BITESIZE BOOK REVIEW: MINDSET – CAROL S. DWECK Ph.D

MINDSET : THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS

AUTHOR: CAROL S. DWECK Ph.D.


Rather than write a full review we want to do something a little different and offer a snapshot of the book, an image or the style of writing that gives you a full flavour of the book. This preview or snapshot is designed to focus on a really interesting idea or concept rather than provide a full critical review.


 

First published in 2006, this book is not specific to golf or even sport but is fantastic reading for those interested in the role of your mindset in achievement. The core of the book is in discussing the difference of a growth or fixed mindset, illustrated with some engaging examples. Carol Dweck is regarded as one of the world’s leading researchers in the fields of personality, social and development psychology, based at in Stanford, California.

The book explores the power of our beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, and how changing even the simplest of them can have profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives.

One of the most basic beliefs we carry about ourselves, Dweck found in her research, has to do with how we view and inhabit what we consider to be our personality. The topic of improvement is a very common one amongst self-help gurus but what separates Dweck is her diligence in research and use of evidence.

 

THE GROWTH MINDSET

This mindset is ideal for a professionally ambitious or improving golfer. It is a mindset that constantly seeks challenge and doesn’t see failure as a lack of ability or intelligence but as an opportunity to learn.

“Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.”

Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. Writes Dweck;

“I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves—[…]in their careers. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I feel like a winner or a loser? “

She asks the question of how you define success? Do you see success as repeating something correctly or by learning something new, becoming smarter?

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COACHES: SHOULD YOU PRAISE YOUR PUPILS?

Based on research with hundreds of adolescent students, excessive praise of the students results pushed them towards a fixed mindset. Praise of their effort though resulted in over 90% of the students embracing a different more difficult test. There is a lot of further discussion on this research, it is a valuable read.

If you see your best pupil as the one with the lowest scores you will not foster an environment of aspiration – it becomes on of direct competition rather than a learning situation. How can you analyse or value potential when your praise is focused around current ability?

Your goal as a coach or student must be to create a definition of achievement or success that those of the growth mindset exhibit: “personal success is when you work your hardest to become your best,”

NATURE VERSUS NURTURE? HOW MUCH CAN YOU ACHIEVE?

There is much debate in the world of scientific human research regarding ability and performance. There is a grey area and opportunity for a difference of opinion. It is impossible to pinpoint the cause of a person’s behaviour – any single event in their life could affect their mindset or ability.

Since the research of Ericsson (The 10,000-hours concept – a 1993 paper written by Anders Ericsson, a Professor at the University of Colorado, called The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance) the weight of evidence leans towards proving how much can be achieved without relying on an innate gift. A lot of abilities or ‘natural’ talents are now classed as circumstantial – for example without a certain exposure to music as a child, or in having a great composer as a father, Mozart might not have been so far ahead of the curve. The brain grows so fast as a child that so much can be achieved in the correct environment. How much of this ability to learn is genetic?

A great example in the book is that of art, something many people consider a gift, something that cannot be learned. The picture below shows the before and after attempts at a self portrait. After some short term training (and deliberate practice) the difference is astounding and quite unforeseeable. What can you achieve with your golf game?

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KEYS FOR IMPROVEMENT

So what are the key points to take away from this book?

  • value a growth mindset
  • see failure as a chance to improve
  • praise work ethic rather than achievement
  • embrace difficulty in learning scenarios rather than repetitive achievement
  • don’t underestimate a person’s potential

 

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