I don’t think we fully grasp all the ways in which we exude a fixed mindset — and how it affects us — so I created a desert island/online dating analogy to make it more tangible.
Building a lifelong romantic relationship requires love, empathy and willingness to grow together. When looking at couples whose relationships I admire, those with fixed mindsets about a large number of topics rarely stand the test of time.
Growth at its best is getting beyond our partner’s surface level positions (which can manifest as impromptu demands) and communicating on a more profound level where we understand the underlying need or value behind our partner’s request. For example, the type of mindset that enables one spouse who thought they married a corporate type to discover three years later they married an entrepreneur and be supportive of it is the same mindset that gets them unstuck when discovering they’ll be renting, not buying a house for a long while. (No, I am not at all referencing my life).
I work with so many people that don’t recognize their mindsets as perpetuating stuckness, particularly in their careers. This blocks them from the change they desire. Recognizing when you’re entrenched in a fixed mindset — see Carol Dweck’s profound research on the subject — is one of the biggest steps to removing it.
Growth at its best is getting beyond our partner’s surface level positions and communicating on a more profound level where we understand the underlying need or value behind our partner’s request.
Many of us have had the dejavu relationship experience when new dates feel far too similar to previous ones. In many cases, our failed relationships fail in the same way.
I call this dating with a Tinder-style fixed mindset because:
Essentially, you have set very specific parameters around the type of relationship that will work in your life, and quickly reject anything outside this definition. If you look deeply, many of these parameters will be based on fear, judgment and expectations people placed on you many years ago.
Now imagine your mentality is not about “all the fish in the sea,” but rather, about curiosity and open-mindedness for what’s in front of you (since you are trapped on a deserted island with a single potential partner).
So what’s the singles’ scene like on a deserted island with only one person to choose from?
Let’s break these metaphors down a bit:
With a fixed mindset, you’re already sure about what’s wrong with your potential partner — or your life or career — and you are certain about what needs to be changed. We often feel stuck because of our certainty about a situation. But look at the desert island approach. Certainty will only guarantee your complete isolation.
On a desert island you are invested in building a more fruitful, long-lasting relationship that necessitates not just understanding but deeply appreciating the other person’s perspective, even when it contradicts your experiences.
We have a Hollywood-generated myth that everything — from relationships to careers — should involve little struggle for it to be the right fit. In fact, our team believes that when you’re committed to work that makes your heart sing, 95% of the effort may be grunt work, and that’s ok.
If there’s any indicator of a narrowing of your views, it’s when you share the vast majority of your perspectives with those closest to you. The most common excuse, “but I know what I like and don’t like, and I don’t like that.” Well, my two-year-old just spent three months telling me he didn’t like sparkling water, then asked to try it again last week and voila, he liked it.
‘If it doesn’t come instantly, it’s not natural and it’s not meant to be’ is not just a myth of love, but one of learning.
This isn’t just a myth of love, but one of learning. If it doesn’t come instantly, it’s not natural and it’s not meant to be. How many examples can you draw upon from your life where this is obviously not the case? In fact, the famous 10,000-hour metaphor works here too: to get good at anything, you have to put in the work.
Your mindset influences more than your expectations, it changes your behavior. A fixed mindset diminishes curiosity about topics you perceive to be inconsequential to your world (and worldview); a growth mindset allows you to consider possibilities that exist outside your current reality.
In life, as in love, it is the growth mindset that enables us to learn, be open-minded, and keep finding solutions to challenges that will inevitably arise. If you’re feeling stuck, email me and let me know what’s blocking you. And sign up for our newsletter where we share activities you can do to help you get unstuck and shift your mindset.
by Jeff Hittner, founder of Project X