How to develop a growth mindset for marriage (and the rest of your life)

In marriage, love, respect and acceptance is not enough. That last key ingredient is the willingness to put in the effort.
The recognition that  through the years, you, your spouse and your marriage will all grow and change and the commitment to the marriage fosters that willingness to be adaptable. That is the hallmark of a growth-mindset. (Read more in Marriage is all about love, respect and acceptance. And something else?)

[ In very short: with a growth-mindset, the person understands that with dedication and hard work, anyone can grow, change and develop new or improve skills and thinking patterns. On the other hand, someone with a fixed-mindset believes their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits, that someone either ‘has it or they don’t’ and that just can’t be changed. They are convinced that talent alone creates success, it shouldn’t take effort.
Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. You could have a predominant growth mindset in an area but there can still be things that trigger you into a fixed mindset trait.]

Some ways to foster and strengthen your growth mindset.

Each of these is elaborated below.

  1. Examine your current beliefs. When do you operate from a fixed-mindset or growth-mindset?  Be honest with yourself.   
  2. Change the words of your self talk.   
  3. Acknowledge that all humans are imperfect. 
  4. Don’t judge.  
  5. Reflect often. 
  6. Notice how your environment impacts your growth mindset. 
  7. Learn from others.  
  8. Just do it! 

1  Examine your current beliefs. When do you operate from a fixed-mindset or growth-mindset?  Be honest with yourself.   When you know where you stand, you know where to improve.

  • When something you did didn’t turn out quite the way you had hoped, which is closest to how do you usually respond: 1 Shift blame to others.  2 Recognize your mistake and try to hide it or forget it. 3 Take responsibility, reflect on what could be done differently in the future.
  • When faced with something new, which is closest to how do you usually respond: 1  Stressed, afraid you won’t be able to do it right.  2  Excited about trying something new, even if you don’t know how it will work out.  Avoid starting at all cost/ just don’t do it.
  • When someone offers to give you feedback on your performance, which is closest to how do you usually respond: 1 Nervous that there was something wrong with your performance.  2 Interested to hear how other people experienced your performance and eager to hear ways to enhance it. 3  Refuse to hear it.
  • When you hear about someone who ‘made it’, which is closest to how do you usually think about it: 1  Some people just are lucky; they have the right friends or family.  2  Good for him; I could never do that, I just don’t have enough chutzpah to do what he did to get there.  3 I want to learn more about him and his path to success.
  • Fill in the blank: “I am too [old/ young/ not smart enough/ clumsy] to be able to do [something that you really want to do].”
  • Fill in the blank: “I am [this way]/ I do [this] because when I was younger [something happened].”

2   Change the words of your self talk.  The words in which we think define how we see the situation.

  • “This is an opportunity to learn a new skill.” rather than “It is too hard to learn that at this point in my life.”
  • “I can’t do this – yet. If I keep at it, I’ll get it.” rather than “I was never good at this.”
  • “What are some ways that I might approach this?” rather than “This can’t be done.”
  • “What do I still need to learn or figure out in order to achieve this?” rather than “I don’t know how to do this.”
  • “I’m willing to ask.” rather than “I don’t want people to know that I don’t know everything about this subject, so I will figure it out myself.”
  • “That didn’t go as I had hoped, I totally slipped up on that one.” rather than “I can never do anything right.”
  • “That’s a setback, what can I learn from this?” rather than “I’m doomed.”

3   Acknowledge that all humans are imperfect.

  • Don’t hide from your weaknesses. Embrace your limitations. “It is true that I am tone-deaf. I know that with enough effort and dedication, I will be able to keep a tune. I am choosing not to put my effort there.”  Caveat:  Don’t think that about every one of your limitations.
  • Stop justifying everything (even to yourself). When we justify our actions, beliefs or words, we have implicitly placed another person (or even ourselves)  in a position to judge us.  Not everything we do needs to be perfect.  “That wasn’t my best moment. And that’s OK. No need to wriggle myself out of that one.”

4  Don’t judge. When we judge, our ego compares the self with another, often putting others down to temporarily boost up the self.  This judgmentalism generally comes from insecurity and intimidation by others.  And jealousy.   Comparing between ourselves and another person is not healthy for a growth mindset; inevitably, some people are more proficient in some areas than others are.

  • Monitor your thoughts. If you find yourself being judgmental, just stop yourself.  “These types of thoughts are not productive.  I will just stop here.”   Remind yourself to observe your thoughts.
  • Don’t judge yourself. (If you’re judging others, you’re probably judging yourself pretty harshly as well.) You can stop these thoughts too and move along to more positive thinking of yourself. “I’m not going down that path. Move along.”
  • Don’t join in the negative judging that others around you might be doing.

5  Reflect often.

  • Review your day, week, month. Your interactions, things you accomplished or failed at.
  • Celebrate your achievements. Acknowledge your contributions to the overall success of your team. “Hey, my research played a big part in the new design. Yay me.”
  • Congratulate yourself on your progress toward a goal. “I know now more about this than I did before. I am excited to learn the next part.”
  • Identify your fixed-mindset triggers. Make a list of the situations that throw you into a fixed-mindset, and what self talk you use during those times when you are stuck in that fixed-mindset. “I am noticing that whenever someone in authority says to me ‘I want to speak to you’, I get all flustered and start thinking of all the things I might have done wrong.”
  • Recognize the areas where you fell short or that need some improvement. Seek ways – small goals – to achieve them. “I don’t fully understand the whole system – yet. I will ask someone on the team to help me.”  Or consciously put them away for the time being.  “I know I ought to put effort into understanding this better. I am choosing to put this aside for now and put effort into another aspect of the project.”

6  Notice how your environment impacts your growth mindset. The words, actions and attitudes of people around you, the media you take in, and your friends and family all seep into subconscious and can either feed or hinder your growth.

  • What is the general mindset of most people around you (your community, friends, media); are most people growth oriented or of fixed mindset?  Be honest with yourself.
  • How do the important people in your life relate to you – do they believe that with hard work and dedication you can achieve, or that you are limited in talents and growth. Protect your growth mindset from naysayers; don’t let their attitudes undermine your potential.

7  Learn from others.  

  • Seek out people to emulate. What are their guiding principles? What makes them tic? What drives them? What are their values? How do they make time for everything that is important to them? As possible, ask for the opportunity to speak with them about their journey.
  • You can circumvent some of life’s challenges by learning from the mistakes and life lessons of others. Observe their paths, their trials, their failures, the hiccups along the way to their successes. Gain strength from their challenges. Learn what to do in similar situations, or what not to do.

8   Just do it!  Even if it doesn’t make sense to you (yet).

  • The physical act of doing it makes an imprint on the brain and can actually make changes in the brain (you can read more about this – google neuroplasticity) . Just knowing that the brain continues to grow throughout your life – by your own actions – should be encouraging enough for you to work on making those changes.   But you have to do it!
  • Make those small changes that your spouse is asking. Even if you don’t (yet) understand why it is important to them. He wants you to show appreciation more often; so say it more often. She wants you to thank her at the meal for preparing the Shabbos meal; just do it even if it feels awkward at first.  (And close the toilet seat cover – even if it makes no sense to you.)

Your mindset affects everything. Keep on growing!

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