You Should Definitely Read This Book: Mindset by Carol Dweck

I have just finished reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck.

I loved it.

I confess, I only read this book because it was picked for our book club. I had heard about how good the book was -- I even posted Lindsay Call's review of it four years ago, (see here, and see how I said that I wanted to read it to help me work more effectively with Levi! Ha!) but I didn't pick it up until now.

I guess because the concept of growth mindset took off like wildfire, and because I felt I agreed with it and did a pretty good job of living it, I didn't need to spend a lot of time reading a book about it. In fact, I was afraid this book would be a bit of a slog.

It was awesome.

Reading the book in it's entirety helped me to grasp the concept much more firmly. It helped me to immediately pinpoint some ways in which I could improve. It gave me an abundance of anecdotes and examples to think on.

As I was reading the book a couple of nights ago, Jacob came in and asked how I was liking it. I said I was loving it. Since I was reading his copy, one he had got for a discussion group with fellow professors, I thought he had read the whole thing. "Hm, maybe I should read all of it," he said. Apparently they had only read selections. I do wholeheartedly recommend reading the whole book and in order. Some non-fiction books are organized so that you can flip to a section that interests you and pick it up from there. I tried that, a little bit. Mindset is best read from front to back.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone. I highly recommend you read the whole book. I'm glad we own it, and I'll be lending it to some of my book club friends in hopes that everyone gets a chance to read it.

In the book, Dr Dweck talks breifly about the course she teaches to college students and I was wishing for more detail. Then she mentions that she has helped develop a course for parents and children to take at home. I looked it up online; it's called Brainology. It costs $50. I'm interested.

Yesterday afternoon I embarked on the grand adventure of teaching my son Levi, age 9, to ride a bike. We dropped his older brother off at swimming practice. I was so glad to be deep into reading this book. He has a pretty fixed mindset about bike riding (Fixed mindset says "You either can or you can't, and since I've tried it once or twice, I obviously can't.") This book gave me some great things to say. I think my favorite, which immediately lit up his eyes, was this exchange:

Me: Hey, Levi. I'm not going to give up on you.
Levi: Well I already have!
Me: I'm not going to give up on you even when you give up on yourself.
*Levi's eyes filled with wonder and love*

He got on the bike.

He started to push along, and so did his 1-year-old brother on his toddler motorcycle.

Levi: "Augh, Sam's faster than me!"
Me: "Hey, Sam has put a lot of hours into this. Don't discount that."

He rode on.

We rode for a bit, then Levi saw his 6-year-old sister Jubilee leaving him in the dust and decided to take a break. He shouted for me to take care of his bike.

I tried to convince him to ride again, saying "Come on, it's fun!" Oops. I know that's not going to help him want to learn. I've tried that before, and never with success. An individual is obviously the best judge of what is and is not fun for them. And the fixed mindset says "It's fun? Well it's not fun for me, so therefore I have failed. And if I have failed there is no sense in trying again."

What's more: by saying "it's fun!" I broke my own rule-of-thumb which I summarize this way: NO SPOILERS, MOM. I've found that if I give my kids spoilers like "you're going to fall" or "it will be fun" half of the time they don't even happen. And then when they do, the kids aren't able to learn from those things because they're annoyed that I was right and they were wrong. So. No spoilers, mom.

Levi left me and his bike and ran along side of his sister until she clearly pulled ahead. He tried to block her path, but she went around him. He came back and attempted to convince me to sabotage Jubilee's riding efforts. The fixed mindset says "If someone else is better than me, I need to hold them back."

I let it go for a while and walked Levi's bike up to him. We all made it to our destination, a little bookstore. The kids bought themselves some candy. By the way, I was seriously tempted at the beginning of our biking to bribe Levi with some candy from this store. If I had not been in the middle of reading Mindset, I would have done it. I was sorely tempted to add an incentive anyway! But I remembered that I could tell him I wouldn't give up on him. And that helped him shift his mindset.

After we had bought and eaten some candy, I decided to try instilling a growth mindset in Levi once again. I said, "You know, a good skill to learn is how to coast down a hill."

"I know," he retorted . . . but he then tried it.

Aaaand then he promptly dismounted and walked away from his bike. A minute or two later I decided it was a good time and place to practice our cartwheels -- one of Jubilee's hopes for the day. I led off with the first cartwheel attempt. I haven't done a cartwheel in probably 10 years, and it showed.

I said, "I'm going to have to practice!"

I tried my other hand and was much more successful. "Ah yes, I had forgotten which was my better hand," I said. "I'll have to practice a lot on this side to make it as good as that side..." Growth mindset praises effort, isn't afraid of a challenge, and takes failure as a stepping stone to future success.

We had a lot of fun, and I was modeling the growth mindset for a good 15 min or more.

When we were ready to head back toward the swimming practice, Levi did some of his best, most persistant riding of the day.

Is it possible I could have had a day just like this, without having read this book? Yes, it's possible. But I feel like reading the book gave me a huge boost that I needed. The irony is that four years ago when Lindsay told me how awesome this book was, I judged myself as a "growth mindset person" (which is a false growth mindset -- something Dr. Dweck explores in this updated edition) and decided I didn't need to put in the effort to read the book. D'oh!

In the final chapters of Mindset, which I read today, she details more of the journey a person has to take to increase growth mindset and decrease fixed mindset on a regular basis. Super awesome. One of the steps she recommends is giving your fixed mindset a name, so you can separate it from yourself, talk to it, and help it help you instead of letting it rule when what you need is a growth mindset. I've decided I should name my fixed mindset Spoilers.

Have you read the book? Have you named your fixed mindset? I'd love to hear. I'm very excited to see how book club goes! Thanks for picking it, Meghan! Thanks for telling me how good it was 4 years ago, Lindsay! Turns out I was astute in my observation that reading the book would help me work with Levi.

And thanks to everybody who made the book possible.


  1. I've read Mindset but it's been quite a while. I may be due for a re-read. Growth Mindset is something that I actively work on with my daughter, but I know that I need to keep working on it for myself, too. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. I listened to the audio book about a year ago. I really liked it, but I don't think I practiced it much and therefore have forgotten a ton. I started back to college two weeks ago and my confidence dropped severely the second week--when the lack of sleep coincides with the real assignments and the fact that I didn't really do enough work the first week. As I was saying things to Mike about what would happen if/when I fail, he told me multiple times I needed to have growth mindset! Maybe it's time to listen again!

    As for bike riding, it really helped my kids to take the pedals off the bike and maybe even lower the seat a bit. It kind of makes the regular bike into a balance bike/scooter. After they got pretty comfortable with that using the pedals was much easier.


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