Choosing a Mindset: Carol Dweck’s Writing Strategies
Carol S. Dweck is an inspiring author who examines how the significance of an attitude can determine one’s outlook on life through her book, Mindset. The psychological analysis of how a mindset can influence people of all ages in any circumstance reveals to readers the choice one has in dealing with and learning from situations. The growth mindset, as Dweck explains, allows growth and development while its counterpart, the fixed mindset, feeds on judgment and ability. Her research with the two mindsets allows readers to recognize the growth or fixed mindset within themselves and make decisions based on her analysis of the two. Dweck acknowledges the difficulty she undertook writing her book, Mindset, but her thorough examination and application of the mindsets and her friendly and relatable syntax allowed Dweck to motivate readers to pursue the growth mindset effectively.
Dweck’s credibility is established mainly by her profession in psychology, yet her persuasive skills show that she has authority in writing as well. As a Ph.D. professor at Columbia University, she gains credibility in her topic but she points out how writing seemed to be a challenge for her at first. In fact, the first sentence in the introduction reads, “One day, my students sat me down and ordered me to write this book… it became my number one priority” (Dweck). She was ultimately coaxed into writing this book because she knew, as well as her students, that she had the ability to improve lives with her research, a feat that could inspire and change the way people view success. Her ethos is established by acknowledging the hardships she undertook in sharing her idea of the mindsets and guiding readers to obtain the growth mindset. She explains, “This book is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done… the information was overwhelming” (Dweck 53). Although difficult, Dweck truly wanted to inspire and teach her conclusions to simple everyday people through her writing, which ultimately establishes her ethos (Nadell 479). Thus, Dweck establishes a sense of authority on her subject by acknowledging the arduous task she undertook, an acknowledgement that gives readers comfort and trust in her premise.
Dweck’s intense research on the mindsets helps her develop a structure for her novel that includes explanations of her study and applications to various relatable situations, a structure that persuades her readers effectively. Dweck depends on examining the mindsets of various well-known figures from Thomas Edison to Michael Jordan, leaning on the ethos of others to support her claim. In her argumentation-persuasion, she conveys the data she has collected in a simple yet efficient way, combining ethos with logos (Nadell 479). From direct quotation of the people who have contributed to her study to conclusions she makes, Dweck shows mastery in her knowledge and argument. However, despite her logos, Dweck is biased in her portrayal of the two mindsets. She purposefully demonized the fixed mindset, detailing the failures it can cause, so that she can ultimately sell the growth mindset to readers. With various scenarios, she examines and applies the results of the two mindsets, usually ending in a favorable conclusion for the growth mindset. For example, she concludes, “The fixed mindset creates the feeling that you can really know the permanent truth about yourself… be aware of the drawbacks of this mindset… robbing yourself of an opportunity by underestimation your talent” (Dweck 50). Dweck undermines the fixed mindset on purpose because her premise relies heavily on the benefits of the growth mindset. She not only wants to explain the mindsets, she wants to convince readers to use the growth mindset in their daily lives. Thus, the fixed mindset is vilified throughout the book until the end. Conversely, her last piece of advice acknowledges that “It’s for you to decide whether change is right for you,” (Dweck 246). After she has given the reader all the information she has researched and concluded with various scenarios of application, she places the decision of choosing one mindset upon the reader while heavily advocating for the growth mindset. This forces readers to become introspective and keep her ideas in mind when making decisions, whether small or big. Dweck’s persuasive skills are effective in this way because her influence is carried on by readers through everyday life choices. Thus, her logos and biases are proper for her premise and readers are left continuously thinking about the growth mindset even after finishing the book.
A writer’s style is characterized by the voice used and the relationship established with the audience, two attributes used by Dweck to motivate her readers. Through her book, Dweck goes beyond proving her idea of the two mindsets by pushing her readers to be introspective and teaching them how to change. Even before the book begins, Dweck establishes an informal tone by stating, “grammar… I haven’t always followed it in this book… I’ve done this for informality and immediacy,” (Dweck). The author does not want to bombard readers with intellectual language and confuse them, she wants to befriend and convince the reader to want to grow through her language. In order to succeed, Dweck uses a comfortable tone that is easy to read and appeals to a broad audience. Additionally, she defines even the simplest terms to make the reader think. For example, Dweck explains “Potential, someone’s capacity to develop their skills with effort” (Dweck 27). Although a simple word, Dweck defines it with a positive connotation as support to her premise, which, in turn, slants toward the growth mindset (Nadell 18). This bias towards the growth mindset is developed throughout the book as Dweck repeats the defining components of the growth mindset and compares them to the disastrous outcomes of the fixed mindset. Through the chapters she develops an extended definition of the mindsets by giving anecdotal examples or comparing and contrasting growth and fixed mindsets (Nadell 436). Even though Dweck is guilty of circular reasoning, her argument for the growth mindset is made annoyingly persistent with repetition. Each chapter of the book applies the mindsets to different situation including parenting, business, relationship, and more, extending to the very end of the book where she again defines the two as “judge-and-be-judged” and “learn-and-help-learn” (Dweck 244). Each chapter reiterates the definition of the mindsets multiple times throughout the chapters, often adding more or new characteristics to the growth and fixed definitions. However, by being drilled into the readers mind, the growth mindset’s obvious appeal becomes stronger through her casual and humorous yet informative and supportive tone. Additionally, her evidence is heavily anecdotal which makes the whole book more personable and believable. In doing so, Dweck is able to motivate, on top of teach, readers to pursue the growth mindset through her style and voice, creating an atmosphere of trust with the broad audience she appeals to.
Dweck’s goal in writing Mindset is to allow readers to examine and change their way of thinking, to ultimately give them a different perspective on the world through the mindsets. From the beginning where she states, “The mindset change what people strive for and what they see as success” (Dweck 12) to the end where she urges “change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework,” Dweck is arguing for the growth mindset (Dweck 244). Her relatable tone and strong evidence, supported by her trustworthy credibility, pushes the reader to become introspective and think of the mindset they have and the one they want. Through her motivating persuasion, the reader is allowed to choose a mindset to pursue and know the benefits and consequences of both the growth and the fixed mindset.
Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine, 2008. Print.
Nadell, Judith, John Langan, and Eliza A. Comodromos. The Longman Reader. 8th ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005. Print.
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