The Power of “Not Yet”

charlift rides in the summer
Hanging out with my daughter in Deer Valley, UT.

My daughter shared a TED Talk with me yesterday about “The power of believing you can improve” by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. I’ve read Dweck’s book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” and am a fan.

In the seven-minute Ted Talk, Dweck explains the word “Yet.” At a high school in Chicago, if kids failed a class, instead of getting an “F” they got a grade of “Not Yet.” Instead of feeling like they were a failure and shutting down, they learned they could improve and they tried harder. Dweck explained, “Not yet opens up a path into the future that creates greater persistence.”

Dweck said people with growth mindsets are open to challenges, they learn from their mistakes and they can actually get smarter. In contrast, those with a fixed mindset are influenced by judgement of the moment. They are stuck in the tyranny of “now.” They tend to run from difficulties.

In studies, she offered tests that were above the children’s level of ability. The kids with a growth mindset were up to the challenge and excited, even when they did poorly. After failing the test, the fixed mindset kids said next time they would cheat or they looked for someone who did worse than they did.

My daughter thought I’d find this Ted Talk useful for writing a SwimSwam parenting tip. Dweck offered one gem to parents on how to raise kids with a growth mindset. She said to “Praise wisely.” Never compliment our children on their natural talent or intelligence. Instead, praise their effort, hard work, perseverance, etc. Don’t praise the outcome. Dweck called it “Process Praise.”

Every time our kids push out of their comfort zones to try something new and hard, the neurons in their brains form new and stronger connections. I think this is true for us older people, too. It’s important to stretch and do something new and challenging.

What have you done to push out of your routines and take on a new challenge? How did it make you feel afterwards?

Parent tip about the college essay

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I wrote this six years ago today. It’s a tip that I believe is valuable enough to share again. It’s directed to parents of incoming high school seniors and the students themselves. I wish someone would have shared this with me: get that college essay written, now. Over the summer, while you have time. I definitely don’t mean for the parent to write it of course! But, if you have any sway over your teen, get them started on it.

I’ll never forget the agony my son went through trying to write his essays close to the deadline. He suffered from so much anxiety and went through days of writer’s block. He said the essays were the most important thing he had to write in his life.

My son and friend at high school graduation.
My son and friend at high school graduation.

By procrastinating and putting it off until the end–into a busy time when he also had a half dozen AP classes and swim practice to worry about–“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I’VE WRITTEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE” was too big a burden to deal with!

My son told me—during the summer when I suggested he get started—that the questions weren’t out yet. That’s what he said.

I have good news to share with you. The essay prompts for the Common App ARE out in the summer. You can take a look at them, and get some guidance here.  

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If you can “suggest,” “encourage” or “force” your high school senior to get started on writing essays for their college apps, it may be the best thing you do for them all year. Tell them to get a rough draft done. Put it away for a week or two, dust it off and have them do a rewrite. Repeat this process during the summer. Then put it away until it’s time to fill out the college applications.

You should take a look at it, too. If they let you. If not, have them find a teacher or adult friend to review it. My son wouldn’t let me review his essays. Not that as a writer with a degree in editorial journalism and a 20-plus-year career in writing could I have offered him a bit of help. But, no. He had to do it the hard way. He did get one of his English Lit teachers to review his work, though.

Top-5-College-Application-Essay-Cliches

Maybe your kids will take your advice and get the writing started early. They’ll also practice good habits which will serve them well when they are in college!

Writing the essays and taking time for revisions over the summer will definitely lift
a lot of senior pressure in the fall.

If your kids are older, how did they do with college essays? Was it difficult for them or easy? Did they procrastinate until the last minute like my son?

What makes you happy?

Woods cove in Laguna Beach

Wood’s Cove in Laguna Beach

This morning I was writing my daily morning pages and I wrote a long list of things that make me happy. I woke up feeling a little down, so my brilliant idea was to focus on what brings me joy and incorporate the things on my list in my daily life — or at least weekly. I had quite a list. A few of the items were :

A trip to the ocean

A good night’s sleep

Working on a project I’m proud of

Spending time with family and friends

Swimming in the nearby lake

Swimming laps at the city pool

Reading a good book

Catching up with friends via the phone

Hiking

I need to take time to do things I enjoy — as well as take care of the things I have to do.

