By: Cristina Trette
When I researched the subjects of failure and success, the importance of having a growth mindset is echoed by CEO executives, entrepreneurs, professional athletes, psychologists, and personal development coaches. Many of them credit their success to having a particular type of mantra.
It is critical to grasp that every single one of us will struggle or find ourselves starting at the bottom (again and again). After a setback, some will crumble and never find their way back up. Others propel themselves forward, and dedicate themselves to learning and growth after the fall.
What we believe about ourselves when we fail matters. Do we believe we are inherently skilled and capable, so we get back up, and keep going? Or do we believe that we don’t have what it takes, that we are innately flawed, so we give up?
Having a growth mindset, a term coined by Dr. Carol Dweck, may be the most important factor in predicting an individual’s future achievement and success.
Those who have a growth mindset believe they will rebound from setbacks and failures. They also believe that regular application of effort, focus, and dedication (with built in time for restoration) will bring results. Growth mindset individuals believe they can become skilled in any endeavor, no matter what it may be.
Fixed mindset individuals, on the other hand, believe that they were born with skills, aptitudes, traits, and intelligence that are set “as is”. They think, “I either have it or I don’t” and do not believe that hard work and effort will make much of a difference. These underlying beliefs lead many fixed mindset individuals to quit or give up on tasks, projects, or goals when they discover that they are not good at it.
Our measures of fixed-ness and growth-ness fall on a spectrum. And many individuals have a fixed mindset with some tasks and a growth mindset with others.
Growth mindset is not new. After all, Carol Dweck's book "Mindset" was published in 2007. Yet, I work in the field of marriage and family therapy. I have plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that many individuals who are accomplished in career, do not have a growth mindset when it comes to love.
Many individuals credit success to growth mindset when it comes to work. Yet, when it comes to marriage and relationships, they admit they are not good at it, announcing their fixedness, or that they will never be good in love.
If we take the growth mindset theory and apply it to love and marriage, it becomes clear that all of us can get really good at relationships. It also becomes clear that all of us will have setbacks, struggles, challenges, and downturns.
Perhaps the ones who find themselves deeply satisfied in relationships, maintain a belief that they will learn how to be better and do better after each fight or any time they find themselves in that place.
Just like the countless entrepreneurs who esteem their financial and career success to their ability to learn and grow after failure, what if the people who are successful in love and marriage know that with effort, determination, and grit they can make their current relationship work better and better?
Could it be that the key to deeply loving the person you are with, and having a relationship that brings joy, great sex, brilliant conversation, adventure, fun, and someone solid to count on for the rest of your life starts with the dedication of both partners to develop a growth mindset in love?
On an existential level, it is quite possible that the whole point of life long partnership is to choose someone who will push you to become better, hold you to a higher standard, question you when you stop being yourself, and extend unconditional love throughout all if it. Contrast this to the fairy tale ending we have all been sold on.
Carol Dweck explains love relationship mindset in this way:
“In the fixed mindset, the ideal is instant, perfect, and perpetual compatibility. Like it was meant to be. Like riding off into the sunset. Like, “they lived happily ever after”.
Happily ever after assumes love does not need to be worked at.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I used to have a fixed mindset in love. I will never forget the conversation that changed this.
I had taken an inventory of all the mistakes I was making in my current relationship. This was a humbling experience. After this exercise, I concluded there was something wrong with me, I don't know how to do relationships, and maybe I was better off putting everything into career and children and forgetting about love.
Luckily my coach, Pam Dunn, snapped me out of my fixed mindset. She reminded me that my relationship will work when I decide to make it work.
Growth mindset couples focus on developing the qualities that are important for the relationship to flourish long term.
According to Dweck, “The growth mindset says all of these things can be developed. All – you, your partner, and the relationship – are capable of growth and change”.
Yes riding off into the sunset with my prince still sounds dreamy. Yet, knowing that I am an agent of change, able to influence the development and outcome of my relationship, that is something to fall in love with.
Cristina Trette works with couples and parents who want to improve relationships while attaining personal well-being.
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