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One Simple Word That Can Change Your Life (And No, It’s Not “Thanks”)

“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”?

About Sumitha Bhandarkar

Sumitha is the blogger behind afineparent.com and invites you to come take a look at the unique parent-child journal she has designed which could be the most meaningful gift you could give any child! Connected Hearts Journal is a keepsake memory book parents put together with their kids and in the process have conversations, teach life lessons, build up self-esteem, instill an attitude of gratitude and so much more! Click here to find out more.

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  • Very motivational, Sumitha. Congratulations on starting your family! I’m hours or days away from being a first-time father, myself.

    I appreciate how you’ve framed success and failure, especially for huge life events or activities like starting a family or raising your child. Do you every have a cut-off point for failures, though? Not that I’m recommending you have a cut-off for starting a family, but in more of a goal or business frame – a pre-defined point where you say “This isn’t working, let’s stop this and try something different.”

  • Thanks, Joshua! Congratulations to you as well on becoming a first-time father!

    The cut-off point for calling it quits is a tricky one. Whenever possible, I try to frame it in terms of a “yet” statement as well… for instance, “I have tried everything I know and it’s not working. It looks like I haven’t yet quite figured out how to do this… I need to pull the plug now, understand what went wrong, learn what I need to, and then get back to it”. It’s not a great feeling, but framing it this way usually puts me in a much better frame of mind than simply accepting defeat.

  • Well stated. Thank you for your insights, and thank you for the well-written article. 🙂 I’ve been browsing your site, and have officially subscribed to the RSS feed. I have a feeling your body of work will become invaluable to me over the next 18+ years.

  • So happy to hear that, Joshua. You just made my day! Welcome aboard!

  • EA

    THANK YOU for this article Sumitha, I’m grateful to have found it and have saved it to re-read when I need to. I’m currently over a year into my own infertility journey and the weight of the losses, disappointment and heartbreak every month (not to mention the financial toll) has been very difficult on my own mental health as well as on my relationship. But your article really lifted my spirits. “Yet” – such a small word, but so powerful to reframe ongoing struggles. And one that could be applied to many difficulties being faced throughout life. Thank you so much.

  • Julie@ChooseBetterLife

    Thanks for this beautiful viewpoint and inspiration. Sometimes it is truly time to let go, but more often than not we just haven’t figured out the solution yet.

  • lv2terp

    REALLY REALLY GREAT! Such a small shift in self talk that makes such a HUGE difference! Thank you for sharing your perspective, wonderful examples, and advice!!! 🙂

  • Lisa Kelly

    Thank you for an inspiring read, Sumitha. I have a situation in my life where I’m not quite ready YET to admit defeat,and I like your thought that “yet” gives breathing room where I can sort out or come to terms with my feelings. This was a synchronistic read for me today. I needed to learn this today. And thank you to Joshua Johnson for posing the question about the cut-off point for “yet,” because I was wondering about that too. Sumitha, I like the way you answered Joshua, allowing again for that space to mentally adjust.

  • Hi Sumitha,

    With merely reading the headline, I figured I was in for “but” or “and”. You pleasantly surprised me with the word “Yet”.

    I took a look over at your website and was blown away by what you are doing over there. As soon as my wife returns from her trip, we will be discussing your journal.

    Keep up the good work.

    Joel

  • anonymous60

    I have read and re-read this inspiring post. I needed to add “yet” to my saddest thing – that I have not met anyone to share my life with even though I have been working at this for the 8 years since my divorce. So…I have not met my life partner yet. Love that feeling of yet. Thank you

  • Rainbow butterfly 80

    I have relationship difficulties as I have emotional illness, I have just had an ex tell me I will always fall out with everyone, I’m doomed, I feel very low right now. I have deep insecurities and trust issues in my relationships with others, I’m ashamed that I’m not like everyone else, that things that everyone else do naturally is just done, how can i be a nice person if my illness and I make it impossible to get on ongoing with others, I make friends easierly then have a monthly female thing and I get paranoid overreact etc…nothing abusive just hyper sensitive. I could say I haven’t figured out how to handle this yet! I’m trying to grow in this area so not yet but someday.

  • Barry

    Nice article Sumitha 🙂

  • Carly

    Thank you so much for this read. I am currently at the lowest point in my life, and have started to use the word “yet”. It’s absolutely changed my outlook and making my world a much more positive place!