The Power of Yet: 3 Steps to a Growth Mindset for College Success


You might be wondering what is a growth mindset? What is the power of yet.? Maybe you’ve heard the phrase but never investigated it. How does it relate to college and being successful in college? Moreover, how does it relate to students with hidden disabilities like ADHD and learning disabilities? What are the benefits of a growth mindset and how can it make your life better?  I’ll break it down into 3 Steps to a Growth Mindset for College Success.

The Power of Yet, Step 1: Learn about Mindset

A great definition of mindset comes from a Stanford researcher, Dr. Alia Crum. She defines mindset as “a lens that selectively organizes information.” The main issue is “organizes information.” How you think about things will determine which information you attend to or disregard. Think of mindset as a filter through which only certain information gets through. The rest gets discarded or ignored.

Once the information is organized, your mind will develop stories around the information your mindset selected. Those stories also include judgments about the information as good or bad. For example, have you ever heard someone say ‘I’m just not a good test taker,’ or “math and me don’t get along?’ you can see how the mindset filtered and judged the information that was focused on.

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The Power of Yet, Step 2: The difference between a fixed and growth mindset.

Fixed Mindset Examples

The judgments that we make and the stories we often tell ourselves lead into what is called a fixed mindset. Fixed mindset means the once something is perceived as true, it does not change, like not ever being a good test taker. Regardless of the grade, the fixed mindset of ‘I’m not a good test taker’ will filter out a good grade and look at only the mistakes made on the test. Further, traits like intelligence or talent like drawing are also fixed and cannot change.

Growth Mindset Meaning

A growth mindset is drastically different. Growth mindset sees things as flexible and able to improve, that effort is more important, that mistakes will be made especially at the outset of learning anything new, that improvements can be made with practice and intentional effort, and that feedback is not taken personally it is for improvement.

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Benefits of a Growth Mindset

Studies by Carol Dwek have shown some interesting positive results. In her main experiment, there were two groups. Both received the same task to complete. One group was given intelligence-based feedback such as ‘you’re so smart.’ The other received effort-based feedback like ‘you worked so hard on that, nice job.’ Both groups were given another task to complete. The group that received the effort-based feedback did 30% better.

Several other positive effects were noted from this study and other research by Dr. Dwek. First, the effort-based feedback led to students looking at their effort and giving more of the same effort to future tasks. The intelligence or trait-based feedback only leads those students to look for tasks and give the effort on only the tasks that match their perception of themselves as intelligent. Meaning they only chose tasks that supported them being smart and avoided or did not initiate doing tasks that more challenging.

Even more sticking. Effort based feedback led to improvements later on where as students given trait-based feedback performed poorer on the same tasks. So if a student does a sport and someone says, ‘you are so athletic and talented,’ that student performed less well on the next athletic event.

Stress as Enhancing Mindset

This is a related and important mindset that helps the growth mindset become even better. The incorporation of this mindset with a growth mindset leads to other benefits that can help in learning, mental health, and more. Soe what is a stress-as-enhancing mindset. It’s the focus on stress as being beneficial especially when learning new tasks and not falling into the realm or anxiety or limiting stress.

Studies by Dr. Alia Crum and Dr. David Yeager showed that a stress-as-enhancing mindset can have a powerful effect. Dt. Yeager’s research showed a video about stress being helpful for focus, attention, and more. What he found was remarkable.

Students shifted their mindset and behaviors in profound ways. They took on more challenging tasks in the future, current learning was improved due to increases in self-evaluation and making appropriate adjustments, and future performance was enhanced, had less of an emotional response to mistakes and feedback, and took feedback less personally.

One overall benefit was noticed. Students tended to ask for help more often, and with less hesitation.

The Power of Yet, Step 3: Use the power of yet.

I hope you are seeing how what you think is affecting what you do, your choices, your overall performance, and seeking help. If only see things one way and that things cannot change, then, why try anything different? What seek help? Why even try because the effort won’t pay off. For example, going back to the person whose fixed mindset tells them that they are not a good test taker. Why would they try anything different? Even if they did, the effect would not be as profound, as they are not expecting anything to change.

How to use ‘Yet”

But what if they switched to a growth mindset? What if they told themselves, “I’m not a good test taker, YET?” Think about how that one phase can have a profound impact on the outcome and being able to ask for help. The self-evaluation and being non-judgmental about the effort is worth its weight in gold. Not to mention the reduction in stress levels and negative self-talk.

Everything takes effort. Just beginning something is always going to come with the most difficulty. Changing your self-talk to expect the stress and difficulty leads to not letting the stress get out of hand in the first place. It puts stress in its proper place, a place that is helpful and necessary for your growth and learning.

The benefits of ‘Yet’

You can self-assess and problem solve and validate your own progress. As you put in the effort, you’ll see the effort pay off as you improve on the skills. The phrase ‘yet’ comes with the expectation of effort and hope that the effort will pay off and is worth it. Just think if you are in a competitive program, like nursing or premed, and you adopt a growth mindset. You’re not a nurse, yet. You’re not a doctor, yet. See the difference?  

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Growth Mindset Examples for Students

Think of how a growth mindset changes your perception of yourself, your disability, and your effort? Does it change? In what ways? Does it change your decision to apply for disability accommodations in college? Make you want to learn more about your disability? Make it easier for you to ask for help? Empower you look at what you need and why, and then reach out and get help?

Here are some examples of a growth mindset. Notice how these use the power of yet (without saying it).

1. This subject is hard right now, but not forever.

2. This subject is hard, but with effort I can get better at it.

3. This subject is hard, but that only means that I’m learning.

4. I have a learning disability which means I learn in different ways than other students.

5. I have dyslexia and that means I need to learn in specific ways that help me.

6. Tests are hard and if I put in the effort to study and learn some coping skills and test strategies, I can do better.

7. Getting accommodations for my disability gives me access which makes learning better and gives me the opportunity to succeed.


Now just think of what would be different for you as a student if you chose to use the power of yet and adopt a growth mindset for college or any challenge. What if you chose to focus on giving others and, more importantly, yourself effort-based feedback. No more quick statements of “that was so stupid’ or “I’m not good at X’.

How much better would your self-care be, your study habits, your relationships, and your own self-esteem? Imagine how much better your assessment and problem solving would be if it wasn’t hindered by your own ego, sensitivities, and fear of failure.

If you’re a parent reading this, how much is it worth to you to focus on giving your student effort based feedback? If you did that, is it worth it to you to see your student take on challenges more readily, see their effort as important, improve problem solving, self-assess their mistakes without the harsh self-judgment, and ask for help more often? Would your concern and worry about their success be as high?

All those benefits are possible if you use the power of yet. You are worth giving it a try.