or talented….versus Stretching yourself to learn something new
  • Failure is about having a setback….versus Failure is about not growing
  • Effort is a bad thing….versus Effort is what makes you smart or talented
  • Loads of success and validation….or Lots of challenges

The results of each mindset can be the difference between:

  • Questions not asked
  • Opportunities not sought because the goal is to maintain the self-image, not to grow
  • Learning less from failure than you could because you’re trying to protect your self-image
  • Avoiding new experiences with lots of challenges

Beware of Generalizations

But that’s such a generalization!  No one is one thing or another all of the time.

I agree.

Not everyone spends 100% of their time in a growth or a fixed mindset.  Some of us shift from one to the other in different areas, depending on the beliefs we accepted when we were growing up. Sometimes we tell ourselves unhelpful stories that lend to a fixed mindset.

After explaining how a growth or fixed mindset plays out in business, sports, education and relationships, she leaves us with four questions to help continue the process of shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset:

  1. What are the opportunities for learning and growth today? For myself? For the people around me?
    As opportunities come up, ask yourself…
  2. When, where, and how will I embark on my plan?
    When inevitable obstacles and setbacks arise, ask yourself…
  3. When, where and how will I act on my new plan?
    And when you succeed, ask yourself…
  4. What do I have to do to maintain and continue the growth?

Reading the book is one thing, trying to incorporate its ideas into my life is another. While I can see that changing my mindset will be a challenge, I think this is a book I need to buy.  I highly recommend it for your bookshelf.  If you’ve read this book and have your own opinion, leave me a comment, send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

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