One of the things I like to do is to see how much I can change the meaning of a sentence while changing the words as little as possible. “My yard is covered with ice” becomes: “my yard is covered with ice cream,” obviously preferable but only so slightly different. I know. It’s weird. It’s a thing language lovers do, or at least the language lovers in my family. My father loved to play with words, changing words, changing sentences. I do it too, and now my son has begun to play with me. It occurred to me today that this kind of word play can be so so so useful when we’re trying to make changes in our lives.
One of the words I love to add to sentences that totally transforms the way I see a situation is “yet.” Adding “yet” to the way that you think about something adds an element of hope, of possibility, and can often give you a reason to persist in tough situations. For example, “I can’t play that song” becomes: “I can’t play that song YET.” When I thin:k “I can’t play that song,” I feel frustrated and disappointed in myself; I feel discouraged and really just want to stop so those feelings will stop. When I think: “I can’t play that song YET,” I feel comforted and encouraged. I want to keep trying. I am reinforcing for myself that practice will help and will not be wasted.
The other night we watched The Queen of Katwe with our kids, a movie about a young woman who becomes a chess champion in spite of challenging living conditions and a lack of formal education. In one scene her coach tells her she gives up her king too fast. She believes she can’t win, that she doesn’t have friends in the group, that she is not good enough to play against her opponent. These thoughts lead her to surrender because she feels hopeless, isolated, alone. She quits rather than seeking a different solution. Think of how “yet” could change her chess game. She can’t win YET. She doesn’t have friends YET. She is not good enough to play that opponent YET. All of these thoughts become thoughts that drive forward rather than thoughts that encourage going to bed with a bag of chips and the remote.
What we cannot do YET is radically, fundamentally different from what we cannot do. Are you giving up your king too fast? What thoughts in your life are stopping your forward motion? Where in your life could you use a little “yet?”