Provision #241: Stop Trying

Laser Provision

This Provision is counterintuitive. Want to get motivated? Then stop trying to do the stuff you never get around to doing. Give it up. Embrace what you are doing, stop being a stranger to yourself, and love what you live. In the process, you may find the motivation to get going.

LifeTrek Provision

Last week I wrote about three sources of motivation: our wants, needs, and values. I then suggested a simple technique to get what you want: make your environment more supportive. If you want to ride a bicycle, for example, do what one coaching client did: put it in the front hall • trip over the thing • until riding it becomes second nature.

But what happens when you bring out the bike, trip over your dreams, and still don’t find the motivation to get going? It just becomes another piece of junk cluttering up your house. That’s when it’s time to take the next step in motivational theory: stop trying. Get rid of the junk, put the bike back down in the basement, and follow a different path to success and fulfillment.

Nothing is more debilitating than mentally trying to do something without actually doing much of anything. It erodes our self-esteem as well as our sense of efficacy. We get to the point of saying, “There’s no way I can do that, I’ve tried.” This works for stopping things (like smoking) as well as for starting things (like running). There’s nothing worse than repeatedly failing at what you try to do. But there is a simple solution: stop trying.

That may seem like an odd suggestion, but it’s actually very profound. There’s no quicker way to become a winner than to stop losing. And there’s no quicker way to stop losing than to stop trying to do the things we want to do but never manage to get around to doing. Embrace what you are doing and life will become a whole lot easier.

I’m not suggesting that we abandon our inherent ambition and give up on self-improvement. I’m simply suggesting that we stop playing mental games with ourselves. To quote Yoda, the Jedi master coaching his young prot•g• Luke in Star Wars, “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” If we think we are trying to improve ourselves by saying one thing and doing another, then we fool only ourselves. Everyone else knows the truth.

Better to abandon the “would’a, could’a, should’a” than to walk around with a sense of always falling short. Better to embrace what we’re actually doing than to live continually in the gap between expectation and reality. If you actually work eighty hours a week, then celebrate spending most of your time and energy working. If you actually eat more calories than you burn every day, then celebrate gaining weight. If you actually read to your children every night, then celebrate spending quality time with your children. If you actually volunteer at a local soup kitchen, then celebrate feeding people in need.

The more you embrace what you are actually doing, instead of what you mentally desire or crave, the happier and more successful you will be. The more you jettison the guilt of falling short, the more you will understand and appreciate what Mary Oliver, in her poem “Wild Geese,” calls “your place in the family of things.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

That’s what happens when we stop trying to do what we’re not doing and start trying to do what we are doing. Ironically, the more aware we become of what we are doing, and the more we enter into a positive relationship with those things, the more likely we are to overcome despair as we hear that harsh and exciting announcement regarding our place in the family of things. Surprisingly, it may become a source of new energy and change.

Want to get motivated? Then stop trying to be, have, and do what you’re not. Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Do what you do. Have what you have. Be what you are. In the process you will find the motivation to be the best you can possibly be.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.

I have been out of the U.S.A. now for almost six months of a 15-month-long world tour. I am a teacher who has been looking for direction. LifeTrek has helped me to focus my desires, needs, and future aspirations. Thank you for your informative and enlightening articles.

I enjoy your articles and would like to continue receiving them at my new e-mail address.

Why did life trek unsubscribe me? Good day to you! I just got your “unsubscribe” note and I must say that I was angry at it. Why should you unsubscribe me? I did not unsubscribe from your newsletter, so what’s happening? Please let me know ASAP. Meanwhile I would like you to put me back on your list. (Ed. Note: “Subscribe” and “unsubscribe” are automated utilities that can be triggered for many reasons, e.g., sending an e-mail, filling out a Web form, or having a full mailbox. Sorry this happened! You’re back on the list.)

Thanks again for the food for thought. I have a bone to pick re: values however. I’m glad you promised, “we’ll spend a lot more time here,” because your comment just before that, “I default to my values,” feels bad (like it’s a last resort). I hope you’ll emphasize how essential values are to your being, a grounding, so that values take the priority • after relationships.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452
Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek
Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services