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Mindset by Carol S. Dweck.
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Although you may not be conscious of them, you have powerful beliefs that affect what you want and whether you get it. In Mindset, psychologist and researcher Carol S. Dweck argues that your attitudes about how fixed your abilities and intelligence are can determine the course of much of your life, starting as early as your preschool years.

You learn one of two mindsets from your parents, teachers, and coaches: that personal qualities such as intelligence are innate and unchangeable (a “fixed” mindset) or that you and others can change and grow (a “growth” mindset). This view shapes your personality and helps or hinders you from reaching your potential.

Your mindset shapes how you learn, cope with setbacks, advance in your career, and relate to others. Here’s how the two mindsets compare.

Fixed mindset: When you have a fixed mindset, you believe your abilities are unchangeable. You were born with certain traits and a certain amount of intelligence and that’s that. Many people are trained in this mindset from an early age — for instance, by a teacher who believes your IQ determines everything: You’re either smart or you’re dumb; you can learn or you can’t. When you view your abilities as unchangeable, you feel you must constantly prove yourself. If people get a set amount of intelligence, you want to prove you have a lot, although you secretly worry you were shortchanged.

Growth mindset: When you have a growth mindset, you believe the abilities you’re born with are a starting point. You can get smarter and grow with hard work, persistence, and the right learning strategies. You have a passion for learning, welcome mistakes as opportunities to learn, and seek challenges so you can stretch.

The two different mindsets lead to different sets of thoughts and actions, and two different paths. They dictate people’s aspirations; how they see success, failure, and effort; and what that means in school, sports, work, and relationships. Here are some ways the mindsets shape your life.

Success and Failure

In the fixed mindset world, success is about proving to yourself and others that you’re smart and talented. If you fail, it means you’re not smart or talented, therefore failure is intolerable. Failure is any type of setback: a bad grade, losing a competition, not getting the job or promotion you want, being rejected. Effort is a negative — if you need it, that means you’re not smart.

In the growth mindset world where you can change, success is about stretching yourself, learning, and improving. Failure is not seizing an opportunity to learn, not striving for what’s important to you, not reaching for your potential. Effort is a positive — it helps you get smarter and increase your abilities.

Perfection Versus Learning

For people with fixed mindsets, perfection is essential. To feel smart, they not only have to “get it” right away, they have to be perfect at it.

When researchers asked students from grade school to college age when they felt smart, fixed-mindset students said it was when they could do something quickly without making any mistakes. For growth-minded people, it wasn’t about perfection. They said they felt smart when they tried hard and made progress or were able to do something they couldn’t do before. Feeling smart was about learning.

Fixed Mindsets and Entitlement

A fixed-mindset person’s need to believe they’re smart can evolve into a sense of entitlement or specialness. Not only are they smart, they’re smarter or more talented than anyone else. Their need for validation is constant. The self-esteem movement bolsters this belief, for instance by encouraging you to remember your specialness with daily affirmations.

Tennis player John McEnroe is an example of both an entitled...

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Mindset Summary Mindset Guide Chapter 1: Two Mindsets

Although you may not be conscious of them, you have powerful beliefs that affect what you want and whether you get it. In Mindset, psychologist and researcher Carol S. Dweck argues that one belief in particular can determine the course of much of your life, starting as early as your preschool years.

You learn one of two mindsets from your parents, teachers, and coaches — that personal qualities such as intelligence and ability are innate and unchangeable (a “fixed” mindset) or that you and others can change and grow (a “growth” mindset). Regardless of which view dominates your thinking, it shapes your personality and helps or hinders you from reaching your potential.

Understanding how your mindset plays out can change your career, relationships, the way you raise your children, and your overall satisfaction in life.

Nature vs. Nurture

Throughout much of history, experts have debated the roles of nature and nurture in determining people’s personal characteristics, asking which has the bigger impact — genetics or environmental factors including background, experience, and education.

Today, most researchers agree that nature and nurture work together. People...

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Shortform Exercise: What’s Your Mindset?

You have a fixed mindset if you believe your intelligence is innate and can’t be changed (I’m just not good at math); that you’re a certain kind of person. You have a growth mindset if you believe you can learn and change basic things about yourself.


Think of a situation that challenged your abilities — for instance, being asked to give a speech or having to take a test. With which mindset did you approach it? Which was your first inclination: worry about being judged or anticipation for what you could learn?

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Mindset Summary Mindset Guide Chapter 2: Two Different Worlds

The two mindsets are different worlds where the same things have different meanings for the inhabitants of each world. Most important is how people with each mindset — fixed or growth — define and interpret success and failure.

In general, in the fixed mindset world, success is about proving to yourself and others that you’re smart and talented. It’s about validation. If you fail, it means you’re not smart or talented, therefore failure is intolerable. Failure is any type of setback: a bad grade, losing a competition, not getting the job or promotion you want, being rejected. Effort is a negative — if you need it, that means you’re not smart.

