Not yet

Over the weekend I was doing research for the upcoming seminar Doug and I are hosting on mindset and motivation.

If you’ve ever done any reading on mindset, then you’re likely familiar with Dr. Carol Dweck’s research on a growth versus a fixed mindset.

We are all works in progress. As long as we understand that we have the ability to MAKE progress.

We are all works in progress. As long as we understand that we have the ability to MAKE progress.

In this particularly talk, she highlighted a school in Chicago where, students had to pass a certain number of classes to graduate, and if they did not pass a course, they got the grade not yet.

(*insert mind blown moment here)

They got a grade that let them know that learning is not finite, but a fluid, continuing process and, as Dr. Dweck says, gives them a path into the future.

(*Insert second mind-blown moment here)

What a fantastic way to think about learning and doing and just being.

For the most part, I was an A-B student in school. I had subjects I loved, like English and Literature, and others I didn’t like so well, like science and math. But it wasn’t until I took Algebra in eighth grade that the material just flat out confused me.

Mr. Lambie stood at the front of the room saying things like “if X=10 then…”

And I sat there thinking, if X=10 why don’t we just say 10 and leave the letters to other classes. (I still think that…just sayin’).

I’m not proud to admit this, but because of the sheer panic I had of getting a failing grade, I cheated. My friend Amanda sat next to me and let me copy her answers on tests. I was ashamed of cheating.

But I was terrified of failing.

As I watched Dr. Dweck’s talk on mindset, I tried to think of how my experience (and opinion) of math might be different if I hadn’t felt as though I were hanging over the fire of failure. Because that’s really what we’re talking about here.


Smart or dumb.

Pass or fail.

Good or bad.

And while I cheated my way through eighth grade Algebra, for the next three years I barely passed Plain Geometry, Algebra II and Trigonometry. The only reason I squeaked through any of those classes was my effort. I handed in my homework and tried. But I was also convinced that I would never understood the material, so while I put in effort to pass the class with a D, my mindset was already firm - I wasn’t smart in math. So I quit trying.

I did what I needed to do to survive the class.

And decided that I hated math. Because we often hate what we’re not good at.

I am trying to imagine what my mindset now might look like if someone had told me not yet.

You don’t understand the material…yet.

It’s no wonder so many people come through the doors of a gym - or even sit in the parking lot of a gym trying to muster the courage to go in - if their experience of gym class or dance class or youth soccer was anywhere near my experience of Math class.

Yet I know that there are many people out there - heck many of you reading this post - that did have that experience of exercise of fitness. And perhaps you have a fixed mindset about the exercises, the workout, the movements, the process, the results.

As a coach, I’ve become a stickler about the language I use around clients, and the language that clients reflect back to me. Because there is so much power in the words we choose. Those of you who come to the gym know that you may never tell me that you only did three sets.

You may never tell me that you just lifted 15lbs.

And it seems only fitting to include not yet into our gym (and life) lingo as well.

I can’t do a push up……yet.

I haven’t dropped a pants size…..yet.

But you will. I’m telling you now that this process can be long and difficult and filled with road blocks but it doesn’t mean you can’t get where you want to go. You might not be there…. yet.

But you will get there.

And if you can’t believe it for yourself, then I’ll believe it for you until you can.

This one word needs to go.

My high school math teacher was quirky. 

Actually, quirky doesn’t even begin to describe Mr. Solomon. He lived for the precision of Algebra and Trigonometry, pinched the bridge of his nose when we exasperated him (which was daily), and carried his love of details over to our homework and class structure.


I once got a negative two on a test because, in addition to not knowing anything about Trig, I also did the heading wrong. We were graded on our headings. 


Mr. Solomon had any number of pet peeves about math and life, and among the highest on his list was the use of the word "just."

He taught his class by demonstrating some trigonometry theorem crap, and then assigning us problems related to said ridiculous theorem. The next day we came in as a class and put all of the problems on the board and then took turns explaining how we solved those problems. We were required to use a pointer stick, because our fingers weren't precise enough.

One day, I took my turn with the pointer stick and tried to explain the problem on the board. 

Me: “Then you just take the five and...”

Mr. Solomon. "You what????"

Me: " just take the five..."

Mr. Solomon. "You don't just do anything!!!"

He said it with flair and disgust and I was mortified as the attention of the class was focused on me and my mistake. Then I completely forgot what I was saying because I didn't really understand trig in the first place. What I've never forgotten, though, is the use of the word "just." 

And if Mr. Solomon were still alive, he'd be shocked to know that the more I coach, the more I've come to agree with him on using the word "just."

Almost every day I have some version of the following conversation with a client.

Me: How can we be helpful with your nutrition goals?

Client: I know what I need to do. I just need to do a better job. 

The word ends the conversation. “Thanks coach, but there’s nothing you can do, it’s all on me. I’m going to go home and struggle my way through another night of eating and hope for the best.” 

No. No. No. No. And as a coach, I won’t let that slide anymore.

"Just" minimizes what you are trying to do. You are trying to change your behavior. Do you know how hard that is?  

You heard it here first. If you tell me you just need to do a better job, I will not let that slide.

First of all, you’re going to take the word “just” out of the sentence. 

"I need to do a better job."

Ok. With what, specifically? Choose just one behavior. Get specific. 

"I will not have a snack tonight after dinner." 

Let someone else help to hold you accountable. Did you have a snack last night after dinner? No? Great. Let’s build on that. Yes? Ok, let’s talk about that.

Whatever the goal and whatever the circumstance, let's find a way to work at it.

Because I don't just want to help you hit your goals.

I want to help you hit your goals. Period. 

What are your goals? What are your struggles? I'd love to hear from you. Comment below, or email me at