A few months ago, my husband recommended that I read the book MINDSET. At first I dismissed it as just another one of the many business/management guides that clutters his nightstand from time to time. But my husband insisted that this book was different, that it would be good for me. In fairness, he has been known to be right on one or two occasions, so I decided to give it a chance.
He was right.
MINDSET explains a lot of things about myself — especially about my attitude toward writing and achievement — that I had sensed but never fully articulated. Furthermore, the book offers productive alternatives for some of my biggest hangups. It’s not really a how-to or self-help book, but in examining the benefits and the power of a growth mindset, it does end up guiding readers toward a better path.
Here’s the crux of it, from the back cover:
“World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success — but whether we approach our goals with a fixed or growth mindset.”
What is fixed mindset?
The belief that we are who we are. Period. Static. Maybe you can change a little bit here and there, but for the most part, you’re born with whatever skills, intelligence, creativity, personality, etc. you’re ever going to get.
What is growth mindset?
The belief that we can always improve — and that the process of improving is as important as the improvement itself.
Why does your mindset matter?
As Dweck shows through various case studies, the fixed mindset sets people up for failure, generally speaking. I mean, if you happen to be a super genius with natural talent and charm, then OK you’re all set! But for the other 99.99% of us, it’s not so easy. And if we’re convinced that we’re either smart or not, either artistic or not, either (fill in the blank) or not, then when we fail at something, that’s it. We’re done. No point in trying again.
But if we instead believe that every failure is just a step on the path to success? A necessary step? A valuable step, because what doesn’t work teaches us about what will work? Then we’re already where we want to be. The journey is as much the destination as the destination itself.
There is a lot more nuance to fixed vs. growth mindset than that — and really, it’s a spectrum, not just one or the other — but many of the problems that Dweck identifies as part of the fixed mindset remind me of issues that writers face.
- I’m either a good writer or I’m not.
- I failed = I am a failure.
- Another writer’s success means less success is available to me.
Does any of that sound familiar to you? I have to admit, those thoughts have run through my head before. More than once. Too often.
How do we change our mindsets?
Unfortunately we can’t just flick a switch. Moving toward a growth mindset requires conscious effort and commitment. It’s about challenging and changing the narrative, about re-programming our brains and beliefs. But if you’re here reading Writer Unboxed, then you’re probably already on a good track. And as the growth mindset has proven, that’s what it’s all about.
The first step is to recognize when you’re falling into the trap of a fixed mindset. The second step is to push back against it.
I’m either a good writer or I’m not.Right now I may not be as good of a writer as I would like, but I can continue to practice and get better. I can take joy in that process. I failed = I am a failure.I failed, but that failure has taught me something, so I can do better on my next attempt. I can be proud of that effort. Another writer’s success means less success is available to me.Another writer’s success has no bearing on my own, except maybe to model positives and negatives for me to learn from. I can find inspiration and motivation in other people’s successes.
Don’t you feel better already? It may not be easy to maintain this line of thinking all the time, but if you ask me, it’s definitely worth the effort.
What do you think of the mindset model? Do you have more of a fixed or growth mindset when it comes to your writing?
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