from the world's big
Why Mindset Is Critical in Successful Relationships
Whether you have a fixed or growth mindset affects the quality (and future) of your relationships.
Since the publication of her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s theories on fixed and growth mindsets have made an important impact on education nationwide, even if some of her advice was drastically misunderstood.
Of equal importance is her chapter on relationships. Perhaps because education is quantifiable the focus of mindsets has gone there. Regardless of means of measurement—common core is one juggernaut of controversy, for example—how we educate children and young adults will most likely always be measured in some manner.
That begs the question: Why do we stop educating ourselves as adults?
Of course, many of us learn until the day we die. Yet I know intelligent people who are emotional catastrophes when it comes to relationships. Part of this might just reside in the fact that love is not treated as a topic of study in our earlier years. This is tragic. I acquired many useless skills and much irrelevant knowledge during the first two decades of my life, but never was how to deal with a partner scrawled on a blackboard.
And so it is that many friends keep dating the 'same person,' over and over, or so they claim. Dweck’s fixed mindset basically states that the cards are stacked against you, so don’t even bother; or, from another angle, you’re not cut from the same cloth as people who can accomplish the task you’re attempting. Try as you might, the stars are just not aligned in your favor.
Growth mindset-oriented people add the word ‘yet’ to challenges. Over my dozen years as an instructor numerous gym-goers and friends have told me they don’t practice yoga because they’re not flexible (fixed). Dweck would argue that to achieve a growth mindset, simply state, ‘I’m not flexible yet.’
Obviously this implies action, an uncomfortable one at that, given how daunting a task a new physical endeavor first appears. In relationships another person enters the picture, which can actually triple the challenge. As Dweck writes,
Now you can have a fixed mindset about three things. You can believe that your qualities are fixed, your partner’s qualities are fixed, and the relationship’s qualities are fixed—that it’s inherently good or bad, meant-to-be or not meant-to-be.
The ‘meant-to-be’ approach to relationships can be filed into the same magical thinking category as the ‘everything happens for a reason’ theory. The notion that life is a journey to one person works well in fairy tales, though not real life. Not only does it create false expectations, it does nothing to aid you when inevitable conflict arises in the relationship. As Dweck states,
Just as there are no great achievements without setbacks, there are no great relationships without conflicts and problems along the way.
There’s also the self-defeating attitude lurking from the start, such as, ‘well, the last five didn’t work out, so why bother?’ This stems from thinking that your personal qualities are permanent, or by believing the same of your partner’s qualities. Successful relationships thrive on each individual changing, but the other has to be on board for what emerges. If one person is open to change and the other opposed, an impasse is guaranteed.
The ‘afraid of change’ mentality sometimes collides with superiority complexes, in which a victory for your partner is irrelevant or even damaging if you yourself have not experienced some sort of gain from it. If your initial reaction to your partner’s good news is ‘how is this going to affect me?’ rather than ‘good for you!’ bitterness and envy will dominate. There is nothing sustainable about being with someone who tries to drag you down instead of lifting you up.
In a culture dominated by starter marriages and celebrity break-up gossip, we at least can hope to learn from past mistakes. Changing them is the key. As Dweck notes, all of us have some fixed and some growth mindsets. The goal is to focus on the latter. In terms of relationships, her four pieces of advice are time-tested ways of keeping not only your relationship moving forward, but your own self-value.
First, she asks, what have you learned from past rejections? Is there vengeance in your blood, or can you forgive and move on? How you leave one relationship will invariably influence your next; we all carry baggage along. Letting go of bitterness before engaging with your next partner is critical for the success of that relationship.
Do you enter a relationship believing there will never be any conflict, that everything will be perfect from day one? If so, Dweck asks you to rethink that. Using problems as a "vehicle for developing greater understanding and intimacy" will serve you better than folding when the pressure begins. Listening and responding honestly, from a place of caring, is the key to getting closer to your partner.
Is blame an ever-present theme in your relationships? Dweck created a third character, Maurice, in her marriage. When issues between her and her husband arise, instead of blaming the other person, they blame Maurice. Then they discuss how Maurice would best grow from the situation. This creates an emotional and cognitive distance from blaming the other as well as self-blame. Critical thinking is important in matters of the heart, but always playing the victim (or victimizing the other) keeps you mired in the fixed mindset.
Shyness is a high hurdle for many. Yet, Dweck argues, shy people are perfectly suited for the growth mindset. Using your shyness for social engagement and learning instead of self-criticism helps you grow as a person, as well as being open and honest with your partner. It’s important to remember that this is a practice; no one is naturally born with the gift of being the center of attention. You might not want to strive for such attention, but speaking your mind and making yourself present is important.
Image: Orlando / Getty Images
Derek Beres is a Los-Angeles based author, music producer, and yoga/fitness instructor at Equinox Fitness. Stay in touch @derekberes.
Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
From "if-by-whiskey" to the McNamara fallacy, being able to spot logical missteps is an invaluable skill.
- A fallacy is the use of invalid or faulty reasoning in an argument.
- There are two broad types of logical fallacies: formal and informal.
- A formal fallacy describes a flaw in the construction of a deductive argument, while an informal fallacy describes an error in reasoning.
