by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
Reviewed by Gary W. Silverman, CFP®
Gary Silverman owns a fee-only financial planning firm in Wichita Falls, Texas. He is the editor of the financial newsletter Personal Money Planning, writes the newspaper columns Your Money and Biz2Biz, and hosts the cable talk show, Money Cent$.
The dichotomy argued in biological studies is a constant battle between nature and nurture. Does the organism behave the way they do because they were born that way, or is it because they learned the particular behavior? This same question is central to a study of humans; after all, they are biological creatures, too.
In fact, some of the most divisive truths revolve around this question. For instance, does the biology of women lead them to be less suited or less interested in computer science pursuits, or is the limited number of women in this field due to them learning (either on purpose or by accident) that such tasks are "for the boys?"
In the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dr. Carol Dweck examines the behavior of success and how the beliefs, or mindset, of how we think about our own abilities affects our outcomes. When my business coach, Jay Feldman, suggested I read this book, I figured it was just another tome filled with psychobabble to get me motivated. I hold a B.S. in Psychology, and as a business owner, I am plenty motivated to succeed, but still, I bought the book just to humor him.
Nevertheless, I discovered this profound question: Are human qualities things that can be cultivated or carved in stone? This was not a new question for me, but Dweck then asked me to consider this: Are my innate abilities fully in place and just need to be realized, or are they a starting point that can be cultivated?
The first concept, that your qualities are fully in place, is labeled by Dweck as the fixed mindset. The latter, that you are born with base abilities that can grow across time, she calls the growth mindset. In the fixed mindset, you are what you are. You have a ceiling as to how well you can do a task, and once you reach it there's not much you can do about it-your ability has a fixed ceiling.
Does that mean that people with a growth mindset think that anyone of us can be a Hank Aaron, Tchaikovsky or Einstein? Not at all, but they do believe that the person's true potential is unknown and unknowable. Only years of study, practice and application can reveal just how far a person can go with the abilities they have inside them.
It may seem like this is a bit of splitting hairs, at least until you realize how each mindset translates to a person's actions. Dr. Dweck's research indicates that those with a fixed mindset tend to spend their energy proving to those around them the level of natural ability they had. Those with a growth mindset are less consumed with showing off to others how smart or talented they are, but rather continue to cultivate those abilities.
And which, my dear business person, would you rather employ?
Whether you agree or disagree with Dweck's take on this, it is worth thinking about. If these ideas have piqued your curiosity, then you may want to read her book where she goes into greater depth. Dweck offers suggestions for parents, teachers and bosses, and examines how love, competition and even the Enron debacle were affected by your mindset.
Ballantine Books (2007)