The Power of Yet...

written by Erica Quam

Five years ago this weekend, my wife broke her ankle in the backcountry on a hike near Mt. Baker. We were planning on staying overnight...but not like this.

We were off-trail, traveling in snow at around 5:30pm. Both dogs were with us. We were about 500 yards above our destination for the night. Kerry took a bad step - her ankle bending one way and her body twisting the other to keep her and her backpack from sliding down the snowy hill. 

Kerry is an athletic trainer. She knew way too much about her injury - as it was happening. The good news: it wasn't a compound fracture. The bad news: we had no cell reception and would be spending a long, cold night in the mountains.

Long story short - I splinted her leg and we made camp for the night. I hiked out early in the morning with the dogs to go get help - leaving Kerry behind. (That was hard!) She got a helicopter ride out of the mountains at around 2pm and went in for surgery the next morning - more than 36 hours after her accident. She sustained Weber-C fracture: broken tibia, fibular spiral fracture, dislocated talus and ruptured deltoid ligament. Her orthopedic surgeon stabilized her bones with a long narrow plate, 6 screws, and inserted a tightrope - to hold her tibia and fibula together. She was non-weight bearing for close to 4 months. It was a long, slow recovery.

Life changed after that trip. Our perspective changed. We try not to take a single step for granted! 

Lots of friends have asked if we'd been back on that hike or if we'd been there backcountry skiing. One of the reasons we moved to Bellingham was to get out into the mountains. Our answer? 

We hadn't gone back...yet. 

In fact, we hadn't even backpacked together again since. Until last weekend. It was something Kerry wanted to do. She needed to go back - to put closure to that part of her life. 

Not yet - opens the door for powerful possibilities. 

Researcher Carol Dweck talks about the power of the word 'yet' in her TED talk. Rather than look at something as a failure, look at it as something you haven't done yet "gives greater confidence and creates greater persistence."

Dweck is famous for her work on mindset and how it's possible to actually change mindsets - from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. "Every time we push out of our comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, the neurons in their brain can form new, stronger connections." 

  • I haven't gone that time...yet.
  • I haven't learned how to do that...yet.
  • I haven't made the starting lineup...yet.
  • I haven't won that race...yet.
  • I haven't decided what I want to do...yet.
  • I haven't taken that vacation...yet.

How could you use the power of yet? For yourself and for your athletes? Write your 'yet' statement in the comments below.


Oh, and by the way...our backpacking trip was wonderful! We completed the loop we weren't able to finish five years ago - this time tired, healthy and very grateful! I'm so proud of Kerry for the growth mindset that she has and her resilience! The backcountry offers us an opportunity to persist through trials and challenges that come up along the way. The payoff - solitude, amazing views of wild places, and a real sense of accomplishment.