I Can’t Do That… Yet!

January 19, 2021

How many times in your life have you said or thought, “I can’t do that”? Sometimes we are quick to say it, but how often do we stop and really think about the meaning of that statement? I. Can’t. Do. That. When you let it soak in for a minute, do you find it a little depressing? It is such a dead-end statement. We are admitting defeat and not even attempting to make a change. Imagine if we all trained our brains to add “yet” at the end of that phrase. I can’t do that… yet. That one little word changes everything.

By adding the word “yet”, we are admitting that we can’t currently perform a certain task… but we are working on changing it.

This can be hard for some people—especially the perfectionists in the group. That canyon of space between “current time” and “yet” can feel overwhelmingly vast. And working to close that gap requires effort, patience, and some trial and error. Yep, mistakes. That’s the scary part, right? It’s uncomfortable. Doubts fill our minds. “What if I try and mess up?” “Will my boss think I’m not capable?” “What if I’m the only person that can’t do this?” It is much easier to stick with what we know. Showcase what we are good at.

Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, has spent years researching this topic and has categorized our mental approaches as either having a “Growth Mindset” or a “Fixed Mindset”. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck describes the differences between the two:

Growth Mindset: Those with a growth mindset believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishments.
Fixed Mindset: Those with a fixed mindset believe the opposite. They believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them (for instance, doing the same job over and over instead of trying something new). They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.

Chances are, after reading those descriptions, you are already thinking of people you know who fall in to either of those categories. We can all think of people—family members, peers, colleagues—who show strong characteristics of the growth mindset. They are willing, and even quick, to try something new, not afraid to fail, and bounce back quickly when things don’t work out the first time. And we can also think of others who seem to fit the fixed mindset more: people who stick to what they know, avoid risks, and perform consistently—but never different.

And before we jump to conclusions here on what is the better approach, let’s admit that both approaches set the stage for potential success while also flirting with blow-up failures or the slow death of complacency.

Focusing on a growth mindset is a hot topic in education these days. Teaching our youth the ABC’s of a Growth Mindset is on the agenda of every back-to-school faculty meeting across the country.

Attitude and effort determine how much I learn.
I can be Brave & step outside of my comfort zone.
Challenges help me grow.

But, shouldn’t this be a focus for adults as well? We don’t really believe that old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” do we?

A report released by workplace consultancy McKinsey, stated that up to 375 million workers worldwide will need to change roles or learn new skills by 2030. Why? Because our workplaces are changing at what can seem like a mind-blowing pace. Now, more than ever, in order to stay competitive—and even employed—we must be adaptable, resilient, and open to learning new things. We need to approach each day with growth mindset! Of course, the culture of the workplace must also embrace a growth mindset and be open to some risk-taking, learning from mistakes, and sometimes turning to Plan-B. (Which is a great blog topic for another day!)

Personally, I find the word “yet” to be energizing—like I’ve just challenged myself to something new. Sure, this can be in the context of learning a new professional skill that makes me more marketable, but it also applies to our personal lives. Think about all of the things that you’ve never done or thought you weren’t able to do… and then put the word “yet” at the end of the sentence. Its empowering, isn’t it?

What will your “yet” be?