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One day, my students sat me down and ordered me to write this book. They wanted
people to be able to use our work to make their lives better. It was something I’d wanted to do
for a long time, but it became my number one priority.
My work is part of a tradition in psychology that shows the power of people’s beliefs.
These may be beliefs we’re aware of or unaware of, but they strongly affect what we want and
whether we succeed in getting it. This tradition also shows how changing people’s beliefs—even
the simplest beliefs—can have profound effects.
In this book, you’ll learn how a simple belief about yourself—a belief we discovered in
our research—guides a large part of your life. In fact, it permeates every part of your life. Much
of what you think of as your personality actually grows out of this “mindset.” Much of what may
be preventing you from fulfilling your potential grows out of it.
No book has ever explained this mindset and shown people how to make use of it in their
lives. You’ll suddenly understand the greats—in the sciences and arts, in sports, and in
business—and the would-have-beens. You’ll understand your mate, your boss, your friends, your
kids. You’ll see how to unleash your potential—and your children’s.
It is my privilege to share my findings with you. Besides accounts of people from my
research, I’ve filled each chapter with stories both ripped from the headlines and based on my
own life and experience, so you can see the mindsets in action. (In most cases, names and
personal information have been changed to preserve anonymity; in some cases, several people
have been condensed into one to make a clearer point. A number of the exchanges are re-created
from memory, and I have rendered them to the best of my ability.)
At the end of each chapter and throughout the last chapter, I show you ways to apply the
lessons—ways to recognize the mindset that is guiding your life, to understand how it works, and
to change it if you wish.
A little note about grammar. I know it and I love it, but I haven’t always followed it in
this book. I start sentences with ands and buts. I end sentences with prepositions. I use the plural
they in contexts that require the singular he or she. I’ve done this for informality and immediacy,
and I hope that the sticklers will forgive me.
I’d like to take this chance to thank all of the people who made my research and this book
possible. My students have made my research career a complete joy. I hope they’ve learned as
much from me as I’ve learned from them. I’d also like to thank the organizations that supported
our research: the William T. Grant Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Department
of Education, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Child Health and
Human Development, and the Spencer Foundation.
The people at Random House have been the most encouraging team I could wish for:
Webster Younce, Daniel Menaker, Tom Perry, and, most of all, Caroline Sutton, my editor. Your
excitement about my book and your great suggestions have made all the difference. I thank my
superb agent, Giles Anderson, as well as Heidi Grant for putting me in touch with him.
Thanks to all the people who gave me input and feedback, but special thanks to Polly
Shulman, Richard Dweck, and Maryann Peshkin for their extensive and insightful comments.
Finally, I thank my husband, David, for the love and enthusiasm that give my life an extra
dimension. His support throughout this project was extraordinary.
My work has been about growth, and it has helped foster my own growth. It is my wish
that it will do the same for you.

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