book cover
“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”

Mindset Book Review

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck, 2006


This book’s message has been appropriated by teachers, parents and the self-help movement globally as a call to action. The messages are all clear, positive and focused. Who could argue with the idea that character expressed through self-efficacy, an eagerness to learn and persistence are at the heart of all improvements?

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?”

So What? 

Sadly, this book’s strength is also its weakness. It divides people too neatly into those with a fixed mindset and those who have a growth mindset. Humans are more complex, teams and organisations, even more so!

Dweck proposes that a fixed mindset can form early, among four-year-olds, and investing in it leads to a view of intelligence as fixed, a consequent lack of personal ambition and a readiness to give up in the face of adversity. Bad news. Those with a growth mindset, however, invest in working harder, welcome feedback and have an optimistic and enduring view of their ability to improve. Growth mindset has become an industry of mantras, posters, profiling tools and quizzes. The problem is that the research findings upon which the book is based have not been replicated: this doesn’t mean the message is wrong, it’s just not scientifically proven.

The ‘so what’ here is that the label ‘growth mindset’ is too easily applied. Dweck is a genuine academic and keen to avoid labelling but in truth, others have abandoned her measured approach in the search for a silver bullet.

Now What?

Be cautious! I’m sure the author, an established academic would wish it that way. Avoid labelling yourself and others by guessing their motivation! These practical strategies are worth pursuing.

  • Praise for effort not outcomes
  • Talk up processes, not results 
  • Favour learning over knowing 
  • Coach to develop others- don’t instruct prematurely 
  • Be curious; ask questions 
  • Don’t attribute success, however defined, to any particular mindset – its too complex for that

“No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”

Once you’ve finished this book and for a really great insight into mindset there’s the ThreeWhats High Performers and ThreeWhats Mindset Playbooks.