Purpose//

How Imaginary Dating on a Desert Island Can Help You Get Unstuck in Real Life

In life, as in love, growth mindset enables us to learn, be open-minded, and keep finding solutions to challenges that will inevitably arise.

Hanson Lu via Unsplash
Hanson Lu via Unsplash

I am obsessed with mindset and its role in personal transformation: getting us unstuck and making the impossible possible.

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.

Flexibility and openness win the day.

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.

The Tinder-style Fixed Mindset

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:

  • You believe you already know what you want
  • When you’re unsure about your feelings, you move on
  • When the conversation doesn’t flow right away, you ghost them
  • You look for someone with very specific interests or you won’t go out with them
  • You must share the same political views on every topic
  • You know they’re “the one” right away

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.

The Desert Island Growth Mindset

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?

  • None of your options are your textbook definition of your dream partner — and that’s ok
  • Your mixed feelings about the person actually motivates you to learn more
  • You’ll engage in difficult conversations — otherwise your only talking buddy is a coconut
  • You learn to enjoy the hobbies and interests of your partner
  • It takes you six months to begin to have feelings for the person
  • You don’t care about their political views – BECAUSE you’re on an island!

Let’s break these metaphors down a bit:

You already know what you want

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.

You are unsure about your feelings, so you move on

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. 

When the conversation doesn’t flow right, you ghost them

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.

My interests and views must match theirs

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.

You must get that butterfly feeling right away

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.

If you can’t imagine how you could love someone that doesn’t match you on paper, how could you believe you can see outside the narrow purview of your challenge to find a solution?


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

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