“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” ~Epictetus
About nine years back I was at the lowest point of my life.
We had been trying to start a family for close to four years by that point.
The forty-plus consecutive months of “not pregnant” verdict were starting to take their toll on me. That second line on the pregnancy test strip seemed like it would never appear. Life felt like it was a never-ending cycle of false hope that was always crushed in the end.
I wouldn’t wish that kind of despair on my worst enemy.
I am a huge believer in the power of gratitude. I tried hard to look at all that we did have and find contentment in where we were. But anywhere I turned, it seemed like all I could see was pregnant women, or moms with children. And instantly, it would pull my thoughts back to this one thing that was lacking in our life.
I sincerely believe that “thanks” is one of the most powerful words in any spoken vocabulary. And that gratitude is one of the best antidotes to many of the problems we face.
In this situation, though, where I was hanging by a thin frayed strand that threatened to snap any minute, there was another word that helped me more in keeping it together.
And that’s the simple word “yet.”
Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. I reminded myself:
I’m not pregnant yet.
It’s not our time yet.
Even as I eventually started to make peace with the fact that we would not have kids naturally, I hung on to that one word.
There’s no need to despair yet.
It’s not time to give up yet.
We just haven’t found out a workable option to start our family yet.
It is perhaps the simplest, most under-rated word in the English language. But the power it can have on transforming our outlook is immense.
“Yet” makes things less final.
Whether it is a battle with infertility, a project that isn’t going the way we expected, or a relationship that’s constantly devolving, the simple word “yet” can transform the negative thoughts in our mind into something that feels less final.
And that opens up the space to breathe. To live. To look for alternatives. To look for solutions. Or simply to get through another day.
“I failed [at something]” is so final. It feels suffocating. It leaves very little room for us to maneuver.
“I haven’t succeeded yet” transforms the exact same event into something that has hope. Something with a better future. Something we can change. Something in our control.
“Yet” makes learning easier.
After the four-year struggle with infertility, we were finally blessed with a beautiful daughter.
You would think that after the experience we had, we would have treated her like a princess and lived happily ever after.
Things didn’t quite work out like that for us.
I was at that time in a very stressful job. My daughter had amply inherited the stubbornness genes from both sides of the family tree. I used to be a bit of a control freak.
Apparently, those things don’t mix well.
Before I even knew it, my daughter and I were butting heads on a regular basis and we were stuck in daily tantrums and power struggles.
I used to perpetually feel like a lousy mom.
Until one day I had the epiphany: I’m not a bad mom. I just haven’t figured out this parenting thing yet.
Adding that one simple word to the way I thought about the situation opened the doors to learning and to keep trying until we were back on track again. It paved the way for what has been a three-year journey of discovering and embracing the positive parenting philosophy.
My daughter has blossomed right before my eyes. Our relationship has improved by leaps and bounds.
All because I now see myself as someone who has yet to learn things, instead of flogging myself when I fail (and fail I do… parenting a strong willed child is not for the weak of heart!)
“Yet” makes dealing with others easier.
Over the course of time, yet has become the default lens through with I see others around me as well.
When my daughter is being difficult I remind myself: She is not trying to get to me. She simply hasn’t learnt how to manage her emotions and behavior yet.
When a friend makes what I think is a poor choice, I tell myself: It’s not my place to change her. She hasn’t experienced her share of what life has in store for her yet.
When I’m having a rough time working with someone, I say to myself: She’s new to this. She hasn’t quite got the hang of it yet.
Just as with difficult situations, the simple word “yet” makes it easier to deal with difficult people as well.
And discovering this has been a great blessing for all my relationships.
Beware, though. Watch out for this caveat.
I would be remiss if I just focused on the positive effects of the power of “yet” and not talked about its negative impact.
Unlike some other power words like “thanks,” “yet” is not a stand-alone, but rather an amplifier of what we think.
When used in a negative context, “yet” can make things orders of magnitude worse.
For instance, when we get stuck thinking poorly of ourselves, even a success might make us think: My regular clumsiness (or ill-luck) hasn’t caught up with me yet.
We need to watch out for these, and strip them of the power of “yet” as soon as possible.
The other day my daughter and I were happily coloring together in a parent-child journal I created. She was doing a great job, so I complimented her on it.
She sat back, looked at it and said with a smile: “It does look good, doesn’t it? I just means I haven’t messed it up yet.”
She probably meant it as a self-deprecating joke, but I couldn’t let it pass.
So I replied back with a smile, “No honey. It means you’ve done a great job coloring today!”
Sometimes, there’s just no place for the word “yet.”
So now, a question for you: What is the one situation in your life right now that can be transformed by the power of “yet”?