A Lesson from a Fly

written by Erica Quam

The Tale of a Fly (adapted from Price Pritchett)

There's a small fly burning out the last of its short life's energies in a futile attempt to fly THROUGH the glass of a windowpane. The whining wings tell the poignant story of the fly's strategy - try harder. But it's not working. The frenzied effort offers no hope for survival. Ironically, the struggle is part of the trap. It is impossible for the fly to try hard enough to succeed at breaking through the glass. Nevertheless, this little insect has staked its life on reaching its goal - through raw effort and determination.

Across the room, ten steps away, the door is open. 

Ten seconds of flying time and this small creature could reach the outside world it seeks. With only a fraction of the effort now being wasted, it could be free of this self imposed trap. The breakthrough possibility is there. It would be so easy.

I always come across this simple yet powerful story at a time when I really need to hear it again. 

We are hardwired to try. So, when things don't go smoothly, oftentimes, the answer is to just try harder. Be more driven and you will eventually break through, finish, and get it done!

The real question: is trying harder the answer?

There are times in our lives when every step is a slow churn. It's a painful struggle to take even the smallest step forward. Other times, things just flow - like a kayak gliding over the water with a gentle tide. Instead of going on autopilot and putting your head down...pause for a moment and take note of the difference. There is a completely different energy.

It's hard to have perspective in the moment. But taking a few minutes of reflection may bring a new sense of clarity.  

Here are some signs that you may be trying too hard:

  • You take on other people's problems
  • You have a need to make sure everyone is happy 
  • You do what other people want you to do
  • You feel guilty when you do things for yourself
  • You have a hard time saying no
  • You get overwhelmed and burnt out

When the question arises...Why was that so HARD??? Let that be something that gets your attention.

Then, move more on to more productive questions like, was there a decision I needed to make? was there a boundary I needed to set? was there a conversation I needed to have? 


When we leave decisions dangling in the air and put them off...they STILL take up our time, our energy, and our valuable attention. 

Practice making decisions. Make them more quickly. Big decisions, small decisions. Once you've made the decision - good or bad - notice how it frees you up. You don't have to go through life perfectly. Go through life with more freedom! We allow ourselves to get so bogged down in the smallest details - tiny minutia - and it literally stops us in our tracks. How much will this matter in the big picture? If it's not that much, then make a decision. Get it done. And move on.


When we don't set boundaries, we de-value ourselves and give away our power. People test us all the time - to find out where we've set limits. If we haven't set them, people will often push buttons until we find ourselves getting triggered - by sometimes the smallest things.

Usually when these triggers come up, it's a cue. Take this note from the universe and ask: is there a boundary or a limit I need to set? Then communicate that to the other person. 


When we avoid conversations instead of practicing our communication skills, we give away an opportunity to lead.

Communication is a leadership skill. Yet, we often avoid having difficult conversations. We shy away from giving constructive feedback - many times because of our own experiences. Feedback is a gift. Give it with a positive intent to help someone and the relationship will often be strengthened instead of strained.


Instead of always trying harder, start to see struggle as a teacher. Think of the fly. Is that you? Look for your part in the situation - where you can take ownership, take responsibility, and take back some control. We can't control others - but we can take charge of ourselves and how we move about the world.

What is one takeaway you had from reading the take of a fly? Share in the comments below.