The Harder I Try
Sometimes, the harder I try the harder it gets. Know what I mean? The harder you push, the more you get stuck. Spinning your wheels and sinking deeper in the mud. Ever felt like that?
All your striving and self-effort seems counterproductive. The more self-effort you apply, the worse it seems to get.
It’s a real paradox, and it can affect so many areas of our lives it’s worth looking at.
Here’s an example I see all the time:
A relationship is on the rocks. Someone is trying to make someone else happy, and it doesn’t seem to be working. In fact, the harder they “try,” it seems the unhappier with them the other person becomes.
They feel truly stuck. Hopeless, even.
All that striving and trying seems to be getting them nowhere.
If you know what I’m talking about, you may have to change more than your behavior – you may have to change your mindset or beliefs.
Trying and striving are what most of us are taught to do from the time we’re very young. “You can do it!” “Try a little harder!” It would seem to be all about the effort. But what if I’m thinking or feeling something that isn’t true? That’s a great question.
So how do I change my mindset or belief if I don’t know what that is?
Now that’s a really great question. Here’s what you do:
- Write down your thoughts or feelings about the problem or behavior you’re trying to address. The goal is to capture what you think and feel. Your thoughts and feelings won’t always tell you what is true, but they are a great indicator of what you believe to be true.
- Take a good, hard look at those thoughts and feelings and tell yourself the truth. Are they really true? Did she intend to hurt your feelings? Was he trying to be mean? Were you really as kind as you thought?
- As you check yourself, look for what your thoughts and feelings tell you about your belief or mindset. For example, say you get mad while driving. You yell at your windshield and criticize other drivers. You may say things like, “what an idiot,” or “people shouldn’t drive like that!” But you may believe something like, “I have to call bad drivers on what they’re doing wrong!” We don’t think that consciously because that’s nuts, right? You don’t have to do that at all, do you? But that unspoken belief is at the bottom of your negative thoughts, feelings, and behavior. It’s you mindset.
Next, focus on the good. Develop a regular habit of gratitude.
Regularly focusing on the good, according to Brene’ Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection, is one of the key attributes of people who experience a lot of joy. I strongly encourage you to write these down, too. Thoughts get lost. Keep track of your “gratefuls.”
Finally, it may mean you stop trying and start being the person you want to be.
Remember what Yoda (you know, short little guy in a monk’s robe from Star Wars?) famously said, “No! Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try.”
Yoda was admonishing a young Luke Skywalker during his training to be the powerful Jedi knight he already was (the spiritual implications of this are like the rabbit hole in Alice and Wonderland – they go deeper, and deeper…).
You, too, may need to stop striving to become, and simply be who you already are. You might be surprised how close you already are to being the person you want to be. In fact, for many people I know it’s their effort that actually gets in the way of their “becoming.”
If that doesn’t seem to make sense… if you wonder how that could be… or if you know what I mean and can’t seem to get unstuck and get moving, I’d love to hear from you. Meanwhile, thoughts?
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