Yet. Such a tiny word that can do such heavy lifting.
The power of “yet” to change our minds — to literally change our brains as well as our attitudes and, thereby, our chances for success — is part of this TEDx talk by Eduardo Briceno on The Power of Belief — Mindset and Success. He posits that the key to achieving our goals is not our level of effort or focus or resilience, it’s the mindset that fuels those things.
Those operating under a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence and their abilities are fixed. They are naturally good at some things and not at others, and that will not change. For these people, having to work hard at something is a sign that they do not have the ability to master it. Working hard is itself a sign of failure.
Let me say that again. Failure itself isn’t even required to make them give up. Working hard is itself a sign of failure.
- This is really hard.
- I’m just not good at those kinds of things.
- If I keep going, everyone will see how bad I am at it.
- I should move on to something I’m good at.
People operating under a growth mindset believe that they can change their abilities and their intelligence through their effort. For them, failure is part of growth, so when things get difficult, instead of losing confidence and giving up, they push ahead and figure their way through whatever made them struggle. These people are most focused on learning, on how to improve.
Briceno goes on to argue that brain imaging tells us that the growth mindset is the scientifically correct one, that we can develop our abilities and change our brains in the process. We can even change from the self-defeating fixed mindset to the more hopeful growth mindset, in which effort is not a sign of failure but an energizing force.
I am certainly energized by his talk. I definitely had a fixed mindset about a lot of things for a long time. But even before I heard Briceno’s talk, I’d been noticing a shift: my publishing journey was changing my mindset. I had to learn all the time, not only figuring out how to write/rewrite/rewrite a good story, but also how to go out into the world with that story, not to mention how to deal with near 100% rejection. And to still keep going. Work on the story some more. Keep trying. Keep failing. Keep trying.
My social abilities have also changed in the last 10 years. I’m still an introvert, still shy, but I can talk to people more easily now. I have some strategies and go-to questions, some things I remind myself — like that social situations that have terrified me in the past have either been okay or sometimes even wonderful, and in any case, I survived.
The biggest change is that I no longer see fear as a good enough reason to hold myself back. You won’t see me on a roller coaster any time soon (fear still isn’t fun for me), but more and more, my vision trumps my fear. Also, since I’m a religious lady, I step out in trust that God will be with me. I’m getting a lot better at that as I get older, and as I step out in trust more and more. Publishing is a crazy world with so much change, so much to learn, so many new skills to master, some of which I’m naturally good at and some of which take a lot of work — including working at the conviction that early and even repeated failure doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not meant to be. I’m developing more of a growth mindset. Letting my curiosity drive. Giving my imagination the helm. Redefining what success might mean.
But I’m not all the way there. Yet.
Which brings me back to Briceno. To help us move from a fixed to a growth mindset, one of the things he suggests is to include one little word in our sentences to ourselves about our abilities. When we say, “I can’t do that,” add one word.
“I can’t do that … yet.”
Yet. Such a tiny word. But I can feel the hope in it, even if it’s just a kernel.
A good friend who lived with “mets” (aka metastatic cancer) for many years, used to say, ”I have cancer, but I am not dying today, so what shall I do instead?” And go on to some fun activity, spreading life because she was not yet on her deathbed.
Although it wasn’t at all a part of the TEDx talk, I also see yet such a profoundly Christian word.
This week I’m reading Lamentations, and I came across this (2:11, 3:21-23):
“I have cried until the tears no longer come. My heart is broken, my spirit poured out … Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! … Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day.”
I have been there. In some areas of life, I’m there right now. Exhausted from despair, but because of God’s love and faithfulness and promises, there is a kernel of hope. I might say the yet with gritted teeth, not seeing how on earth things will change. But I will hang on to it. Because that yet means that I’m looking for and open to God’s leading. Because that yet implies that it is possible — possible for me to be published, for my marriage to get stronger, for my quickness to despair and anger to get slower.