Review by Jonathan Rice

9 Oct 2016, 5:00

Grow: Change your mindset, change your life

Initially this book seemed a bit bland and it was a while before I began to fully take in what I was reading – like someone who sits next to you on the train that you don’t notice initially, but they keep talking and by the time you near your destination, you are engrossed in what they are saying.

And somehow, while I was reading, the author’s voice did make it into my head and into my psyche.

By the end, the question I asked was: if we can all become better thinkers, better learners, better teachers – better people – by training our brains, why don’t we all focus on it every day?

Moreover, why has there never been a definitive guide on personal growth for those of us who have spent most our lives labouring under the misapprehension that we have been dealt certain cards (a set level of intelligence, talent, ability) and are stuck with them? Here is a book about getting better at stuff just by thinking differently – and it’s in simple language with clear ideas organised into usable sections (and yet still with the reassurance of those little academic references at the bottom of the page).

This is a book about getting better at stuff just by thinking differently

It leans heavily on the work of Carol Dweck, Daniel Goleman and Carl Jung and, to a lesser extent, Malcolm Gladwell and Matthew Syed. If that sounds like your kind of reading list, but you’re struggling for time, it may be a useful gateway to their research and ideas. It includes a little about almost everything anyone has ever told you about personal development – growth mindset, neurolinguistic programming, mindfulness, brain science, coaching – plus the book’s central idea: “thinking on purpose”.

The added value for people working in schools is in the final two chapters, which are specifically about “coaching others” and “helping our children choose to grow”. Here you will find really useful lists of growth mindset language to use with pupils, strategies for building a growth mindset culture with children and (here’s an interesting test for us all to try) a list of questions for parents to ask their children, to discover whether their school has a growth mindset culture. Forewarned is forearmed.

I have since found myself often using its strategies and language. So when my three-year-old sent a cup of blackcurrant squash sprawling across the kitchen table, which then dripped slowly but insistently into a puddle around my feet, I heard a voice in my head telling me that I needed to reframe my reaction into a learning experience about drinking from a grown-up cup. “Aha,” I thought. “I am exercising my internal locus of control.”

This book is very personal in the way it talks to the reader, in the questions it asks of the reader’s life, and in the author’s frankness. She uses examples from her own life to illustrate philosophy and techniques, from her early adult life as a single parent, through her career as a headteacher, to the extraordinary story of her hurling a leg of lamb at her daughter in a fit of temper. By the end, you feel that you know Jackie Beere very well, and somehow, that she knows you too.

This book has become my friend. Its thoughts and ideas have become part of my world, and I recommend that they become part of yours, too.

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