I’d like you to think back to a time when you received feedback or a result that made you feel like you had failed. What impact did that experience have on you? Did it motivate you to power on to improve? Or were you more inclined to just give up?

Carol Dweck is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She is best known for her work on human motivation and the mindset psychological trait.

In her TED presentation, “The Power of Believing You Can Improve”, she discusses the role that mindsets have on the learning and development of children. She recounts a story about the power of two words from a high school in Chicago where students, who didn’t pass a course, got the grade “Not Yet” as opposed to “Fail”. Dweck claims that when children receive a fail this leads them to think that “I’m nothing, I’m nowhere”. However, if they receive the grade “Not Yet” they can understand that they’re on a learning curve, which carves a path for the future.

Much of her talk questions the way children are currently being taught and raised, and whether parents and teachers are setting children up for failure in their adulthood by instilling the need for constant validation. Dweck suggests that what would be better is to use the words “yet” or “not yet” to have a positive effect on a child’s confidence. And that we should start to praise a child’s process of learning, effort and progress as opposed to the outcome they may receive, so we nurture children into believing they can improve and are motivated to do so.

The hope is that these children will become adults, who are more resilient, confident and persistent and able to cope with change and difficulty. These are some of the features that encompass what Dweck terms a “growth mindset”, which believes intelligence can be developed over time. As opposed to a “fixed mindset” that deems intelligence as static. Dweck illustrates how a change in mindset has positively affected children and encourages us to think about how this can help us as adults in our work. I will cover mindset in more detail in a future post. For more information, Dweck has an entire website dedicated to mindset or you can have a read of her book on this topic.

So next time you’re facing into a challenge or find yourself dealing with failure, try using “not yet” to change your beliefs on what can be achieved.