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The Science of Success #2

Images_2006003 Changing your mindset is the second part of our discussion of Mindsets, The New Psychology of Success, by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck. How do we change our mindset? First we have to learn to recognize fixed mindset thoughts and then we have to replace them with growth mindset thoughts.

These are my keynote slides with the audio attached.
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The Science of Success

Mindsets001002 I've really been enjoying and at the same time agonizing over the book, MINDSET, The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck, PH.D., a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. The book presents the results of over 20 years of research into the question of why some experience more success than others.

"For 20 years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value."

The views she is talking about are our old friends, nature versus nurture, genes versus environment, i.q. versus effort. She doesn't really get into the the issue of whether some people are naturally more intelligent or talented than others, that's all besides the point. What her research shows is that people with a fixed mindset, i.e. they believe that their intelligence, creativity, abilities and talents are fixed and cannot be increased, tend to be less successful than people with a growth mindset, who believe that their intelligence, creativity etc. can be developed. The interesting thing is that it doesn't matter if your fixed mindset is high or low, that is if you think you're smart or stupid, if you're a positive thinker or a negative thinker; either way a fixed mindset will impeded your success.

The book is filled with examples of the two types from the world of sports and business and sketches of her tests of the theory with elementary school children and college students.

After thinking about it for several months, here's my take on what Prof. Dweck has discovered. The definition of success for a person with a growth mindset is growth and improvement. Have I improved? Am I doing better today than yesterday? These are the questions a growth mindset uses to evaluate performance. If I have improved then I am a success. If I have not improved then I need to change the way I'm studying, or practicing or preparing.

On the other hand a fixed mindset asks, What is my I.Q.? Am I smarter than the others? Am I better than everyone else? Am I worse than everyone else? Being discovered is the definition of fixed mindset success. If he hasn't been discovered he thinks it's because someone is against him, or he's not good enough or no one will help him.

The growth mindset person sees the trophy, the medal, the promotion, as a mere byproduct of the growth that he has experienced. For the fixed mindset person the trophy, the medal, the promotion, is the point, they are the outward manifestations of his inward superiority.

The irony is that the fixed mindset person ends up sabotaging himself because his fixed mindset world view also makes it difficult for him to take risks, or to develop his abilities, in other words, to grow. The fixed mindset person doesn't, after all, believe in growth. As a result fixed mindset people become quite frustrated.

Prof. Dweck's studies give a scientific basis for something that Coach Wooden, of UCLA Basketball fame, discovered long ago: Focus on effort not winning. The factors which determine whether you will win or loose are not all within your control, but the effort you put in to developing and executing your game is.

I don't believe that I can overstate the importance of this book. I've been reading self help, positive thinking, motivational books since at about 10 years of age I picked up a Norman Vincent Peale book that my mom had checked out of the library. Those books, all good, are trying to deal with the problem by attacking the fruit of an individuals mindset. Prof. Dweck is attacking the problem at the root. This book was for me a very uncomfortable read and forced me to analyze my own mindset and much to the chagrin of this basically fixed mindset person I've discovered that I am in many areas a fixed mindset person. OUCH! But what's worse is realizing that many of the things which I have said and done, thinking I was encouraging others and building them up to achieve success, were in fact helping them to fail. OUCH! OUCH! Well the good news is that you can change your mindset.

Anyway, here's my riff on Prof. Dweck's work. These are my Keynote slides with the audio from the Sunday, January 13, 2008 service.


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Here's some links for more on this topic.
The books website which includes a lot of information, links to articles, interviews and a test of your mindset.
Malcolm Gladwell's article from the New Yorker about talent, Enron and mindsets.
A really good article form Stanford Magazine, about Prof. Dweck and her research. Gives more detail about her background and early research than any of the other sites. Also includes some nice visuals illustrating the difference between mindsets.


If we've blessed you then bless us back.
Click here to donate through Paypal.
Or send your gift by mail to

Imperial Valley Christian Center, P.O. Box 3336, El Centro, CA 92244