Two Top Mindset Reads

Mindset: Changing the Way you Think to Fulfil Your Potential 

Dr Carol S. Dweck



I’ve referred to Mindset many times in my program Claim Your Confidence because this book is a constant source of encouragement and practical advice for how to shift beliefs that you can’t do something, to beliefs that you can. 

Based on thirty years of research, Psychologist Dweck neatly categorises the beliefs you have about what you can and can’t do, into either a ‘fixed’ or a ‘growth’ mindset. Her research focus is on intelligence, ability and performance but she manages to weave in advice for how the fixed and growth mindset also affects relationships and parenting.

The Fixed Mindset
Dweck defines a fixed mindset as the belief that the abilities you were born with are essentially fixed in stone. You have what you have, and if you missed out on the smart gene or a winning personality or a strong backbone in times of trouble, then there is nothing you can do about that. Best just make the most of what you do have and move on.

For a person with a fixed mindset, moving on means don’t let anyone else see that you don’t have what it takes to be a successful, happy, courageous individual. Dweck notes that people with a fixed mindset are more likely to want to prove themselves over and over because if what you have is all there is, you need to be mighty sure that other people don’t notice the gaps.

The Growth Mindset
The growth mindset however, is based on the belief that the abilities you were born with can be improved upon and expanded through effort, persistence and focused attention. People with a growth mindset don’t spend a lot of time needing to prove themselves. They see an opportunity to improve and they work towards it. Challenges and set-backs are overcome by hard work and a belief that they can develop the skills necessary to succeed.

Dweck provides countless examples demonstrating how the beliefs you hold about yourself impact on your education choices, your business success, your behaviour as a leader, your parenting skills and the way you negotiate love, marriage and rejection.

She goes so far as to say 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’ (p.6). If you wonder if your own thinking is holding you back from who you could be, this is the book that will tell you.

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander.

One of my all time favourite books, The Art of Possibility similarly suggests that mindsets are a choice between two opposing ways of thinking.

The Zanders’ focus on a series of practices that can be applied at any time, on any day, to help overcome the framework of assumptions that we each carry around, and which creates the world that we see. They suggest that, ‘...the practices…are not about making incremental changes that lead to new ways of doing things based on old beliefs, and they are not about self-improvement. They are geared instead toward a total shift of posture, perceptions, beliefs and thought processes. They are about transforming your entire world.”

Their aim is to help anyone enter the world of possibility. But to do this, we first need to see the world of measurement for what it is.

Measurement Thinking: Survival of the Fittest
The measurement mindset focuses on winning and losing, competition and surviving, getting through life not joyously embracing it. It is a mindset where detecting danger and working out how to come out on top is key. It embraces the survival of the fittest. You know your friends from your enemies, you keep your cards close to your chest, trust no one and stick to your viewpoint regardless. It is a world of scarcity and a race to get ahead.

This is our everyday world, reinforced at every opportunity in education centres, the media, by well-meaning friends and family members, by politicians, leaders and ‘experts’ in every field, and is played out in workplaces and relationships on a moment by moment basis. Even thinking that there is an alternative to this way seems like utter madness. Fighting the ‘machine’ of measurement thinking is often not even thought to be an option.

Possibility Thinking: The Pie is Never-Ending
To counter the measurement mindset, the Zanders’ provide simple practices based on the foundational premise that a universe of possibility is there for the taking. Having a possibility mindset requires changing the belief that life is a dog-eat-dog world. The possibility mindset has the attitude that there is enough for everyone; that no one has to lose for you to win; that engaging with and connecting to others will make life more joyful and you will always have access to the resources that you need.

This way of thinking is not a recipe for instant success – that would be the measurement mindset where you set a goal and strive to attain it as quickly as possible. Instead, ‘In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold’ suggest the Zanders. Using stories and practical examples of how these practices have been applied in schools, workplaces, families and relationships, the book inspires and motivates as it teaches.

Taking just one of these practices and incorporating it into your life will set your foot firmly on the path of possibility. You need do nothing more than to let go of some of the limiting beliefs you have about how the world should look, or should behave, to let possibility unfold. Give it a try!

Downloadable Resources