Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Welcome to the first book review written and published on SamSpurlin.com. From time to time I'm going to write out some of my thoughts and observations on the books I've been reading. I'll add these reviews to the normal twice a week posting schedule that I stick to.

Positive psychology is a field that is putting out an astonishing number of new books every year. The discipline sits at an interesting cross section of science and personal development which seems to make it a very popular draw when it comes to book sales. As a blogger and coach, I’m interested in books that are truly helpful and relevant. As a graduate student, I’m interested in books supported with sound science. I will try to balance these two forces with the book reviews I write at SamSpurlin.com, just like the balance positive psychologists face when writing their books.

The book that carries the distinguished honor of being the first to fall under my gaze on this website isMindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck.

Mindset looks at the research Dweck has done over the past 20 years about how people see the world. She’s discovered that the way we view the world is not a minor personality quirk. It doesn’t change on a whim or only affect small areas of our life. Indeed, our mindset creates our whole mental environment and affects how we react to setbacks, challenges, opportunities, and learning.

For example, some people actively seek out difficult things in order to improve themselves. Other people will do anything and everything they can to avoid challenges. Our mindset also affects how we approach learning, the way we manage people, and how we raise our children. Considering how vastly our mindsets affect our lives, it makes sense to try to have the best one possible. But what does it mean to have a "good" or "positive" mindset?


Dweck has identified two different mindsets that characterize people; fixed and growth mindsets. People who operate under the fixed mindset believe that their talents and abilities are unchanging. They were born with a specific level of talent and nothing they do can change that. That doesn’t mean these people are under performing or deficient in intelligence. In fact many, many high performing people people operate under this mindset. However, the problem lies in the fact that people who have a fixed mindset believe they have to constantly prove their ability. Everything is a potential threat to their identity because failure is not an option. Failure means they aren’t good enough or don’t have the skills. Obviously, many people who operate with a fixed mindset begin to experience serious problems when life doesn’t go their way 100% of the time.

The other mindset described by Dweck is what she calls the growth mindset. People with the growth mindset believe that their talents and abilities are developed over time. These people are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves and develop their abilities. They view challenges and failure as an opportunity for growth and learning. Dweck has determined that happy and successful people are overwhelmingly more likely to have the growth mindset. Most great CEOs, teachers, and athletes use a growth mindset.


All of this information is truly interesting, but it would be fairly useless if our mindset was unable to change (and indeed, that would be a truly fixed mindset way to look at it!). As you would imagine, Dweck argues that it’s possible to change your mindset from fixed to growth. Much of her work has been in developing workshops and interventions that help people develop the growth mindset.

It’s not necessarily an easy process but by gradually changing the way we think about ourselves and the world we can learn how to operate under a more growth based mindset. I won’t go into the details here, as I don’t think I could do the topic justice in the small scope of a review. However, I will tell you that Dweck says just learning about the growth mindset and the benefits it has is a great first step to developing it.

This book is an excellent combination of theoretical and practical advice that makes it worth your time. Operating under a growth mindset is very similar to the idea of living consciously that I’ve been writing about for a long time (see Regaining Consciousness and Exploring Consciousness). This book is especially worth your time if you suspect that you might be more toward the fixed end of the continuum.

The growth mindset is a vital component to living a conscious life and this book will show you how to make it happen.