Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book review: The Growth mindset

I had read this book a couple years ago . This was a fulfilling book. It is written by an eminent Stanford psychiatrist Prof. Carol Dweck. You can listen to her speak about the ideas in the book here.

The growth mindset is best understood with its antithesis: the fixed mindset. The fixed mindset says that your abilities and capacity are predetermined at birth. The growth mindset says they can be altered and improved.

So, why is this important? This sounds like just an issue of perspective. But a perspective change (a paradigm shift) is capable of changing a lot of things.

The book argues that fixed mindset thinking leads people to play defensive. The fixed mindset people are scared of failures and embarrassment as they would show to the world their capacity (limited and unchanged). So in order  not to fail and save face they don't attempt things.

In contrast, the growth mindset people (i.e., the people who embraces the growth mindset/perspective) love challenges. They are not scared of failure and embarrassment. They may chalk up failure and embarrassment as learning and improvement opportunities. Of course this does not mean that they can absolve themselves of any responsibilities or guilt about their failings/shortcomings. They need to accept the pain in order to grow: no pain, no gain. This just means that the growth mindset people are not affixed to the fixed capabilities and skills defining their self worth. They know they can grow. The growth mindset is akin to taking an antifragile approach to personality and life.

The fixed versus growth mindset has several implications in education, parenthood, relationship, sports-coaching. One practical advise (you have certainly heard this from media/blogs/newspapers) is about how to praise your kids. Don't praise your kids about how smart they are as this would reinforce the fixed mindset. Praise them about how hard they try, how persistent they are,  how courageous they are to attempt/try new challenges. This way you reinforce the growth mindset in them.

One of the biggest harms we can do to our gifts is to raise them with the fixed mindset. And one of the biggest gifts we can give to our kids is to raise them with the growth mindset. Don't just teach them how to fish. Teach them the concept/notion that they can always become much better fisherman than you were and they currently are.

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