I’m reading a book called “Mindset” by psychologist Carol Dweck. Normally I’m not much for books even remotely considered “self-help” but this one is really causing one of those “aha” moments where you suddenly realize how you are sabotaging yourself.

Basically, the premise is that there are two “mindsets” to dealing with success and failure. The “fixed” mindset person believes that he is born with certain abilities and intelligence and they pretty never change. The “growth” mindset person believes that abilities and intelligence grow if you challenge yourself. Most people are fixed but you should really want to change to growth.

Here’s why: The fixed mindset person is always trying to prove himself and views any failure as an attack on who he is. It threatens his self-esteem because failure means he’s not smart enough. Consequently, he stops trying. This person views effort as a shortcoming because trying hard means you’re not smart.

The growth person doesn’t label himself but his actions as inadequate and actions can change. Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow so this person loves challenges and never gives up. Effort isn’t a failing; it’s the very definition of intelligence because making an effort is the only way to get smarter. The first person thinks, “I’m a failure, I should stop trying.” The second person thinks, “I made a mistake, how can I learn to do it better?”

Now this all sounds well and good, like it’s some easy thing to just change mindsets. Trust me, it’s not. I’ve always been on the smart side of the scale and I totally felt like the book was speaking to me. “A fixed mindset person would rather do an easy puzzle over and over again while a growth mindset person always seeks new challenges.” I remember in college, sometimes to pass the time, I’d play Risk against the computer on the easiest setting. I could win the game in maybe 30-40 seconds but it was still satisfying. I’d play over and over again to see how fast I could win. But now I realize that I was just trying to validate myself instead of challenge myself. A fixed mindset person defines intelligence as being able to accomplish goals without any effort. But the point of the book is that effort is the only thing that makes you smarter.

Next week back to talking to strangers and my trip to San Francisco to meet Michelle’s family!