Mindset: The New Psychology of Success [Book Review]

“Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training.”

When I was a kid, I always scored well on those standardized tests they like to give children. I remember taking an IQ test when I was no more than seven or eight, and while I was never told the results, I was put into a ‘gifted program’ shortly after that. I was routinely praised as intelligent, as ‘the smart kid’, as all those kind and not-so-kind terms we use for so-called over-achievers. I was placed in an environment that told me I was smart — that defined me as smart — and created expectations from that stereotype.

Then I reached high school and, without being too nice about it, fell apart. I quit caring, and since I didn’t care I didn’t try. I didn’t care about school work, I didn’t care about learning, and threats of working at McDonald’s forever didn’t faze me. That attitude, of defining myself by a stereotype and its expectations, of treating failure as a personal trait, of judging things in strict good/bad terms, stayed with me for most of my adult life. It bled over into college, into relationships, and into my lifting.

Though I didn’t realize it, I operated under what Carol Dweck calls a fixed mindset. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck divides our mentalities into two distinct mindsets. Those like myself hold to the above-mentioned fixed mindset; you’re born with certain gifts, and if you aren’t good at an activity, then that’s that. People don’t change, and if you suck you just suck, so you might as well give up. The fixed mindset focuses on ability as an unchanging (and unchangeable) quantity.

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