One Word Can Shape Your Approach to Life

The impact of language and the transforming power of the word "yet."

Jim Farina


Photo by John Benitez on Unsplash

I was never very athletic. I've never been competitive beyond self-competition. I've struggled with social anxiety and self-esteem most of my life. I tend to choke when things get tough and I'm put on the spot.

All that said, I have always avoided participating in team sports. It's the fear of literally dropping the ball, failing, ridicule, and letting others down.

I'm learning to grow out of that debilitating way of thinking. Life's too short. Lots of people love me despite my shortcomings. Authenticity has been my mantra. The pandemic and losing close family and friends in recent years prompted me to change my thinking.

I jumped on the pickleball wagon this year. I knew I’d have to push myself mentally and physically, and being authentic means embracing where I'm at now—telling others how I feel and not pretending to be something I'm not. And I know if I push through my anxiety, I will only get better if I continue to show up.

So, when I introduce myself to others on the pickleball court, I say something like — I'm a beginner. I'm trying to build my skills and confidence, and please be patient with me.

Picklers are generally a very welcoming community. I am improving. And I'm beginning to have fun and make some new social connections. So now the phrase I repeat to myself is, I'm not very good YET.

I just heard a story about distance runner Deena Kastor. She had a successful amateur career and was ready to see how she'd stack up in the big leagues. By mid-race, Kastor was squarely in the middle rather than leading the pack.

Runners continued to fly past her. When she crossed the finish line, she doubted her decision to turn pro. She thought, Is this as good as I am? She then caught herself. It was her inner critic talking again. She refused to let that voice take over. Kastor reframed her language. "This is as good as I am today."

Deena stopped questioning whether she should quit and looked forward to the next day's workout and the chance to make strides. Kastor went on to medal at the Olympics. She held the American Women's Record for the…