Do or Do Not

Whenever someone says, “I’m trying to do X, but it’s not going very well,” I cringe a little.

While it is possible to try your best at something and still fail, the reality is that 99% of the time, failure doesn’t come from you “trying your best.” It comes from something being in the way of your success – and that “something” might be you.

In order for any attempt to count as “trying your best,” it has to include an honest, deep assessment of what things are causing you to fail and what you’re doing to remove those obstacles.

Here’s an example: “I’m trying to watch what I eat, but I keep failing.” When pressed for details, the person says “Well, I’ve been eating mostly healthy vegetables and proteins, but then when I get stressed out I eat brownies.” Well… why do you have brownies in your desk drawer at work? “For when I get stressed out.”

Okay, that’s no longer you trying your best, then. Trying your best would include recognizing that you’ve sabotaged yourself and throwing away the snacks. It probably also includes an assessment of what things cause you to stress and how to decrease the impact of those things. (Incidentally, this is further proof that self-improvement in one area isn’t done in a vacuum. Improving one area of your life will almost always improve other areas both as a consequence and a necessary condition. A rising tide lifts all boats.)

“Trying your best” also has to include changes to strategies that aren’t working. “I’ve been trying to get a promotion at work for two years, but it hasn’t happened.” What have you done? “Every time there’s a management position open, I apply to it.” Okay, but since the first time you did that, what have you changed about your work habits or activities? “I show up to work every day and I do my job.” Okay… so, nothing. You applied for a management position two years ago and two months ago, but nothing has changed about you in between. Why would you expect a different outcome?

If you’re not taking a serious look at the things you’re doing that prevent you from succeeding, you’re not trying. And if you do take a look at those things and fix them, you may find that you don’t need to try at all… you just Do.

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