I don’t know how many couples I have said it to: the key to making your marriage ‘work’ is willingness! It’s not researched data yet, but my experience working with individuals and couples would show that those who have an open attitude and a willingness to try will result in success.

When people have a strong desire to make their relationships better, it rarely ever has to do with their personality, skills, or intelligence. The capacity to make relationships great is not “rocket science” or overly complicated. Competence is not the issue. The skills and types of intelligence necessary for healthy relationships, and even rebuilding and healing a relationship, can be taught!

 The Question is Are You Willing!

Carol Dweck is a pioneering researcher in the field of motivation, (why people succeed or don’t) and researches “growth mindset” — the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems.

She spent her career studying attitude and performance.  Her latest study shows that your attitude is a better predictor of your success than your IQ. She says people’s principal attitudes are in the category of either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

People with a fixed mindset believe “you are who you are and you cannot change.” Intelligence is mostly fixed and will change little, if any at all. Sounds rather like a ‘victim’ mentality to me, like there is no point in trying, “I can’t do anything about it.” When challenges or hard things come along, emotions will most likely feel hopeless and life becomes overwhelming.

But Dr. Dweck says people with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. They outperform those with a fixed mindset, even when they have a lower IQ. They embrace challenges, and see them as opportunities to learn something new.  Those with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be cultivated. A growth mindset drives motivation and achievement.  It says “success in life is all about how you deal with failure.”

So, what’s your “mindset”?

When couples work on their relationship with an attitude of willingness and a growth mindset they:

  • Set themselves up for success
  • Believe their effort can and will improve the relationship
  • Embrace the roadblocks and difficulties they have had in the past.  They know effort leads to mastery
  • Learn to take critique/criticism as something to evaluate to become better
  • Are further motivated and inspired by their successes together, and
  • Achieve more: connection, closeness, change, personal and relational growth

Scientists measure electrical activity in the brains of people with fixed mindset and growth mindset. In people with a fixed mindset, the brain had little activity.  They generally ran from error (read: ran from problems, issues, conflict), the brain is not “engaged.” Brains with the growth mindset were “deeply engaged”.  Their brain was “on fire”.  They process the error. They learn from it and then they correct it.

This is how relationships work great! They have a growth mindset, a willing attitude. They are deeply engaged and learn to achieve and have great success.

Check out more of what Carol Dwecks research on Mindset graphic looks like here.  You can also see the possibilities that your effort, actions and intentionality could make on your relationship success.

Fixed Mindset                                                     Growth Mindset

Avoids Challenges                                                  Embraces Challenges

Gives up Easily                                                        Persists in the face of Setbacks

Sees Effort as Fruitless                                           Sees Effort as the Path to Mastery

Ignores useful Negative Feedback                       Learns from Criticism

Feels Threatened by Others Success                    Finds Lessons and Inspiration from Others Success


Which mindset camp do you see yourself in regarding your relationships?

What can you do this week to move more into the Growth Mindset for those most important in your lift?