Can You Think, “Until Now”?

On vacation, I saw a young girl—maybe 5 years old—throw a ring into the pool and carefully put her head into the water to retrieve it. When she started, she wasn’t very good. Over the course of three days, she became quite good. She hesitated less. She threw the ring farther. She started using her legs to kick so she could go deeper. I could see her coaching herself, learning to throw the ring, dive under the water to get it and continue to challenge herself.

This little girl had embraced the growth mindset. You can, too.

When we say to ourselves, “I haven’t been able to do this up until now,” we give ourselves a chance to grow and learn. We might not want to learn to throw a ring in the pool and dive in to get it. There are plenty of other things to learn.

In agile teams, I often see stories that are too large. I hear, “We need the stories this big to do end-to-end development.” (I’m dubious of two-week stories.) Instead, we can say, “We haven’t learned how to make them smaller yet, up until now.” That’s the first step. Instead of deciding we can’t make smaller stories, we say we don’t know how. That leads us to the growth mindset and experimentation.

We then have choices for experiments to make stories smaller and learn more. 

I meet people who want to write an article for or someplace else. They say things such as, “I want to write an article, but I don’t know how.” Or, “I’m not really a writer.” 

Instead, I recommend people say, “I don’t know how to write for publication yet.” Or, “I haven’t written for publication until now.” Either way, you can start to see possibilities. Maybe you need to learn how to start. Maybe you need an editor’s feedback. Maybe you have already written something already and can adapt that. 

When you say to yourself, “I don’t know yet.” Or, “I haven’t done this up until now,” you leave the possibility of success open. When you say, “I can’t,” you decide it’s not possible.

There’s a big difference between “not yet” and “not possible.”

 Adaptable problem-solvers, that is the question this week: Can you think either, “not yet” or “until now”?

5 thoughts on “Can You Think, “Until Now”?

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