Yet Is a Tiny But Powerful Word

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Simply adding the word yet to the statements you make about yourself may be enough to change your beliefs about yourself and your abilities, as the Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck explains in a video posted last week by the Brainwaves YouTube channel. (The video, I might add, is almost comically low-budget, but let’s ignore that and focus on the insights it contains.)

Dweck gives a brief overview of the research she’s done on the idea of a fixed mind-set versus a growth mind-set: Having a fixed mind-set about yourself and your abilities means you think you are the way you are, and that’s pretty much that. A growth mind-set, on the other hand, means you believe your skills are not static, and you have the ability to change and learn. 

She explains this in the context of a student-teacher relationship, and how the word yet can improve students’ motivation:

We’ve found that putting in certain phrases like not yet or yet can really boost students’ motivation. So if a student says, “I’m not a math person — yet” “I can’t do this — yet.” And it means that with your guidance they will continue on their learning trajectory and get there eventually. It puts their fixed mindset statement into a growth mindset context of learning over time.

And there’s no reason you can’t use this same tactic when talking to yourself, Dweck says on her website. Yet is a little word with potentially big powers of motivation.