The Power of Yet: A Growth Mindset

yetSmall words are often our most powerful words. No, Yes, Now, Love, and Stop are all small words with power. When we respond to a situation or question with these words we convey power of conviction.

I’d like to add another small word to the list: YET. Yet conveys hope, growth, possibility, future action, and positivism. Consider these two sentences:

  1. I don’t understand financial stuff.
  2. I don’t understand financial stuff, yet.

See the difference? The first sentence conveys that lack of understanding is inherent, genetic, is-what-it-is and will always be that way. Adding YET, says I don’t understand now, but I can understand, and in fact will be working to understand.

I personally experienced this shift in thinking of my own financial expertise. I didn’t understand financial language and felt it was all beyond my ability to comprehend. Kind of silly with hindsight, as I had an engineering degree from a great university, with good grades to boot. Yet financial stuff baffled me.

I didn’t think of the YET thing then, but it was forced on me as the MBA program I entered required courses in that dreaded field – Finance. Gradually I realized it was just another language to learn. Compound interest, yield, rate of return, selling short, long term gain, were all just describing formulas or procedures that were just as understandable and doable as ohm’s law.

Income taxes? Not a problem, after a short course of tax preparation it was all quite clear. We all have the ability to learn new things. Whether we choose to do so is another matter. But recognizing the power we hold of choosing to learn or choosing to not learn, is much more satisfying than feeling stupid.

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

Psychologist Carol Dweck popularized the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset. According to Dweck, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, “A mindset is a self-perception or ‘self-theory’ that people hold about themselves. Believing that you are either ‘intelligent’ or ‘unintelligent’ is a simple example of a mindset.”

“I don’t understand financial stuff” is an example of a fixed mindset. We hear this mindset all the time when people say something like “I just can’t balance my checkbook.”

7885217820_9d39202171_popeyeIn a fixed mindset I’m assuming that’s who I am, as that great comic-book philosopher, Popeye declared, “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.”

According to Dweeb, adding YET to that declaration swings it to a more positive, change-oriented way of thinking, what she calls a growth mindset.  “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point.”

With a growth mindset, I realize that my inability to understand financial terminology and concepts is not inherent and genetic, but simply a lack of education and practice. I may find I have little interest in the field of finance, but I am capable of understanding it.

Choice: Blessing or Curse?

Armed with an understanding of my mindset on a topic, I’m faced with a choice. Remain ignorant or get educated. I’m facing that right now with my cable TV and Internet bill relentlessly climbing each year. I have a couple hundred channels of stuff available, but only watch a handful, and then not regularly.

So, “cutting the cable” sounds intriguing. People talk about Sling, Hulu, Roku, a new Amazon bundle, and many more. Ideally, I would make a list of each channel I watch or wish to watch and then purchase only those. But, this ideal doesn’t exist, yet.

And it’s not just a software or video provider to pick, there’s also a variety of hardware options to consider. Overwhelming and baffling.

So again, the choice: Remain baffled and overwhelmed—which includes continuing to pay for stuff I don’t watch and likely never will—or get more information so I can make a good decision. Remain “fixed mindset” or shift to “growth.”

Choice is a wonderful blessing and curse. It’s easier to shrug and claim it’s all beyond my ability to comprehend, but it’s such a powerful feeling to delve fully into the alternatives and options and come to a conclusion based on full information.

To Do Today

What have you been telling yourself you can’t do? Isn’t it time to add YET to that thought?


Mindset:The New Psychology of Success

Popeye image courtesy Flikr user Mike Licht, CC Attr Lic.;

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