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  • Charlotte Allison

How the Book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Changed My Mindset In School

By: Charlotte Allison

Last April, I saw the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck on display in the school library. Honestly, before this, I wouldn’t have called myself a “self-help book” type of person. Despite my prejudices against the genre this book fell under, I decided to try it out; if I read it, maybe I could learn something. In the end, not only did I figure out I had an interest in psychology-type books, my mindset towards school completely shifted. Here are the key things I learned from reading this book. Side note, these are solely my interpretations, feel free to read the book yourself and make your own deductions. 

If you are anything like me, you will have had the growth mindset versus fixed mindset grilled into you ever since primary school. If not, a fixed mindset is the belief that your abilities and qualities are set in stone. People with a fixed mindset avoid challenges, ignore feedback because they feel like it defines them as failures, and give up easily. On the other hand, people with growth mindsets believe that their abilities, intelligence, and qualities can be developed or changed¹. What’s interesting is that the author, Carol Dweck, essentially invented the growth vs fixed mindset concept. So how can you adopt a growth mindset? What else did wise Carol Dweck teach me?

  1. You don’t need to prove yourself 

Often people with a fixed mindset feel the need to constantly prove themselves and look talented or smart. This is because they believe that their abilities cannot be changed so feel the need to establish their worth. To adopt a growth mindset, the next time you feel hesitant to raise your hand in class because you’re afraid of looking stupid or getting it wrong, think to yourself, “If I get the answer wrong, the teacher will correct me and then I will have gained new knowledge”. Often putting yourself out of your comfort zone, despite worrying about looking not smart or talented, will help you grow. In the words of Carol Dweck, “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?”

2. Treat failures as an opportunity 

People with fixed mindsets often think failure is the end of the world. People with growth mindsets, on the other hand, know how crucial mistakes are to success. Progress does not happen linearly, as every failure we learn from helps us grow. For example, if you get a bad grade on a test, instead of thinking, “This bad grade defines my intelligence”, think, “What can I do to perform better next time?”. This could be speaking to your teachers to get feedback or trying a different study technique. Failures or mistakes are a part of the journey and are just letting you know you need to switch something up. However, don’t be discouraged, pick yourself up and keep growing. As Dweck says, “In the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.”

3. Feedback is crucial 

Have you ever been given feedback by teachers and felt that you were being personally attacked? Did you even skip over the feedback to just glimpse at your grade? If so, you’re not alone BUT you’re taking the wrong approach. Those with a growth mindset know that feedback is crucial to success because it allows you to improve. It allows you to see another person’s perspective and make your work even better. The importance of feedback to a growth mindset is highlighted by Humaans when they say, “Individuals with a growth mindset actively seek feedback from others to gain insights and identify areas for improvement.” ²

However, be mindful of helpful vs not helpful feedback. Is this person giving you constructive criticism to help you grow and improve, or are they purposely trying to be negative?

4. Chase challenges 

Lastly, and most importantly, actively seek and thrive on challenges. Dweck explains that, “In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I'm going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here's a chance to grow." Often those with fixed mindsets avoid challenges because they don’t want to get it wrong, worrying that it will threaten their abilities. Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, know that challenges are the way to move forward and when things get hard, it makes it fun. 

For example, imagine you’re doing a really hard math problem in class and you can’t seem to get it right. Just trying and continuing to work at something that’s difficult is already helping you expand your abilities. "Picture your brain forming new connections as you meet the challenge and learn. Keep on going.”, Dweck writes. 

Overall, this book taught me that by changing your mindset and believing you can always improve, feedback doesn’t have to be negative, and challenging yourself can be a fun way to expand your abilities. If you have already forgotten everything I’ve said, as a take-away: value growth over proving your worth, treat failures as learning opportunities, use feedback and thrive on challenges. 


All quotes are from:  Dweck, C.S. (2006) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York, USA: Ballantine Books, 2008. 

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