Appeal to privacy<p>When someone behaves in a way that negatively affects (or could affect) others, but then gets upset when others criticize their behavior, they're likely engaging in the appeal to privacy — or "mind your own business" — fallacy. Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who speeds excessively on the highway, considering his driving to be his own business.</li><li>Someone who doesn't see a reason to bathe or wear deodorant, but then boards a packed 10-hour flight.</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "You're not the boss of me." "Worry about yourself."</p>
Sunk cost fallacy<p>When someone argues for continuing a course of action despite evidence showing it's a mistake, it's often a sunk cost fallacy. The flawed logic here is something like: "We've already invested so much in this plan, we can't give up now." Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who intentionally overeats at an all-you-can-eat buffet just to get their "money's worth"</li><li>A scientist who won't admit his theory is incorrect because it would be too painful or costly</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "We must stay the course." "I've already invested so much...." "We've always done it this way, so we'll keep doing it this way."</p>
If-by-whiskey<p>This fallacy is named after a speech given in 1952 by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_S._Sweat" target="_blank">Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr.</a>, a state representative for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi" target="_blank">Mississippi</a>, on the subject of whether the state should legalize alcohol. Sweat's argument on prohibition was (to paraphrase):<br></p><p><em>If, by whiskey, you mean the devil's brew that causes so many problems in society, then I'm against it. But if whiskey means the oil of conversation, the philosopher's wine, "</em><em>the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning;" then I am certainly for it.</em></p>
Slippery slope<p>This fallacy involves arguing against a position because you think choosing it would start a chain reaction of bad things, even though there's little evidence to support your claim. Example:<br></p><ul><li>"We can't allow abortion because then society will lose its general respect for life, and it'll become harder to punish people for committing violent acts like murder."</li><li>"We can't legalize gay marriage. If we do, what's next? Allowing people to marry cats and dogs?" (Some people actually made this <a href="https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/national/cats-marrying-dogs-and-five-other-things-same-sex-marriage-won-mean/dLV9jKqkJOWUFZrSBETWkK/" target="_blank">argument</a> before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S.)</li></ul><p>Of course, sometimes decisions <em>do </em>start a chain reaction, which could be bad. The slippery slope device only becomes a fallacy when there's no evidence to suggest that chain reaction would actually occur.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "If we do that, then what's next?"</p>
"There is no alternative"<p><span style="background-color: initial;">A modification of the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">false dilemma</a><span style="background-color: initial;">, this fallacy (often abbreviated to TINA) argues for a specific position because there are no realistic alternatives. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used this exact line as a slogan to defend capitalism, and it's still used today to that same end: Sure, capitalism has its problems, but we've seen the horrors that occur when we try anything else, so there is no alternative.</span><br></p><p>Language to watch out for: "If I had a magic wand…" "What <em>else</em> are we going to do?!"</p>
Ad hoc arguments<p>An ad hoc argument isn't really a logical fallacy, but it is a fallacious rhetorical strategy that's common and often hard to spot. It occurs when someone's claim is threatened with counterevidence, so they come up with a rationale to dismiss the counterevidence, hoping to protect their original claim. Ad hoc claims aren't designed to be generalizable. Instead, they're typically invented in the moment. <a href="https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ad_hoc" target="_blank">RationalWiki</a> provides an example:<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It is clearly said in the Bible that the Ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Bob: "A purely wooden vessel of that size could not be constructed; the largest real wooden vessels were Chinese treasure ships which required iron hoops to build their keels. Even the <em>Wyoming</em> which was built in 1909 and had iron braces had problems with her hull flexing and opening up and needed constant mechanical pumping to stop her hold flooding."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It's possible that God intervened and allowed the Ark to float, and since we don't know what gopher wood is, it is possible that it is a much stronger form of wood than any that comes from a modern tree."</p>
Snow job<p><span style="background-color: initial;">This fallacy occurs when someone doesn't really have a strong argument, so they just throw a bunch of irrelevant facts, numbers, anecdotes and other information at the audience to confuse the issue, making it harder to refute the original claim. Example:</span><br></p><ul><li>A tobacco company spokesperson who is confronted about the health risks of smoking, but then proceeds to show graph after graph depicting many of the other ways people develop cancer, and how cancer metastasizes in the body, etc.</li></ul><p>Watch out for long-winded, data-heavy arguments that seem confusing by design.</p>
McNamara fallacy<p>Named after <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McNamara" target="_blank">Robert McNamara</a>, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_Defense" target="_blank">U.S. secretary of defense</a> from 1961 to 1968, this fallacy occurs when decisions are made based solely on <em>quantitative metrics or observations,</em> ignoring other factors. It stems from the Vietnam War, in which McNamara sought to develop a formula to measure progress in the war. He decided on bodycount. But this "objective" formula didn't account for other important factors, such as the possibility that the Vietnamese people would never surrender.<br></p><p>You could also imagine this fallacy playing out in a medical situation. Imagine a terminal cancer patient has a tumor, and a certain procedure helps to reduce the size of the tumor, but also causes a lot of pain. Ignoring quality of life would be an example of the McNamara fallacy.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "You can't measure that, so it's not important."</p>
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Generation Ships<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a1e6445c7168d293a6da3f9600f534a2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H2f0Wd3zNj0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.