I Can’t --- Yet

Yet is my favorite word

I truly don’t do favorites. Ask me what my favorite color is, or my favorite meal, or my favorite book, and you will render me almost paralyzed. When she was little, this made my youngest child crazy. She was convinced I was withholding information – that I had a favorite and was keeping it secret.

I hope she reads this. I think I have a favorite word (and I really, really love words). It is YET.

These three little letters contain astounding potential and almost infinite possibility. Adding the word yet to any statement of inability adds the element of hope. Yet invites us to keep at it, to stick with it, to take the next step and the next and the next.

I can’t is a truth, albeit a temporary one

I first recognized the power of yet when I began training yoga teachers. No matter what I say or do, the first few times a teacher training group comes together each future teacher seems to feel a certain pressure to be proficient or even “advanced” in their yoga practice.

For that reason, these workshops can be filled with dismayed “I can’t” statements. Luckily, it is pretty much guaranteed that everyone struggles with at least one yoga posture, so the feeling of being slightly inadequate is usually unanimous.

90% of the “I can’ts” that bubble up in early teacher training workshops are truths that challenge students more deeply than the mere physical challenge they feel on the yoga mat. These moments of inability are invitations to get comfortable with humility.

The good news is that, because my teacher trainings are almost a year long, we have plenty of time to transform most “I can’ts” to “I cans.” Which is why my typical response to “I can’t” is a quiet “yet.”

Yet adds possibility to an inability

This one syllable usually earns me a sideways glance and then a smile. Now that we are conjoined by possibility, the student and I can start to tease apart the challenge and define a manageable first step toward our ultimate goal – a huge grin and exclamation of “I can!”

The yoga postures we do on our mats are most valuable for the opportunities they give us to practice working with our thoughts, feelings, states of mind, and perspectives. Each time we practice tacking a “yet” onto an “I can’t” on our yoga mat, makes it more likely that we will do the same when stymied by something in our real life.

Clearly, this works with physical feats (that’s what yoga postures are, after all) like running a 5K or swimming to the far side of the bay. But this technique works equally well when what you can’t do is give a presentation confidently, or navigate a disagreement kindly, or stay quiet and focused when meditating for more than a few seconds at a time.

Yet is a statement of our potential

Yet makes the truth of a current inability kinder and more spacious. While it may be true that we can’t do these things, it is absolutely not true that we will always not be able to do them. In fact, I’m a firm believer that we can do almost anything we set our minds to doing so long as we believe in our own potential.

Yet is a powerful statement of this potential. When we say “yet,” what we are saying is that we believe that we are always, from the moment of our birth to the moment we take our last breath, becoming the person we were created to be. It makes me smile that such a tiny word indicates our immeasurable power to change and grow.

This is a state of mind or perspective that makes us almost unstoppable.

Yet embraces slow and steady growth

For all the big dreams it empowers yet is also perfectly reasonable. Yet is patient. Yet doesn’t expect overnight success. In fact, at least to me, yet implies, expects, and accepts the slow and steady kind of progress that comes from practice.

I don’t know if I’ve been practicing choosing a favorite for all these years, but I do know I’ve been practicing using the word yet each time I face the truth that I can’t do something. The results of all that practice have been nothing short of amazing.

Which is why, if asked to choose a favorite word, I can answer definitively – “My favorite word is yet!”

Are you looking for support as you work to face an “I can’t” in your life or on your mat? Reach out! We can work together to define a manageable first step toward your goal.