A 69-Year-Old Founder of a Billion-Dollar Company Says Adding This One Word to His Negative Thoughts ‘Changed My Life'

Source: Yum! Brands

Whether or not you succeed in your goals depends on your capacity to believe that you can do it.

Even as the former CEO and co-founder of the billion-dollar restaurant company Yum Brands, I've had moments where I wondered: Do I have what it takes?

Luckily, there were several mental hacks that helped me cultivate greater confidence in myself. One of the most effective was reframing the negative thoughts that were undermining my self-belief.

Reframing is a psychological technique in which we identify how we view a situation or experience, and then change our perspective.

This isn't an exercise in wishful thinking or denying your feelings. Your feelings are clues about what's important to you, so you always want to acknowledge them. 

The goal is to find a more productive way of thinking about what you're up against. 

Reframing "not" into "not yet" changed my life

One easy reframing trick is to add the word "yet" to the end of a sentence.

When I was building Yum Brands, I wanted it to become a global powerhouse. However, a voice kept popping up in my head, saying: "We aren't known as a legitimate international company."

That was definitely true at first, but one day I decided to add "yet" to the end of that thought: "We are not a successful international company ... yet." Each time I felt defeated or unmotivated, I repeated this sentence to myself.

That life-changing 3-letter word opened up room for me to believe in myself and take bold risks. "I've never done [X]" was no longer "doing [X] is not possible."

I gained the confidence I needed to make a big strategic bet on going global — and it paid off. Eventually, Yum Brands became one of the world's largest restaurant companies, with locations in more than 135 countries.

How to reframe your negative thoughts

By adding the word "yet," you turn what could have been the end of a conversation into the beginning of a new one.

Try the exercise for yourself:

1. Think of something outside of your comfort zone. 

Pick anything that you are unlikely to do. It might be running a marathon. Or, if you're a homebody or hate airplanes, it could be traveling across the world.

2. Frame it in a sentence using "can't" or "not." 

For example: "I can't run a marathon" or "It's not possible for me to travel all the way to Australia." Then say the sentence out loud to yourself. 

3. Add "yet" to the end of your sentence, and then say it out loud.

Using the above examples, say: "I can't run a marathon yet" or "It is not possible for me to travel all the way to Australia yet." 

4. Now ask yourself: "What would I need to learn, practice or do in order to make it happen?" 

Write down some things that could lead to it becoming a real possibility. 

Maybe you can get up an hour earlier each morning and start walking one mile. Then increase it by another mile the following week. Maybe you can research relaxation techniques that are commonly used when someone is afraid to fly.

This is only practice. Just see what it's like to view this "impossibility" in a different light and imagine what you might do differently if it were possible.

5. Keep this reframing technique handy! 

When you face a challenging thought about starting something new, keep this tool in your back pocket.

Reframing can help get your mind thinking in a new way, and in a truer way. After all, none of us are fixed in time. We are all works in progress, and what we're capable of is unknown — until we achieve it.

David Novak is host of the podcast How Leaders Lead with David Novak, founder of David Novak Leadership, and the former co-founder and CEO of Yum Brands. He is the author of "Take Charge of You: How Self Coaching Can Transform Your Life and Career" and "Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen, among others." Follow David on Twitter @DavidNovakOGO.

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