Authors: Carol Dweck
Appropriate for: Coaches, Parents, Teachers, Athletes
Overall rating: 5/5 (if you haven’t already – get reading!)
Overview: In my opinion anyone who has anything to do with the development of children should read this book annually! I’m talking anyone involved in a sporting, academic or relational context. Dweck is an influential researcher from Stanford University who has produced numerous studies examining psychology and it’s effects on behaviour in both children and adults. This book has some incredible information that will totally influence they way you coach your athletes, teach your students, parent your children or even how you view your partner!
Essentially she describes some deep rooted beliefs that we all have, that can have serious consequences on our likelihood of success. She explains how the idea that certain traits (eg. sporting talent, musical ability, academic prowess) are “fixed traits” or innate, has seriously damaging effects on how we act when we encounter challenging situations on the sporting field, in the classroom or in relationships. This fixed mindset results in the thinking that “a leopard can’t change it’s spots” or “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. For example, “I’m just not a sporty person”. Our attitudes may also vary depending on the characteristics – we may have a growth attitude to music but a fixed mindset for science. Basically this thinking leads to us capping our own potential, avoiding risk/challenge, as well as judging others and capping their potential. In the role of a coach/teacher, having this mindset is incredible dangerous in my opinion.
On the contrary a “growth mindset” is characterised by the belief that improvement is possible. That is to say we can improve our sporting ability, social skills or English exam results. It should be fairly obvious that a growth mindset is the desired mindset to cultivate in the sporting world – however Dweck highlights many examples of athletes who failed to achieve their potential due to the fixed mindset. John McEnroe is a fine example – excuses for every poor performance. On the contrary a classic example of growth mindset would be Michael Jordan – setbacks only galvanised his determination.
The most interesting part of all this is that it is often how/what we praise or give feedback on that subliminally reinforces a fixed/growth mindset. As coaches – this is an area we may not be giving enough creedance to. This is my second time reading this book and it’s taught me something each time. I would thoroughly recommend this book for any sports coach. It may cause you to review how you think of your athletes, how you coach them and what sort of feedback you give to your athletes.
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PS: if you’re interested in this further but not sure about buying the book yet check out these videos:
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