“Yet” is a super powerful word. “I can’t do it yet” is a statement full of possibility. It is the statement of someone who is on a journey of self-creation and learning, rather than someone who has reached their final destination.
But more often we say “I can’t do it,” a statement of permenance and finality. “I can’t do it” is an admission of failure, a denial of the possibility of growth. There is no point in re-visiting the goal or of working to improve if we think our capabilities are static.
Leg behind the head pose (eka pada sirsasana) is a pose that I can’t do yet, but I’ve only recently added the yet to that statement. I’ve tried this pose now and again over the years, thought “I can’t do it” and left it at that. I haven’t included it in my daily practice or made it part of my yoga journey.
And maybe I will never get my leg behind my head. After all, I have been doing yoga for over twenty years, and I’m now in my forties, so perhaps the odds are against me. But since I’ve never practiced it every day, I don’t really know.
“I can’t do it yet,” allows for more possibility. I can practice this pose every day, and see where it takes me. Maybe I will get my leg behind my head, or maybe I will end up somewhere else (elbow behind the knee or toe below the chin perhaps). It will have been a journey though; I won’t be quite the same person at the end.
People with a growth mindset see their abilities as something malleable, that can be changed and developed with hard work and perseverance. Their identity is not based on a fixed set of characteristics, but on their journey of development. They are more willing to challenge themselves and risk failure, because failure does not threaten their identity. And because they challenge themselves, they learn more. Research by Carol Dweck shows that people with a growth mindset are more successful in learning and work.
People with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are static. Their identity is based on their current skills and abilities. For those with a fixed mindset, mistakes can be a serious threat to their positive sense of identity. If I think of myself as clever, and I do badly on a test, that must mean that I am not clever after all. If I think of myself as good at my job, and then I make a mistake, that must mean I am bad at my job, rather than simply having a development need. There is no point in practicing when this will only reinforce my sense of failure.
Since the willingness to challenge ourselves, to practice and to make good use of feedback are important for career development, as well as for getting your leg behind your head, a growth mindset is worth cultivating. People who seek out feedback learn things they help them progress. People who step out of their comfort zone sometimes achieve things they would never have thought possible.
How often do we look at a job vacancy, notice the one desired skill that we are not confident of, and say “I can’t do it,” and talk ourselves out of an application? Apparently women are more prone to this than men. When we do this, we close down a new opportunity instead of considering the possibility of developing a new skill once in the job, or even asking for training.
Many of us will have day dreamed about setting up a little business. Self employment is bound to involve some new skills. The more we see our skills and abilities as changeable, the more open we will be to taking on the challenge of a career change. We will have faith in our ability to learn new skills such as marketing on social media or looking after tax returns and accounts, as we need them.
“Yet” can also invite a problem solving approach. Imagine you want to go back to study, but you are don’t have the time or money. “I can’t do it” means you might as well forget about it and stop hankering after something you can’t have. “I can’t do it yet” commits you to future possibilities and starts the process of planning and problem solving so that one day you can. Maybe there is a way to find the time or money after all, even if it can’t happen right now.
When we work with learners on a training programme, we use the phrase “not yet competant”. This conveys our belief in the learner’s potential to achieve, with a bit of hard work and practice. And most of the time they do, as long as they accept the need for a bit of hard graft. Learners who are committed to their studies undergo a huge transformation in their abilities and confidence.
A simple way to get started in developing a growth mind set is to notice every time you say, “I can’t do it” and simply add the word “yet”.