Book Notes: Mindset

Table Of Contents

TL;DR: Read this Book, when…

  • you always wanted to know what your HR people mean when they say “we should all have a growth mindset”
  • you are looking for a shift of your mindset towards learning
  • you want to read stories about important people and what effects their mindset have on their environments

Book Facts

  • Title: Mindset
  • Author: Carol S. Dweck
  • Word Count: ~ 105.000 (7 hours at 250 words / minute)
  • Reading Ease: medium
  • Writing Style: storytelling backed with scientific research


The proposition of {% include book-link.html book=“mindset” %} by Carol S. Dweck sounds a little esoteric: something like “control your mindset and you’ll be a winner”.

In the book, she discusses two mindsets:

  • the “fixed” mindset, in which we believe that our capabilities are fixed and won’t change much, no matter how hard we try, and
  • the “growth” mindset, in which we believe that we can do a lot more than we currently can, just by learning hard enough.

Dweck tells plausible stories from her psychological research that show the effects both mindsets have on people and gives some tips on how we can choose our mindset.


Here are my notes, as usual with some comments in italics.

The Mindsets

  • the major factor to achieve expertise is purposeful engagement - not a predefined, fixed amount of intelligence
  • in a fixed mindset, we believe that our intelligence towards a certain skill is a given and cannot change much over time
  • in a growth mindset, we believe that our intelligence towards a certain skill can improve over time

Inside the Mindsets

  • the growth mindset is all about learning - challenge and interest come hand in hand
  • the fixed mindset is all about the pressure to perform and not losing face - we can’t improve, so we have to make do with what we have
  • the fixed mindset supports only personal success because we want to prove that our fixed ability is good enough
  • the growth mindset supports shared success because we focus on learning and not so much on comparing our respective ability
  • in the fixed mindset we’re not trying hard because we don’t believe that we can improve
  • in the fixed mindset, only results count, while in the growth mindset we count every learning on the way as a success
  • in the fixed mindset, we’re prone to give up on hard challenges because we’re telling ourselves that we’re not good enough - we’re more likely to pull through hard challenges in the growth mindset
  • This makes a growth mindset the foundation for habit change as described in The Power of Habit and Atomic Habits.

The Truth About Ability and Accomplishment

  • accomplishment comes with effort and only the growth mindset allows effort
  • growth-minded people tend to learn for the sake of learning - not for acing an exam - and tend to get better results
  • not all of us can become prodigies, but an essential piece for becoming one is an urge for learning - a growth mindset
  • what one person can learn, almost everyone else can learn, given the appropriate learning conditions
  • test scores only measure the current snapshot of intelligence and not where a student’s intelligence can end up
  • the fixed mindset limits achievement, because we don’t believe in improvement
  • “Just because people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it with training.”
  • don’t praise someone’s ability - praise the effort it took instead to put them into a growth mindset

Sports: The Mindset of a Champion

  • success is more about the process than about ability (strong parallel to Atomic Habits, where the author says that we should focus on the process instead of the outcomes to foster habit change)
  • having great innate ability can be a curse because everyone keeps saying to you - consciously or not - that you don’t have to expend effort
  • great sportspeople often have a certain base talent, but they keep working on themselves to improve
  • fixed sportspeople blame outside forces when they lose (there’s an interesting story about John MacEnroe in the book)

Business: Mindset and Leadership

  • “A company that cannot self-correct cannot thrive.”
  • many companies have failed due to the fixed mindset of a top manager
  • the fixed mindset strives for feeling good in the short term and doesn’t support long-term decisions very good
  • a CEO with a fixed mindset may put the whole company into a fixed mindset - stopping innovation
  • a fixed mindset leads to using the word “I” where a growth mindset allows using the word “we”
  • growth-minded leaders are guides - fixed-minded leaders are judges
  • a fixed mindset causes groupthink - everybody thinks alike and no one disagrees
  • leaders are made, not born
  • companies can have a collective mindset - either a culture of continuous development or a culture of genius

Relationships: Mindsets in Love (or not)

  • fixed-minded people feel humiliated by being rejected in a relationship and want revenge, while growth-minded people tend to get over it faster
  • in fixed-mindset relationships partners think they were meant to be or not and if they were meant to be, they should be good with each other in every situation - this creates misunderstandings and conflict
  • “A no-effort relationship is a doomed relationship.”
  • “Choosing a partner is choosing a set of problems.”
  • a growth-minded relationship gives room for partners to support each other’s development
  • a fixed mindset tries to protect one from rejection at all cost - this can lead to shyness and coldness towards other people
  • bullying is a symptom of the fixed mindset - it’s about judging others
  • bullying victims also often have a fixed mindset which makes them perfect targets for fixed-minded bullies - this mindset makes them want to judge back and seek revenge

Parents, Teachers, and Coaches

  • praising children’s intelligence harms their innovation and performance
    • “if success means I’m smart, then failure means I’m dumb”
    • this may lead to avoidance of challenges for fear of failure
    • don’t praise for speed and perfection - they’re the enemies of hard work
  • “Don’t judge. Teach.”
  • the growth mindset is supported by an atmosphere of trust, not judgment
  • “The fixed mindset makes people complicated.”
  • continued success can lull us into a fixed mindset
  • don’t praise effort that wasn’t there
  • don’t praise effort as a consolation prize only
  • instead, praise the process but tie the praise to the outcome
  • “Great contributions to society are born out of curiosity and deep understanding.” - learn to understand, not to memorize

Changing Mindsets

  • our beliefs influence how we interpret the world
  • they can lead to exaggerated feelings of depression or superiority
  • an 8-session growth workshop has changed the beliefs of school kids with noticeable effects like better grades and enhanced motivation
  • when you have trouble following through with a plan, define when, where, and how you want to do it in great detail to increase the chances that you really do it (strong parallel to The Power of Habit, where the author says that making a plan helps follow-through of habit change)
  • when confronted with failure or rejection think about your reaction to it - there is always a growth-minded way of dealing with it that makes you stronger
  • a growth mindset enables you to change your environment by changing yourself (strong parallel to The 7 Habits of Effective People, where the author says that to change your environment, you have to change first)
  • willpower alone isn’t enough to change things - you need a system to facilitate change (strong parallel to Atomic Habits, where the author says that we should concentrate on a process of change instead of the outcomes)
    • in a fixed mindset, we don’t see this system
  • the journey to change:
    • accept your fixed mindset (we all have it)
    • find your fixed mindset triggers
    • give your fixed persona a name
    • educate your fixed persona each time it shows up


It seems like magic: just switch your mindset to a growth mindset and a bunch of positive things will happen to you. But it’s not that easy, of course.

The book tells fascinating stories about people with a growth mindset and people with a fixed mindset that make it apparent that our mindset affects us and our environment. There are strong parallels to other books I’ve read about habit building, so different authors came to the same conclusions.

Written By:

Tom Hombergs

Written By:

Tom Hombergs

As a professional software engineer, consultant, architect, general problem solver, I've been practicing the software craft for more than fifteen years and I'm still learning something new every day. I love sharing the things I learned, so you (and future me) can get a head start. That's why I founded

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