I count myself fortunate on so many grounds, but one in particular is my group of running aficionado comrades. A few times a week, we meet early, get going, and get it done, generally chatting the whole way (what better way to get the mind off about what the legs might be whispering/kvetching). Often, I run beside another mom who is a school guidance counselor by day and who has more than her fair share of wise words and insights.
The other morning, she said something that stuck with me: the importance of the word ‘yet’. As in: ‘I can’t do that … yet.’ Especially for kids in the midst of an onslaught of new skills and knowledge yet-to-be-owned, this little three-letter word is a crucial part of that thought. Why? Because it underlines the ability to do (insert skill her) at some point in the future. It provides hope. ‘Yet’ means it will happen, but the time has not come. More time spent on growth and learning, effort spent on practice, or maturation … and it WILL happen.
This is not just a child or adolescent thing. Adults, too, should embrace the hope offered by this little word. You are not a patient parent … yet. You do not know how to cook with whole grains … yet. You do not run 4 miles … yet. But you will, with practice, time, committed effort, you will. So again, in that one little word there is hope.
Yet is part of the vocabulary embraced by those who follow the Growth mindset as a focus for teaching skills and concepts. The Growth mindset is an amazing way to look at your capacity and your abilities and see them not as a set factor, but rather something that you can build upon and grow. The idea is that everyone of every age can embrace change and development because literally anything is possible. Trying something for the first time might result in success or it might result in a lesson in what might work better the next time you try. This is why that magic word ‘yet’ is so amazing: right now, in this minute, your goal is still a goal, but because change is possible, it will come. This goal is indeed attainable.
Every living thing, every person has a different starting point. Is there such a thing as ‘ordinary’? We all have assets that help us along the way, be it a rich childhood environment, good nutrition, or access to quality health care. We also have those things that might not contribute positively such as a negative relationship, a broken limb, or a severe cold that has us missing work/swim/practice. You might not have slept well the night before a test. You might have forgotten your thumb drive with the presentation. So what are you going to do about it? Is this going to be the factor that decides whether or not you fail? Or is this just not the time – yet – that you’ll reach your goal, and you can try again tomorrow? These are big questions to ask yourself (or your child).
Mistakes happen. To err is human. What are you going to do about that mistake? Sitting back and having a good cry might feel like the best answer, and it may very well be that in the immediate aftermath, but after that? Then what? That decision point is crucial. Giving up is one option. Looking at the mistake or error, and learning from it is another. It all depends on how you want to look at the situation, and how you want to grow from it. You can just walk away, sure, or you can get up, dust yourself off, and try again.
Say this to yourself: Not yet. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe after another 10 tries. Maybe not until next year. But it will happen. Believe in that possibility, because I know it is just that: a possibility.
To learn more about Growth mindset, there are a myriad of sites and excellent links. A good place to start: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/