Is there any self-help book that really changed your life?

Pssssst!

Can I make a slight edit to this question?

How about we change it from self-help and make it about self-improvement?

I’ll tell you why.

To me, when we use the word help, there’s a sense of urgency. If you’re in trouble and you don’t have ample time to contemplate which step to take, you say, Help! It’s about emergencies, rapid decision-making, and solving—in most cases—one specific problem or issue.

On the other hand, when we use the word improvement, there’s a much wider path that’s open to us. OK, so maybe we still feel a sense of urgency because we find ourselves in trouble, there’s a problem that’s on our mind, or we find ourselves repeating self-destructive behaviors but can’t seem to find a way out. Regardless of the problem, we need a solution. But the open path means that we can give ourselves the time to learn, solidify, retain, practice, and adopt new habits that can get us on the path to achieving a personal goal.

Does that make sense?

Now on to the answer.

One self-improvement book that has changed my life, and is still changing it every single day, is Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. To say that it’s changed my life is also an understatement. It has make me question so much about not only my life, but human behavior in general! And it’s helped me understand that we as human beings have so much power in our hands to make our lives so much more. Lives that are better. Smarter. More fulfilling. More valuable. And with more purpose.

To summarize, Dweck’s book is about our mindset—the set of attitudes and beliefs we have about the world around us, people we interact with, and ultimately about ourselves. She suggests that the view we have of ourselves can dramatically affect the way we lead our life. Dweck makes an important distinction between two types of mindsets that people generally have. One is a fixed mindset—believing that our skills, strengths, and qualities are set in stone and there’s nothing we can do to change them, for better or for worse. The other is a growth mindset—believing that we can cultivate those same skills and qualities through long-term dedication and effort. While a fixed mindset is adopted over time by listening to messages from a young age about what we can, should, or shouldn’t do (usually by parents, relatives, teachers), a growth mindset is nurtured primarily by ourselves as we deliberately select those learning opportunities that can benefit us.

What does practicing a growth mindset look like in real life?

Here are 5 ways to incorporate it into your day so you can see what a difference it can make.

Growth mindset idea #1. Learn something new every day.

It’s not limited to what’s on your current course syllabus or school curriculum for the year. It doesn’t have to be limited by your job description, or even a particular interest or hobby you’re pursuing in the evening hours or on weekends. You can learn something new and different in many ways. You can spend an evening watching a documentary about everything there is to know on ancient Egypt, artificial intelligence, or Alexander the Great. Or, you can research something practical and useful in your daily life, such as which foods can give you energy to train for a marathon or just get you through an interval training session at the gym. Whatever it is, one thing is key— stay curious and be willing to learn something you do not know right now.

Growth mindset idea #2. Create your own “growth mindset” tribe.

You may have heard of the phrase that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. And chances are, you don’t give much thought to the company you keep, whether it’s people you live with or the ones you interact with on a regular basis. Still, it’s important because you may not be aware of how much those closest to you—family members, close friends, coworkers and classmates—can impact your mood, your attitude, your beliefs, and even what you see as your strengths or weaknesses. How can you pick more growth mindset people to hang out with? Make friends with people who show a can-do attitude, who take on a positive and optimistic tone when talking about problems, and who work hard every day on getting better at something. Get to know them better and nurture friendships with them.

Growth mindset idea #3. Change the way you look at success.

Here’s an excellent example of fixed versus growth mindset. If you’ve adopted a fixed mindset, you think being successful means that things come easily and effortlessly to you or to someone else, whether it’s being a straight A student or a chess champion. The downside to a fixed way of thinking is that people get too comfortable in doing something well with little effort. So what’s the growth mindset way of thinking? Instead of thinking that success is being the best, you start thinking of success as doing your best. This means you switch your focus from staying in the comfort zone to coming up with ways to improve how you do your work, such as breaking down a difficult task in smaller and more doable increments, or waking up a bit earlier each morning to practice a positive habit such as doing yoga or going for a run.

Growth mindset idea #4. Declare war on your inner lazy self.

Here’s another excellent example of how your fixed mindset can be undermining your efforts. If you have a fixed mindset, as soon as you achieve a goal (pass an exam, turn in a large project ahead of the deadline, or win a prestigious competition), you tend to slip into a complacent mood. You sit back, take it easy, pat yourself on the back for doing so well…. and then just expect things to go smoothly in the future. With a growth mindset, you don’t let things go that easily. Yes, it’s important to take a breather, acknowledge reaching an important milestone, and appreciate how far you’ve come. But give yourself a time limit. Then be proactive to make sure your success doesn’t just fall into oblivion. For example, if you’ve passed your exams, don’t spend your entire vacation on the couch watching TV or gaming; instead, build a cool new skill that excites you such as learning karate or playing electric guitar.

Growth mindset idea #5. Don’t get envious, get proactive.

It’s not a big surprise to start feeling envious whenever we hear a friend, coworker, or acquaintance start talking about something wonderful that’s happening in their life right now. It can be a number of things—they just began attending a course they’re fascinated with, they started a personal project they’ve been putting off for years and are now fully engrossed in it, or they’re starting their own business and adore their entrepreneurial lifestyle. What’s a better way to deal with such news? Resist the urge to feel envious that things are going well for them, and instead take a cue from them and spend some time brainstorming original ideas of your own. Which project can you start that can improve the quality of your life? How can you make a career decision that will benefit you in the long run? Write your ideas down, then come up with a plan to turn them into actions. And that, right there, is practicing your own growth mindset—one new idea at a time!

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2 thoughts on “Is there any self-help book that really changed your life?

    1. Jeff, wonderful post and enjoyable read. I especially like Dweck’s take on childhood, that as children we were fearless and everyone had a growth mindset. There was no other option. But with adulthood comes fear, mostly of the unknown and failure, and before we know it, we impose limitations on ourselves about our skills and abilities. She is right on about so many things! Attitude is everything, and our mindset can be changed.

      Liked by 1 person

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