By John Boggs
In this series of posts, we are discussing the 10 top books that have been most influential in shaping me as a leader. Today, we’re discussing book #3 — Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. Keep reading to discover how your mindset affects your success.
Want to create greater success in your life? The first place to look is inward – to your mindset.
All great leaders understand that success starts in our mind. The way that we look at the world, the way that we define what is going on in the world around us, the way that we interpret and assign meaning to what is happening, and even how we choose to respond to situations — it all springs from our mindset.
How do we know this to be true? For the simple reason that if you put two different people in the exact same circumstances, with the same resources and conditions, they should be able to create the same success.
But of course, that’s not what happens. Those two people will create different results – sometimes vastly different results. Their success depends on their mindset. Likewise, the mindset you choose to create will dictate the level of success you enjoy.
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
Carol Dweck’s masterpiece, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, is a must-read for any person who is serious about becoming more successful as a leader, as well as in other areas of life.
The core concept of the book is that we each have an important choice to make in life: Whether to adopt a “fixed mindset” or a “growth mindset.”
People with a fixed mindset believe that their characteristics – for example, how smart they are, how good they are at communicating, how effective they are at leading others, etc. – is fixed. I.e. it cannot be changed.
People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believe that their talents, skills and characteristics can be changed through learning, practice, and dedication.
Which do you think is more helpful in creating success — the belief that your ability to achieve your dreams is predetermined and out of your control (fixed mindset) or that you have the power to change and improve yourself in your pursuit of success (growth mindset)?
If you said “growth mindset” — congratulations! You’re right. A growth mindset is what you want to cultivate to become more successful.
Nurturing a Growth Mindset in Children
In her book, Dweck shares an example of how parents could respond when their kids come home with straight A’s.
Some parents would say to their child, “Oh, look at how smart you are. You’ve got straight A’s!” We think that we’re being a celebratory, congratulating our child for a job well done. But what Dweck reveals is that if we celebrate how smart they are — a characteristic — studies show that kids will then begin to try protecting their results so that they always appear smart.
Instead, she advises that we downplay the characteristic and focus on the action. Instead of saying, “Look at how smart you are,” we should instead say, “Look at how hard you worked on that. I am so proud of the effort that you put in!” By focusing on the action and effort the child took to grow, you can cultivate a growth mindset.
The next time the kids choose classes, the kids whose parents have nurtured the fixed mindset will try to protect their ability to look smart. They’ll actually choose less challenging classes so they can look smart.
The child you celebrate for hard work and effort will instead choose more challenging classes, because what you’re celebrating is the effort. Celebrate the effort and the challenge – that’s the key to cultivating a growth mindset.
A Growth Mindset in Action
When I and my family moved to California a few years ago, one of my two daughters, Kiara, was an aspiring competitive golfer. We would have to drive long distances to her tournaments, and being a coach, I saw a way to support her with the challenges she was facing in trying to improve her game.
At one point, I suggested that we listen to a book on our way to the next tournament. She responded like a typical teenager: “Oh Dad, I don’t want to listen to your stupid books.”
But I persisted, and we listened to Mindset by Carol Dweck. Kiara learned that we should celebrate being in the challenge. From that day forward, every time she played in a tournament, we looked for things to celebrate — no matter where she finished.
We celebrated that she drove the ball better. That she chipped better. That she putted better. We constantly look for places where she grew and continually reinforced that she had a growth mindset.
She inevitably became a great golfer in a state full of golfers. Near the end of her high school career, she received a special invitation to an event where 50 of the top kids in the state would be recruited by colleges all over the country to play college golf.
At the end of this meeting, there was a Q&A session with the man leading the event. The participants were able to ask him questions about being recruited to play college golf all over the country.
The very last question asked was, “Coach, if there’s one book that you think I should read as a competitive golfer, what do you think I should read?” And the coach says to the kid asking the question, “I think you should read a book called Mindset by Carol Dweck.”
My daughter just looked at me. She didn’t say a word. She had a look of shock on her face.
After the meeting, we got back in the car to head home. Many schools had expressed interest in her, but Kiara was uncharacteristically silent on the drive home. She wasn’t saying a word. She didn’t have any music on. She was just reflecting on the experience of being in that meeting.
All of the sudden she says to me, she says, “Dad, I know that you’re a coach and that you help people, especially business people. But I just want you to know how much I appreciate your help. And I know sometimes I don’t listen to you, but I want you to know I’ll start listening better.”
As a father, there is like nothing that you could hear that’s better than that. I was blown away. What a moment as a dad that your daughter saw and appreciated your effort.
But more importantly, she got it for herself. She had developed a growth mindset – and she realized the value of that mindset in a much deeper way.
Which Mindset Will You Choose to Facilitate Success?
You have an opportunity to put on a growth mindset today. You have an opportunity to be a growing leader, to lead yourself, to lead those in your family, those in your business, and those in the world.
Today is a brand new chance to put on a growth mindset. Focus not on the result you achieve or the characteristic or trait you’re exhibiting. Celebrate the effort you put in, the processes you’re practicing, and the challenges you’re tackling. Those are the things we celebrate when we’re in a growth mindset.
Everything you want in life requires growth. To achieve your goals – to become more successful — you need to grow. Choosing a growth mindset is what will get you there.