Not Broken, Just Bent: How Carol Dweck's "Mindset" Changed the Way I Think About Myself
This week’s post is a book review, a challenge and a confession all at once. Two weeks ago, a Facebook friend of mine offered six free copies of a book to anyone willing to read the whole thing in 14 days and share their thoughts on Facebook. I rose to the challenge for a few reasons.
1) I love free stuff. (Don’t judge me.)
2) I’m a bibliophile and I’m always happiest in the pages of a book.
3) Book reviews make great blog content. (Seriously, don’t judge me!)
But the biggest reason I squeezed a 250 page book into my already hectic schedule was my friend’s promise that this book was a life-changer. And let me tell you, I needed a life-changer, badly. So we met up, I collected my copy of Carol Dweck’s “Mindset”, and I got to reading.
As I flipped the pages, I felt like she stepped out of the book with a big old mirror, held it up to my life and said, “Here’s your problem. You’ve got a fixed mindset.” My fixed mindset did not like that one bit. You see, the fixed mindset believes in perfection. It views all failures, criticism, or flaws as permanent and defining. The fixed mindset wants nothing more than to be flawless and faultless even at the cost of its own growth. So to even accept that you have a fixed mindset is an affront to that mindset in itself.
What’s funny is that the realization that I struggle with a fixed mindset is not new, I just didn't have a name for it. Back when I was deeply involved with the Christian faith, I was required to identify which sin most affected my life. My pet sin was hubris—excessive pride. It still is. It’s why I cried as a child when I didn’t get good grades or lost arguments. It’s why I hated when teachers called on me when I wasn’t 100% sure of the answer and hate so badly to be wrong. It’s why I have to fight jealousy and envy, why I always seek to find someone or something else to blame for my failures, and why I’m afraid of challenges. In short, I don’t like to lose.
Thankfully, Dweck had more than just an ugly reflection to offer me. I would’ve been a hot mess if I felt stuck with the label of “fixed mindset.” But that’s the central point of her book: whatever you are, whatever your ability or personality or attitude, you can change it. You’re not stuck with it. I closed that book knowing just how I could move from my fixed mindset to a growth mindset. All I needed to do was shift my thinking.
Instead of thinking of confidence as something reflected by my title, achievements, or any other external factor, I have to derive my confidence from my readiness to challenge myself and grow.
Instead of putting all my stock in my abilities, I have to focus on working hard no matter how good I get, because ability isn’t enough. Hard work beats talent that doesn’t work hard.
Some challenges are going to kick my ass, but as long as I learn something, I can’t lose. Sticking to the things I know just so I never fail means I’ll never be or do anything greater than the things I know now.
My failures and flaws do not define me. If I fail, or lose, I am not a failure or loser. I am just a person who experienced a failure or suffered a loss. And I’m going to work my ass off so I don’t fail or lose in the same way again. I need to stop wearing failure like a name tag.
My favourite excerpt from the entire book was this gem: “Next time you’re tempted to surround yourself with worshipers, go to church. In the rest of your life, seek constructive criticism.” I need to start seeing those better than me as motivation, instead of competition and critique as an opportunity to grow.
I’m going to spend the rest of my life working on replacing all the things I learned to believe about my self-worth and ability to grow with the belief that I am capable of becoming better every single day. As I shift my own mindset, I’m going to try to apply that thinking to the people I love (and the ones I don’t love so much). I’m going to teach it to my kids. Because the difference between reaching your full potential and falling short is as simple as changing the way I think. It’s too simple to pass up.
What you get out of “Mindset” will depend entirely on where you are in your life, what you struggle with and what roles you play, but as long as you’re willing to change your thinking, this book can change your life.