If you have yet to face any real challenges in your life, consider yourself fortunate. At some point, everyone faces a challenge. It will be uncomfortable. It won’t always have a simple answer. And large or small, you will have to figure out a way to solve it.

Avoidance is not the correct response. That’s just trying to get around a situation so that defeat will not have to be experienced. No, what everyone needs is a way of mastering any kind of situation.

As my kids are now young adults, it’s easier to look at elements of child-rearing that many parents fail to recognize. (In fact, some of it I failed to recognize when my kids were school-aged). Great pride is taken with achievements mastered by children, whether it’s in the classroom, the athletic field or the concert stage.

It’s nice to be supportive, of course. But, sort of like investing in the stock market, it is important to remember past performance is not necessarily a guarantee of future results.

Whether you think your child is guaranteed a good future by what they are doing now or, conversely, they are destined to struggle with the challenges they currently face, it is possible to make adjustments that can alter the trajectory of any person of any age.

There is actually value in not achieving success. First, it’s important to understand not everything turns out as planned. And second, you have to start contemplating why something didn’t work and consider what it will take to correct it.

This can be the genesis for real growth.

Learning you have not ‘yet’ mastered a challenge

With reflection comes the ability to create positive change. Frustrated by not accomplishing a task of goal? No, you did not achieve it this time.

Not yet, anyway.

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck taps into that line of thinking in her book
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  Dweck notes the topics of risk, learning, intelligence, tests, failure, effort and several other elements are the basis for our beliefs. And it is in these beliefs that individuals determine how well we handle a situation or master a specific task.

Another way of putting it: It is about the ability to differentiate between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

A fixed mindset presumes individuals are pre-wired with a specific amount of intelligence and talent, and that amount cannot be changed. A growth mindset, however, asserts it is possible to improve talent and ability through dedication and hard work.

Dweck believes mindsets are not concrete, but are formed by our beliefs. Thus, we all have the ability to not only change our beliefs, but how our minds work.

Image courtesy of Nigel Holmes

This is a concept which has been discussed in great detail and practiced by the teaching staff at New Morning School in Plymouth, MI.

Dweck tracks through the power of not “yet” in her TED Talk. She cites examples where young students are presented with math problems just beyond their skill level. But rather than brush off the problem as something they can’t achieve, many embraced the concept of a challenge.

In fact, Dweck went on to also note excellence achieved by learners who overcame traditional obstacles (or, a fixed mindset) to become high achievers.

She said by implementing the concept of not “yet” into daily thinking, it develops a growth mindset which allows students (or non-students and adults, for that matter) to have the confidence and determination to persevere.

It’s a fundamental change in approach and thought process. Instead of saying, “I don’t know how we can do this,” a growth mindset wires a person to approach a challenge by saying, “We haven’t figured this out yet, but let’s think about how we will do this.”

Facing a challenge with a close-ended response such as “I can’t” provides an out for finding a solution. “Not yet” means you expect to use your resources to find an answer.

Caproni’s ‘Science of Success’ based on deep research

A similar method of thinking has been presented by Paula Caproni, a professor in
Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management with the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Her book and program for The Science of Success: What Researchers Know That You Should Know goes deeper into research to find traits used to achieve personal and professional success. Similar to Dweck’s work, Caproni offers practical advice using a growth mindset to overcome obstacles to achieve success.

Not only does Caproni cite the findings found through exhaustive research from achievers in many different fields, but she relates her own story of working from being a waitress in her family’s diner to earning her Ph.D. from Yale and a faculty position at U-M.

This is far more than simple conjecture. Businesses are finding real value in recruiting workers and leaders with a proven growth mindset. In fact, the Harvard Business Review wrote about the topic in How Companies Can Profit from a Growth Mindset

Dweck and Caproni are two examples of how a growth mindset and implementing a ‘not yet’ mentality can be powerful.

As students, parents and educators, everyone can benefit greatly from a growth mindset.

Rick Schulte at New Morning School, Plymouth.

Rick Schulte is the communications and marketing director for New Morning School in Plymouth, MI. He can be reached at rick@newmorningschool.com.