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.


written by Erica Quam

In our busy world where everyone seems to be racing to do more, work more, get more, achieve more...when will things stop?  Just what is the breaking point?

Athletes are starting younger, specializing earlier, and working harder than ever before. Parents are pushing their kids to achieve more and more - in school, in sports, in all kinds of other areas - to lock down that elusive opportunity that they may never have had. Coaches are working longer hours, they are connected more, recruiting more, traveling more, and taking less time off.  In athletics colleges are adding summer sessions where athletes report earlier each season - which means the coaches, student assistants, and support staff are in full swing now - almost year round.  

I’m all for hard work. Don’t get me wrong.  I believe there are very few shortcuts to success. AND I don’t believe in the direction we’re heading. Something has got to change.  If it doesn’t lead to a complete burnout, it does lead to overwhelm, stress, & unhappiness.  The pace, the pressure, and the demands are insane!  

It’s time to change our culture.  And it starts with you.  It isn’t just about you or your sport.  It’s about this profession!


Now, I'm not saying that anyone has it all figured out.  Life is a dance - it's an ebb and flow.  Some days require more, other days less.  The real value comes in working TOWARDS balance - even if true balance isn't achieved.  And rather than comparing yourself to other people's outsides, pay attention to exactly what you need on the inside.  


As coaches, instead of trying to “one up” each other in the hours you put in, and all the sacrifices you make...could we challenge each other to set limits, take time off, and work smarter not longer?  Could we support each other to take better care of ourselves?  Can we take a risk to do things differently according to what we each need?  Maybe if we can do a better job of this, we'll actually get more athletes who want to go into coaching!


What specific things can you do as a coach to model balance to your team?  It's important to show your athletes that you take care of yourself and find ways to help them do the same.
- Incorporate some yoga and visualization - for yourself and your team
- Go get a massage!
- Take a 30 minute time-out from work each day: go workout, read a fun book, take a walk - do something that makes you happy and feel better.
- Schedule a weekend off for yourself and your team each quarter.  
- Schedule a vacation for yourself at the end of each season.
- After that downtime, talk about it with your team.  Ask about their experience and what they did that was fun - then they can tell you care about those things.

What are 3 things you could do to take better care of you?

It’s about the journey, isn’t it?  It isn’t just about the results and the achievements at the end.  Sure, it’s nice to achieve a goal and after it’s over, there has to be more to it.  Doesn’t it?

Life - and everything in it...including sports - is a balance between effort and letting go.  I'd recommend more of the letting go!