You’re not a failure; you just haven’t got it yet
I just watched one of the most fascinating TED talks I’ve seen recently.
In it, Psychology professor and researcher Carol Dweck discusses the power of believing that you can improve.
This is also called “growth mindset.” It’s the idea that abilities aren’t fixed, but rather, they can be developed and improved upon with effort and perseverance.
I first heard the term growth mindset a few years ago, and Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success got added to my “to read” list shortly after — only to stay there ever since.
I’d completely forgotten about it, and it wasn’t until I was browsing through the list of TED talks last night that it re-appeared and sparked my interest all over again.
She starts off the talk by explaining how students at a Chicago high school were getting the grade of “Not Yet” if they hadn’t passed all the necessary courses they needed to graduate.
While certainly not conventional, it may be a better way to look at and cope with things like difficulty, challenge, and especially failure.
For one thing, it feels a lot less final. It suggests that change is possible, and that there is room for improvement and time to grow into what is necessary to succeed. Rather than being a “No,” it’s more like a “Not quite. Keep trying.”
As Dweck explains, “When you get a grade of ‘Not Yet,’ you understand that you’re on a learning curve. It gives you a path into the future.”
It gives you something to work towards, and to strive for. It gives you purpose.
More than that, though, it makes whatever you are trying to achieve seem possible.
'Not yet' suggests that you can and will get there, at some point. You’re just not there right now.
I can’t speak to how feasible or practical this kind of grading system would really be, but I do know that this way of thinking can be applied to much more than just school. I can see how adopting this mindset of “Not Yet” could serve me in my writing, and even in my life in general.
There is much to be said about viewing a challenge in this way, rather than labelling the outcome a failure and succumbing to the belief that it’s too difficult, you aren’t smart enough, or you’ll never be good enough.
That’s the opposite end of the spectrum, by the way. Having a “fixed mindset” means that you take your current results, grades, etc. to be your permanent ability — something that can’t be changed or improved.
It’s the idea that what you are right now is what you will always be. How good you are at something currently is how good you’ll always be.
It’s not hard to see which perspective is better for development — and also which one has the power to create happier, healthier people.
Instead of feeling stupid, incapable, and judged when we make a mistake, or when something doesn’t go our way, we could engage with it and learn from it, so that we can do better next time.
Each time I publish something that doesn’t get the results I’d like, viewing it from the perspective of “Not Yet” leaves room for something different to happen in the future. If I submit a piece to a publication and it gets rejected, there is always tomorrow.
Failure or rejection is not the end. It’s just another step along the path to “Yes.”
It allows me to take a deeper look at it, process it, and then try again, rather than running away from it and hiding — or worse yet — giving up altogether and never writing again.
It’s also just a lot more fun to believe that you can improve in the areas you most want to improve or need to improve in for your own personal or professional growth.
It makes this whole life thing a lot more friendly, a lot more forgiving, and a lot more inviting.
It creates a world where possibility, creativity, and development are the norm — and that seems like a much more exciting place to live.
We all deserve to live in a world where we aren’t condemned for our mistakes and confined by labels about our abilities. We deserve to grow, to learn, and to have the chance to improve.
As Dweck says, “Once we know that abilities are capable of such growth, it becomes a basic human right for children, all children, to live in places that create that growth — to live in places filled with ‘Yet.’”
Not just children, though. Adults can benefit just as much from viewing the world in this way.
Why not try it and see what happens?