In the growth mindset world where you can change, success is about stretching yourself, learning, and improving. Failure is not seizing an opportunity to learn, not striving for what’s important to you, not reaching for your potential. Effort is a positive — it helps you get smarter and increase your abilities.

Remember, mindsets are beliefs — although they’re powerful, you can change them.

Defining Success

When you start out in life, success is about learning. You’re born with a drive to learn. Babies learn...

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Shortform Exercise: Risking Failure

People with fixed mindsets (the belief that abilities are unchangeable) may be reluctant to take on challenges for fear of failing. In contrast, those with a growth mindset see failures as opportunities to learn.


Think of a time when you failed at something. How did you feel? How did you interpret the failure?

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Mindset Summary Mindset Guide Chapter 3: Ability and Achievement

Many people have wrong ideas about ability and achievement. For instance, they picture Thomas Edison working long hours alone in a small lab, when he suddenly invents the lightbulb in a “Eureka!” moment..

But that’s not how it happened. He had dozens of assistants working for him in a large corporate-funded lab. The successful lightbulb was the end result of a string of inventions, to which chemists, physicists, engineers, and many others contributed. Edison had a true growth mindset and drive to learn and tackle new challenges.

While ability helps, achievement comes through learning and effort. Likewise, Darwin’s book, The Origin of Species, was the product of numerous drafts and conversations with countless colleagues over many years. Mozart worked more than ten years before producing notable work.

This chapter explains what achievement really takes and why some people achieve more and others less.

Achievement in School

Achievement in school starts with mindset. Researchers measured students’ mindsets as they transitioned to junior high school, which is a particularly challenging time for adolescents, then followed them for two years.

The students...

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Shortform Exercise: Rethinking Praise

When kids accomplish something, adults often praise them for their abilities in an effort to boost their confidence. However, research shows this kind of praise makes children reluctant to take on challenges because it reinforces the notion that abilities are fixed. Children are afraid that trying something and failing will call their abilities into question.


What were you praised for as a child? What were you criticized for?

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Mindset Summary Mindset Guide Chapter 4: Talent and Mindset in Sports

The concept of being “a natural” comes from sports. It’s the belief that someone who’s effortlessly athletic — who displays talent — has all it takes to succeed. When looking for recruits, many scouts and coaches focus on talent alone: they look for naturals.

Golfers used to believe they shouldn’t train — physical training could hurt your natural swing — until Tiger Woods started winning with stringent workouts and practice routines. In some cultures, athletes who trained were derided — you were supposed to accept what nature had given you. But in sports, like academics and business, you can’t succeed indefinitely on talent alone. You need the right mindset: a growth mindset.

In the book Moneyball, author Michael Lewis tells the story of baseball player Billy Beane, who had great natural talent but lacked the mindset necessary to become a champion. His fixed mindset, with its belief in natural talent, held him back. When things went wrong, he fell apart because he couldn’t tolerate failure. He couldn’t address his problems because he felt that expending effort shouldn’t be necessary and, in fact, would be an admission of weakness.

While watching a less talented player, Lenny...

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Mindset Summary Mindset Guide Chapter 5: Leadership and Mindset in Business

The mindset of a company’s leader is a key determinant of whether a company fails or succeeds.

One of the most spectacular business failures in recent years was the collapse of the energy giant Enron in 2006. At the heart of Enron’s failure was a fixed mindset, an obsession with talent that blinded the company’s leadership to serious problems, and blinded investors and outsiders to the fact that the business was a house of cards destined to fall.

Business gurus of the time were insisting that corporate success required hiring with a “talent mindset.” It was touted as the key to beating the competition. Enron’s culture was built on this thinking. The company recruited big talent and paid handsomely for it. But because the company celebrated talent, employees felt they had to always appear highly talented in order to survive. Basically, everyone was forced into a fixed mindset, intent on proving their superiority.

Since people with fixed mindsets can’t admit flaws, the company couldn’t acknowledge and correct its mistakes, which spelled its doom. Even after its failure, CEO Jeff Skilling never admitted there was anything wrong, instead blaming others for not getting...

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Shortform Exercise: Groupthink

Fixed-mindset CEOs and organizations are prone to groupthink, in which everyone thinks alike — no one disagrees, raises issues, or criticizes. It can lead to disastrous decisions.


Can you recall an instance of groupthink in your company or organization? What was the result?

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Mindset Summary Mindset Guide Chapter 6: Mindset in Relationships

Whether you have a fixed or growth mindset affects the course of your personal relationships. Mindset helps explain:

  • Why people work against their own interests in relationships
  • Why relationships devolve into warfare
  • Why some relationships succeed and others don’t

Coping with Rejection

The road to satisfying relationships is marked with disappointments, mistakes, and most devastating of all, rejection. When they experience setbacks, some people are able to heal and move on to better relationships, while others remain stuck or scarred. The difference is mindset.

