Sonntag, 13. Januar 2013

Book review: Mindset, the new psychology of success

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. Mindset, the new psychology of success, Ballantine Books 2008

In her book, Carol proposed and contrasted two types of mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. Whereas the fixed mindset tends to see traits (such as intelligence, or achievement in sport) as fixed (or inborn) and desires to achieve success (and avoid failures) with little effort, the growth mindset sees intelligence and other abilities can be developed with willing efforts.

Though the book takes the subtitle "the new psychology of success", it was not at all teaching to pursue after fame, money or social status that are commonly associated with "success". Rather, it is more about  finding things that interest and challenge you, and constantly learning and developing yourself. Persisting in the face of setbacks, growing from criticism and feedback, and learning lessons from the success of others. Stretching yourself to develop whenever you feel (too) easy or comfortable holds its virtue for those who are talented (see countless cases in the book). It is motivating to see the self as an unfinished human being, who must learn and exercise efforts everyday.

The book was easy to read thanks to the plain writing style, although it packs numerous cases in less than 250 pages. I find the contrast between fixed and growth mindsets is too often too simply presented and interpreted. The author demonstrated the two mindsets in many areas including life, relationships, sport, and career with many vivid examples, which on one side made the book potentially useful for many readers, on the other side left many important questions superficially discussed or even not addressed. For instance, what are the neurological mechanisms that lead to the mindsets, how are they determined in the early childhood, and how are they modulated by diseases such as schizophrenia or depression? In many examples the author divided people into those with the fixed mindset and the other with the growth mindset, though she pointed out that they are seldom clearly separated but rather intervening in our personalities. Then how can one measure the "fixed-ness" or the "growth-ness"? Are they correlated with other psychological measures?

I may have overseen references and the 20-page notes that discussed these issues or pointed to the work that describe them, or the book is probably too easy-going and too popular to address these questions. Yet for light reading I found it inspires and motivates me to stand up against some of my own problems and to invest more life in the things that I care. In short I would recommend it with 3.5 points out of 5.

p.s. Link to Good reads (rating 4 out of 5):