Let Go. Give In. Stop Trying.
I believe hard work often pays off. I also believe there are situations in which we should try less hard. When we try hard we tend to narrow our focus—followed by a cascade of physiological changes that begin with a release of adrenaline. When we try hard we create results and to maintain those results we often must continue to try hard.
When I was 35 I set a goal to ride my bicycle over a steep mountain pass that was about 20 miles from my house. Given that I wasn’t a serious cyclist, this was an ambitious goal. I worked at my goal from late summer through the fall, but as the weather got colder and winter approached I was unable to make it up the last mile of the mountain pass—the steepest part. I put more pressure on myself, trying harder, but to no avail. Finally, when the first frost of the season came, I realized I didn’t have it in me to accomplish my goal. I quit. I hung up my bike and accepted my limitations.
Two weeks later we had a surprisingly warm fall day. I decided to take my bike off the wall and go for a short ride. I headed off in the direction I always went and after 15 miles I felt great. I decided to head up the mountain pass—just for fun—and when I was within a mile of the top I thought to myself “what the heck.” I just kept going. I rode up, up, and over. It was not effortless, but it was not insurmountable. I amazed myself.
More recently I was pushing myself toward a self imposed deadline to finish my book. The writing was done, but I needed to get it prepared for the printer. This meant using a design program that was new to me. I gave myself 4 days to complete the task. By Sunday afternoon—the 4th day—I overwhelmed myself with the problems I was having. I saw no way to finish in time and decided the project would have to wait for 6 weeks until I returned from my trip to Asia. Annoyed, I quit. To get out of my uncomfortable mind space I invited Hannah for a walk. After our walk we had dinner, then sat down to watch a movie. During the intermission, I went to my office and started fiddling around with the layout for my book. I had no expectations, I was just curious to try something. It worked. I decided to continue. All the problems I was previously having had obvious solutions. I didn’t watch the end of the movie, instead I finished my book layout and sent it to the printer before I went to bed.
In both situations, I stopped trying so hard. I actually gave up and in so doing I relaxed and accessed my abilities that I previously constrained with pressure and too much effort. I believe this dynamic in which trying too hard is problematic, also applies to relationships. Consider the following:
1. Trying too hard isn’t that much fun so we lose the joy that is largely the point of relating.
2. We inhibit ourselves when we work too hard at relating—worrying, evaluating, judging. Tiptoeing, holding back, or pushing too hard for a particular result. In such situations we don’t experience much flow. It’s the flow that sustains us during the challenging times. Without the flow and ease, the challenging times become too much.
3. If we are “successful” as a result of trying really hard, we create a relationship built on hard work, effort, and tenacity. To maintain this we very likely will have to work hard, keep efforting, and remain tenacious. This is not how I want to characterize my relationships, certainly not my primary, intimate relationship.
What if we change our criteria—in certain situations—from hard work to ease? We could relax, breathe, access heart consciousness and build relationships that naturally and effortlessly evolve.
I invite you to explore not trying so hard. One way is to join our Thrilled To Be Alive online course.