Researchers recruited 100 people to describe their experience of rejection. The study compared how those with fixed mindsets handled it versus those with growth mindsets:

  • People with fixed mindsets felt judged and labeled as a failure or unlovable. They reacted angrily to the person who rejected them and were obsessed with getting revenge or making that person suffer.
  • People with growth mindsets wanted to understand, learn, and move on to more successful relationships. They didn’t feel labeled but instead looked for insights about themselves and lessons such as the importance of...

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Shortform Exercise: Magical Thinking

People with fixed mindsets believe that if two people are right for each other, their relationship should always be smooth sailing. The growth-minded view is that it’s not magic — they’ll work together to learn relationship and problem-solving skills.


When you first started thinking about relationships, what was your view of how they should be? How did your view change as you got older?

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Mindset Summary Mindset Guide Chapter 7 Part 1: Bullying

Experiencing rejection is painful for an adult, but imagine how it feels to a child. Children experience rejection daily in schools. Starting in grade school, some kids are victimized, attacked, or ridiculed. Ongoing bullying makes some children’s lives a nightmare and can evolve into years of depression and anger.

Schools may be reluctant to act because they don’t see the bullying or it’s done by favorite students. Sometimes the authorities decide that the victims rather than the bullies are the problem. Nonetheless, as a society, we’re paying more attention to bullying today because of school shootings. The boys who shot classmates at Columbine High School in 1999 had been bullied for years. Bullying is suspected to have played a role in other mass shootings as well.

Bullies Prove Superiority

Bullying in school is about powerful kids judging vulnerable kids as less worthy or less valuable human beings. Once they identify victims, bullies torment them constantly. Judging and humiliating others gives bullies a rush, as well as social status and power: others may look up to them or at least fear them.

**Bullies apply fixed-mindset thinking. They prove their...

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Mindset Summary Mindset Guide Chapter 7 Part 2: Mindset for Parents, Teachers, and Coaches

Parents want to help their kids to succeed in school and life, yet their comments, actions and attempts to be helpful often send the wrong message.

Words and actions from adults tell young children, students, and athletes what to think about themselves. They can convey a fixed-mindset message that children’s traits are permanent and they’ll be judged for them. Or they can convey a growth-oriented message that children (and all people) are continually developing and adults are committed to helping them in this process.

Children are extremely sensitive to these messages. They’re concerned about how they’re being tested/judged and what will happen if they fall short.

Kids Hear Messages Constantly

Children with fixed mindsets hear judgment from their parents — it feels as though their abilities are always being measured.

To understand children’s thinking, researchers asked them several questions. Here are the responses from both the fixed-minded and growth-oriented kids.

Question #1: Imagine that your parents are happy when you get a good grade. Why would they be happy?

  • Fixed-minded children responded along the lines of: “They were happy to...

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Shortform Exercise: Constructive Criticism

When parents or teachers criticize children, they intend it to be helpful, but often it isn’t because they’re being judgmental, not constructive. To be constructive, criticism must help a child fix something or do something better.


Think of a time recently when your child made a mistake. How did you react? What did you say? (If you don’t have a child, think of someone you give feedback to, like a team member or a friend.)

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Mindset Summary Mindset Guide Chapter 8: A New Mindset

How Your Mind Works

Your mind is constantly monitoring and interpreting what’s happening around you. Your mindset guides how you interpret things.

A fixed mindset sets up a mental monologue focused on judging — you feel judged and you judge others. For instance, you might think, “This means I’m a failure,” “What a bunch of losers,” “I’ll never be good at handling money.”

Growth-oriented people don’t constantly judge themselves and others this way. Like people with fixed mindsets, they keep a running mental account of events and feelings, but their interpretations of what’s going on focus on learning and action. They think, “This situation is painful, but what can I learn to avoid repeating it?” and “How can I improve?”

This chapter is about changing from a judging monologue to a growth-oriented one — a mindset based on a belief in change and development. Often, just learning about the two mindsets and how they affect you can prompt change. However, completely changing is hard. The fixed mindset hangs around, competing with the growth-oriented ways of thinking that you’re trying to adopt.

Your fixed mindset beliefs about being smart, ambitious, superior, and...

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Table of Contents

  • 1-Page Summary
  • Chapter 1: Two Mindsets
  • Exercise: What’s Your Mindset?
  • Chapter 2: Two Different Worlds
  • Exercise: Risking Failure
  • Chapter 3: Ability and Achievement
  • Exercise: Rethinking Praise
  • Chapter 4: Talent and Mindset in Sports
  • Chapter 5: Leadership and Mindset in Business
  • Exercise: Groupthink
  • Chapter 6: Mindset in Relationships
  • Exercise: Magical Thinking
  • Chapter 7 Part 1: Bullying
  • Chapter 7 Part 2: Mindset for Parents, Teachers, and Coaches
  • Exercise: Constructive Criticism
  • Chapter 8: A New Mindset