I read a blog this morning by one of my favorite bloggers that I follow. Her post today included the following quote:

“There’s only one rule. Follow the line of your own desires.” — MALCOLM BRADBERRY

“While I think that this has merit, I have problems with some of the intent. Should you always follow your path? What if a parent really wants to leave their family and join the circus. Do they really just wake up in the middle of the night, fill their bandana with worldly possessions, toss it on a stick, flip it on their back and just jump on the next freight train to the town with the tightrope and three rings?”

Click the link below to read the rest. The comments are interesting.

https://wakinguponthewrongsideof50.com/

Her blog post made me realize the flip side of following desires can be selfishness. We all know people who put their own desires over their loved ones or responsibilities. The end result can be damaged relationships and pain.

sleeping kitty
Olive asleep on our bed when there were no strangers around.

What are some of the things that make you happy? Do you make time for them in your day to day life?

I’m off to swim laps in the city pool! Time to get the endorphins moving!

The secret to handing out unsolicited advice

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I learned from my daughter that she didn’t like my unsolicited advice. Really, nobody does. I catch myself giving unsolicited advice to people I see in the park, to other parents, especially on the swim team, and to my adult kids — my kids really don’t like it. I’m sure all those other people are so appreciative of me, right?

I saw an interesting article called How I Secretly Give Unsolicited Parenting Advice To My Friend Without Hurting Her Feelings, by Diane Mtetwa on the website Moms.com. Naturally, I was interested to find out what her secrets were. Here’s an excerpt.

Unsolicited advice can be turned down fairly quickly. This is how I offer advice to a mom friend before assuming she needs it.

Nobody likes unsolicited advice. The desire to receive unsolicited advice diminishes, even more, when you become a parent and it literally comes at you from every angle. You don’t even have to wait until the baby arrives before everyone you know has an opinion about how you should raise your child. People who don’t even have kids somehow think they know more about how to raise kids than you do and don’t hesitate to put their two cents in.

This barrage of unsolicited advice makes most parents learn to tune it out together or show resistance to the advice before they even hear it out. For the most part, this is for the best in order to keep your sanity as a parent but some advice, even unsolicited is good, might actually help you out, and doesn’t hurt to listen to. As much as I hate unsolicited advice myself, I know that I’ve gotten some good ideas when I’ve been too stubborn or prideful to ask for help. I don’t know if it was doubt in myself about my ability to raise a child or not wanting to admit that motherhood was as hard as it was but in many ways when I first became a mother, rather than asking other people for advice, I was determined to make my life harder by re-inventing the wheel and figuring it out on my own.

What I learned from my own experiences is that I didn’t love unsolicited advice for several reasons. The first being that people who knew nothing about my situation were keen to offer up advice not knowing if I’d tried whatever they were suggesting already or not. That was my biggest pet peeve about it and when people insisted that they knew my child better than me. I also deep down inside took it as someone questioning my parenting and assuming that I was doing it wrong. I’m sure this was true in some cases, but friends and family members who truly were concerned and knew how rough of a time I was having just wanted to help. I keep this in mind when I’m giving my own unsolicited advice but try to do it as secretly as I possibly can to avoid resistance.

Some of the author’s secrets to giving out unsolicited advice sound like great skills for all people to develop better relationships. Her tips include listening, sympathizing, and lending a hand. The article is definitely worth the read. She said she makes sure she tells the friend confiding in her that she doesn’t know her situation or child better than she does, but she can empathize. Also, she pulls out a story similar to her friend’s to say, I know someone who went through something similar. The end result is her friend will usually ask her for advice. And then it’s not unsolicited.

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When we were all much younger.

What are your thoughts about unsolicited advice? 

A mid-week adventure: don’t sweat the small stuff

Afternoon view of Bartlett Lake

We did it! We drove up to the lake after my husband finished work last week. I packed a picnic dinner of chips, sliced peppers, cauliflower and dip, fried chicken, coleslaw, spinach pasta salad and fresh strawberries. After discovering Bartlett Lake on Memorial Weekend, we made a deal that we’d head back up during the week when it would be less crowded.

It’s unbelievable how quick the drive was through the Tonto National Forest. There aren’t any trees so I’m not sure why it’s called a forest. But, it’s breathtaking all the same. Once at the lake, we headed for a campground we discovered where you can park your car on the shoreline. We were thrilled to see only five other vehicles there. On Memorial Weekend there were hundreds. We picked a nice empty area and set up our pop-up tent and chairs.

