Stop Trying So Hard


Jamaica–the epitome of relaxation!

The Learning Game:

When there is ease and simplicity in your life it’s because earlier you learned a lot.

When there is resistance and obstacles in your life, it’s because there’s even more to learn.

And learning even more is pretty much the main reason everyone is still there.

Class dismissed,
The Universe


My workouts have been hard for the past week or so. I’ve felt low energy while doing them and just have not been able to push like I love to do.

In fact, this morning after doing 15 minutes of intervals on the treadmill, I was toast.

Fortunately, I’ve experienced this before and I know not to be alarmed. And the absolute worst thing I can do is beat myself up about it.

This is temporary. It will pass, and in the meantime, as Tony Horton says, “I’ll do my best and forget the rest.”

Now I think there are a couple of things going on, but the primary thing is I’m trying too darn hard.

I’m in a period of change and there are a lot of things that I “want.” As a result, I’m trying to do it all, to control the outcome, to make it all happen right now.

As I was contemplating my blog this morning and trying too hard was the obvious subject, I was delighted to see a blog by Barbara Mencer in my inbox titled, “Trying Sooooo Hard.”

(Thank you, Universe. I get the message.)

The gist of her blog is that when we really want something, trying harder is not the solution.

She cited a piece that aired on National Public Radio (NPR) on Jamaican sprinters and why so many great runners come from this small island.

To quote Mencer:

“At one point, the man being interviewed, Dennis Johnson … the 72 year old “Philosopher King of Jamaican sprinting” … asks the host this question:

“Have you ever seen Usain Bolt come from the back and rush past the rest of the field?”

“Yes.”

“Well that’s not really what you’re seeing. What you saw was the other people tiring first. Because you cannot increase speed after 6 seconds or 60 meters. It’s a physiological impossibility.”

So, what we were actually seeing when we watched Usain Bolt blast past the field in the final 40 meters of the 100 meter race at the Beijing Olympics was not Bolt speeding up, but the other runners slowing down.

He wasn’t kicking it into another gear. He wasn’t willing himself to go faster than the others. In fact, what he was doing better than the others was relaxing. Yeah, it’s completely counter-intuitive, but, in the words of the NPR piece …

“According to Johnson, people have the wrong idea about speed. He says a relaxed sprinter maintains speed, while the sprinter who’s tight, who’s concentrating too much, can tire fast or lose it at the end.”

So, they teach the Jamaican sprinters that if they want to go faster, they need to relax.”

And this is great instruction for all of life.

How do I know I’m not relaxed and in the flow? Low energy workouts is just the symptom of my encountering negative, catabolic thoughts and emotions. I’m having moments of total anxiety that I have to meditate my way out of. I’m reacting to things more than I would like. I sometimes feel like I have a weight on my shoulders.

Negative, catabolic emotions are always letting you know that you are trying too hard, that you are blocking your own wellbeing, that you are getting in your own way. That you aren’t relaxing and letting the positive, anabolic energy flow.

I know I’m letting the anabolic energy flow when I’m feeling excitement and exuberance, and just pure love and appreciation for my life. That is when I’m know I’m headed in the right direction, that I’m moving towards what I want, and that life is on my side.

But as soon as I become aware of catabolic emotions, I need to pay attention and look for a feeling of relief. And trying harder is not the way to do that.

This doesn’t mean hard work isn’t important—no athlete reaches the Olympics without plenty of hard work and disciplined training—but it’s the energy with which you approach it. Hard work can be fun or wearisome. Exhilarating or depleting. Where life is lived to the fullest, or the awful steps you have to make yourself get through to reach your goal.

I think the message for me is that as soon as it stops being fun and starts feeling hard to take my foot off the gas pedal pronto. To evaluate what caused the change, and look at the underlying thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that made me think it should be a struggle or that I wasn’t doing or trying hard enough.

As Mercer pointed out in her blog, it’s about allowing good things to happen rather than trying to force them.

Where are you trying instead of allowing? What difference does that make to your performance? How might relaxing and releasing control actually help you reach your goals more effectively than trying harder?

Together we can do it!

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10 thoughts on “Stop Trying So Hard

  1. This was very relatable to me. I had a tough day exercising yesterday and, you’re right, it has happened before, but I do get discouraged. I’m going to think about the Jamaicans the next time it happens! Thanks for the good advice in this post.

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