Christian Living

Why you should embrace “not yet”

As I mentioned last week, my phone died. Yesterday, the new phone we got arrived. It’s an iPhone 5. We decided to go with an iPhone so I can (theoretically) sync my novel and work on it both places. Frankly, the transition has been painful. I’ve already been cranky and feeling like progress is stalled in several areas of my life. It hasn’t helped to feel like I’m back to phone usage 101. I miss my android system! I miss the familiarity of it. I miss having free apps that do what I want them to do.

Been doing lots of whining, in case you couldn’t tell.

Today, I watched this video. It’s a TED talk by Carol Dweck, and in it, she talks about how children handle challenge. It was actually quite fascinating and exactly what I needed to hear. Sometimes I get so frustrated by the minute progress I see on my goals. I want to reach them now! Or at least to see significant progress, rather than 1% improvement every day. But life is about the 1%. If we really made 1% improvement every day, we’d arrive in 100 days. Better to be the turtle than the hare. But I digress.

TED talk. Children can be taught to handle challenge one of two ways. Carol Dweck used a math test to study this behavior. The first way is to see their failure at the test as a failure of themselves–they didn’t do well enough. They couldn’t do well enough. It engenders frustration and ultimately, despair.

The second way is to see their failure as a “not yet”–they haven’t learned enough to pass the test yet. Teachers who started giving their students the grade of “not yet” saw a huge upswing in their students’ scores. Telling your students/children/self that you haven’t gotten there yet reframes challenge as opportunity. It empowers you to study more or read the documentation for your crazy iOS system that isn’t working the way it should or whatever it is that you need to do to succeed. It creates a mindset where success is possible. And it helps your brain grow so you’re more able to handle the next challenge.

This morning, JB Glossinger, told Zig Ziglar’s “How to Train a Flea” story on his Morning Coach podcast. Basically, you put the flea in a jar with the lid on. The flea will always try to jump out. After some time, it learns not to hit the lid and begins to moderate its jumps. When you take the lid off, the flea continues moderating its jumps and will never escape.

Way too often, that is me. I don’t know if it’s a personality thing or how I was raised (or some combination) but I learned early in life to never do something outside of my competencies. Certain things I wasn’t automatically good at and so I would try them once (or not at all) and then not do them again. I didn’t get that “not yet” mindset.

As an adult, I’ve had to catch myself when I fall into fatalism. It’s easy to get stressed and overwhelmed in our crazy, busy society. But there’s always hope because we have a God who redeems everything. And if any religion has a reason to embrace “not yet,” it’s Christianity with our God who is always working our best and a future hope of eternal life with Jesus.

So! I challenge us to stop any time we hear those failure messages and reframe them as “not yet.” I haven’t mastered my phone or designing webpages or writing fiction or podcasting or parenting or teaching or being healthy yet. How about you? What haven’t you done yet?

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