Stop Trying So Hard!

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.

"Trying harder" isn't necessarily the solution to achieving more - no matter what you are doing.  I'll talk about this concept in terms of yoga first.  In a yoga pose, you begin with alignment - aligning the muscles, bones, & joints for a healthy pose.  Then you bring action into the pose: press the feet, lift the chest, extend the arms.  Finally, to actually "BE" in the full pose, relax your eyes, relax your jaw and your tongue and your throat - and then let the breath flow freely.

When you do this, you may notice that you can open and expand into the pose even more.  You are balancing the effort you put into the pose with a sense of letting go.  It's more of an effortless effort.  If you SKIPPED the last step - of using your breath - and just tried harder, you would simply overwork and not getting any more benefit out of the pose.  In fact, this approach leads to more harm than good.

Whether it's your daily workout or your athletes in training: we often have the mentality that if we work harder, we'll gain more.  Studies have shown that there is actually a connection between hardening your tongue and tension in your lower back.  Try it for yourself! In whatever activity you are doing, try a little experiment. Tap into your breath, relax your face, and balance your effort with a sense of letting go.  Most times, people find they will actually achieve more: go faster, stretch further, or perform better.

What are you working "too hard" on?  It happens in the office. When the to-do list is long, and the pressure mounts, there's a tendency to just grind, grind, grind it out - just like the fly in our earlier story.  Is there a different approach that may actually work better? Instead of grinding out the work, could you take a break, go for a walk, get some fresh air, and breathe?  If you find yourself trying really hard, take a step back, take a deep breath, and relax.  See if the grind gets a little easier.  

There are times in our lives that we end up trying too hard in relationships - with athletes, with family, friends, etc.  Think of a relationship that you could look at in another way.  What is one thing YOU could change to "work less" in?  In challenging conversations with difficult people, rather than go with your knee-jerk reaction and try to "win" the conversation or "make them see your point" - let go a little, take a breath, and see if the outcome improves.

Assignment:  Answer the following questions
How can YOU apply this?  Choose ONE thing you will do to "try softer". For some extra accountability, share your answers in the comments below.