My husband immediately dove into the lake for a swim. I was getting myself ready when the pop-up tent got hit with a gust of wind and it cartwheeled into the lake. I was yelling for my husband, but he had his head in the water and didn’t hear me. I ran into the lake and grabbed a leg of the pop-up tent before it sank.

I was furious. I had asked my husband if we should bring the weights for the pop-up, or buckets to fill with water to tie it down. But no. We couldn’t find the weights that came with the tent. We might have left those in the RV that finally sold last month back in California. He thought a few rocks to anchor it would work. It did not.

My husband surfaced and saw me clambering after the pop-up. He joined me and we dragged it out of the lake onto the rocky beach. The pop up was obviously beyond repair as it laid with broken legs poking out at uncomfortable angles.

Now we had no shade for our dinner and it was 101 degrees. My husband implored me to swim with him and not let the broken pop up ruin our evening. After floating in the lake, my anger swam away.

We enjoyed the view from our chairs with our feet in the water. We snacked on the peppers and cauliflower and had a pleasant time. My husband said he’d tie the pop-up to the back bumper of the car and we could haul it up to the dumpster several hundreds yards away up the hill.

“No, we can do this.” I jumped up and started dragging the fractured tent to the dumpster. We got it there in a matter of minutes.

Sitting next to the dumpster were three other broken tents. On top of the dumpster heap, I counted another four. Who knows how many were inside buried from sight. We weren’t the only unprepared idiots. Next time we’ll be more prepared.

I think this was a lesson for me to relax and not sweat the small stuff. Material things are just that. Material things.

Is it genetics or performance pressure ?

swimmer with JO medal
My daughter with a Junior Olympic medal as a young teen.

Yesterday I wrote about Amy Osaka and her withdrawal from the French Open due to her taking care of her mental health. You can read that post here.

Immediately after I posted that story, I ran across a SwimSwam article about a swimmer retiring because of her mental health. I remember this swimmer because she was at the big meets in Southern California as one of the youngest, if not the youngest swimmer entered — and she was from Virginia! She was very fast, too. She held the national age group record for 11-12 years olds in the mile.

“Isabella Rongione announced the end of her competitive swimming career, opening up about her personal struggles and the need to put her mental health first.”

PAC-12 STANDOUT ISABELLA RONGIONE RETIRES, OPENS UP ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH
by Jared Anderson SWIMSWAM

Rongione shared the news in an Instagram post this week. Her last swim came in December of 2018, the month before Rongione says he was admitted to treatment following a suicide attempt.

“My mental health had to be the priority over the past couple years and I never was able to fully commit to getting back into the pool,” Rongione writes.

“To all those athletes dealing with mental health issues — make sure to take the time you need in order to heal yourself properly.”

There are many famous athletes who suffer from depression including Michael Phelps, Amy Osaka, Allison Schmitt (Olympic swimmer) and Serena Williams. You can read about 10 of these athletes here. I wonder if it’s genetics or the pressure with being an athlete at such a young age?

My daughter who was a swimmer at a high level (college scholarship athlete and high school All American) suffered from anxiety and then depression while swimming in college. She swam competitively from age five through 22 — when her shoulder gave up on her.

Looking back, we were such enthusiastic parents cheerleading her swim career along the way. It was exciting and took over a lot of our family’s life. Did we create an unsustainable path for her? What happens when the swim career, the center of her world and identity ends? Or in the case of someone like Amy Osaka or Isabella Rongione, is the pressure to perform too much?

Here’s a study published online from Cambridge University by Lynette Hughes and Gerard Leavey called Setting the bar: athletes and vulnerability to mental illness.

Risk factors for athletes

“Although moderate or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity is important in the prevention of and recovery from mental and physical health problems, when performed more intensely at ‘professional/elite’ levels, physical activity can compromise health. 1,5 Beyond the national prestige, fame and glory of Olympic success lies the darker side of overexposure to elite sport such as overtraining, injury, burnout, increased risk for sudden cardiac death and other non-cardiovascular conditions such as respiratory symptoms, iron deficiency, increased incidence of allergies, immunological suppression and infection, gastrointestinal symptoms, diabetes mellitus and eating disorders. 6

“Athletes may also be vulnerable to mental illness for several reasons. First, the social world of many organised elite sports is one that requires investments of time and energy, often resulting in a loss of personal autonomy and disempowerment for athletes. 7 The elite-sport environment can result in ‘identity-foreclosure’ leaving athletes few other avenues through which to shape and reflect personality. 7 High athletic identity has been linked to psychological distress when this function of identity is removed, and to overtraining and athlete burnout. 7 The latter conditions strongly correlate with affective disorders such as major depressive disorder.”

