John McEnroe is one of the most gifted tennis players of all time but he is better known for his temper than his championships.  I played tennis when McEnroe was in his prime and I watched him play quite a bit.  I appreciated his talent and wanted to be a fan but I had a hard time reconciling his attitude with his skill on the court.  Looking at the video above is painful.

Carol Dweck offers McEnroe as an example of someone with a fixed mindset.  According to Dr. Dweck, “people [with a fixed mindset] believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. This is wrong.”

In her book, Mindset, she contrasts a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.  “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”

The implications of this simple difference in mindset has tremendous implications.  According to her research, Dr. Dweck describes a person with a fixed mindset with one goal of constantly proving themselves.  “Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character.”  She goes on to say that “people with a fixed mindset feel a sense of urgency to succeed, and when they do, they feel more than a sense of pride.  They may feel a sense of superiority, since success means that their fixed traits are better than other people’s.”

By contrast, people with the growth mindset “believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that its impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil and training.”

Dr. Dweck uses Mia Hamm as an example of a person with the growth mindset.  “First she played with her older brother.  Then at ten, she joined the eleven-year-old boys’ team.  Then she threw herself into the number one college team in the United States.”  In the clip below she expresses this mindset.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  Every page provides new insight on this simple yet profound difference.