I also read that 30% of NCAA athletes report having depression. It could have only gotten worse this past year.

young swimmer getting medals from coach.
My daughter, age 5, receiving medals, ribbons and applause from her coach after a swim meet.

What are your thoughts about athletes and depression? Do you think it’s genetics? Performance pressure? Or both?

10 and unders relay team with medals at JOs
My daughter’s relay team after winning third place at Junior Olympics in Southern California.

Amy Osaka — did she make the right decision?

Waffles the pug
Waffles, my daughter’s emotional support animal, has given her much needed comfort this past year.

I read this piece about Amy Osaka today. I’ve seen her name in the news, but until this morning I hadn’t read the stories. What I gleaned, the 23-year-old tennis super star is suffering from mental health issues and doesn’t want to speak to the press. She knew she’d be fined, she was okay with that. But in the end, she decided to withdraw from the French Open. I was interested in Osaka’s story because depression and anxiety are not foreign in my family tree. Here’s more from the article:

“Mental difficulty can be mysterious, even to the sufferer. We’re also still amid a pandemic in which ordinary interactions with other people have been stifled, and routines and lives have been disrupted. If you’re doing OK, it’s tempting to think everyone else should be doing OK, too. That’s not the way it goes, however. A little bit of empathy can go a long way.”

Listening to Naomi Osaka
Sports are getting more attuned to mental health, but there’s still a long way to go
Wall Street Journal By Jason Gay
Updated June 2, 2021 8:44 am ET

“On the matter of Naomi Osaka and the French Open: I suspect a day will come when people will look back upon this moment and be mystified by how agitated it all got, how a player opting out of routine press conferences and deciding to leave a tournament because of concern about her own mental health became such a global uproar. I suspect there will be a time in the future when an athlete’s revelation of depression and anxiety—or anyone’s revelation of depression and anxiety—won’t launch a zillion casual diagnoses or judgments about an alleged lack of mettle.

“I think (I hope!) we’re going to reach a point that when a person says they’re in mental distress, we will just…listen.

“But we’re not there yet. 

“We’re not there yet because mental health in sports, like in many occupations and environments, remains a complicated, under-discussed subject, still wrapped in stigma and dated notions about toughness and “gutting it out.” We’re getting better, no doubt about it—more workplaces are offering mental-health resources for employees, and in sports, Osaka has been preceded by star athletes like Michael Phelps, Abby Wambach, DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love, who have openly discussed mental-health battles of their own. 

“It’s a work in progress, however. The awkward debate over Osaka’s departure signals that athletes and sports are still figuring this out. We’re not yet ready to nurture mental health in the way we do a pulled hamstring or badly sprained ankle.”

I read another article from the Wall Street Journal about how employers are trying to accommodate younger employees who are much more open about their mental health:

“Naomi Osaka did something this week that would be unthinkable in many workplaces. Citing her struggles with depression and social anxiety, she said she wouldn’t be able to carry out what some see as a key part of a professional tennis player’s job: talking to the press.

What Happens When Mental-Health Issues Get in the Way of Work
Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open is a public example of a private issue facing many companies By Te-Ping Chen
June 3, 2021 7:31 am ET

“The 23-year-old Ms. Osaka—the world’s highest-paid female athlete—isn’t a typical professional, nor is the French Open a traditional workplace. But Ms. Osaka’s openness about her mental-health struggles is a public example of private issues companies are increasingly facing as a young generation more candid about such challenges joins the workforce, employers say.

“Companies have been adjusting to meet employees’ needs with more mental-health support and services in recent years. Yet Ms. Osaka’s announcement and subsequent tournament withdrawal highlights an especially thorny question: How can an individual’s mental-health needs be accommodated when those needs affect the ability to do parts of the job?”

Waffles and my daughter at the beach
Waffles with my daughter at the beach last summer.

What are your thoughts about Amy Osaka? Should the tennis world have given her accommodations for her mental health? Or, did she make the correct decision to step back and take care of herself? Do you think employers should give accommodations to employees who are suffering from mental illness just as they would physical ailments?

I wrote a post a few years ago about the GOAT Michael Phelps and his struggles with depression after hearing him speak in the Palm Springs area. You can read that article here.