A New Year is upon us, and with every New Year comes the inevitable … New Years’ Resolutions. Statistically speaking (although we all know 75% of statistics are made up) approximately 35% of resolutions are abandoned by mid-January. We make a resolution to go to the gym 4 times a week. We try it, we fail, we abandon the resolution. My solution is simple… Stop trying.
If you have heard me speak before then you have likely heard me vehemently tell you that I do not want you to try and of the skills, concepts or behaviors that I present to you. Insert pause for dramatic effect … I don’t want you to ‘Try’ any of them. I do, however, want you to ‘Practice’ all of them. At a minimum, pull out one nugget that you can put into practice on a regular basis immediately. I know at a surface glance it may simply seem like semantics but I think it is a critical distinction. Let’s have a look at the definition of the two words to envision how they may be affecting our behaviors.
Try: “an effort to accomplish something; an attempt.”
Practice: “perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.”
The language we feed our brains has a powerful hold on how we think, act and ultimately, who we become. So here are six reasons why I decided to stop ‘Trying’:
- Our language shapes us
The person you will communicate most with is yourself. Like any interaction of communication, it is important that we precisely convey the message that we want to get across. The first step in this process with our internal dialog is awareness. We need to be aware of what we are saying so that we can make the decision whether or not to accept the language we are using or to use a different word to convey the message that we want to get to Experiment replacing the word ‘try’ with the word ‘practice in your internal dialog as a first step.
- When we try, we leave ourselves open to failure
Trying is usually met with a pass/fail outcome. We ‘try’ something and are either successful or we are unsuccessful. The problem with this is that it leaves us an out. How many times have you heard the phrase “Yeah, I tried that. It didn’t work.” We put a stop sign at the end of the attempt.
- When we shift our focus to a practice it only leads to improvement
By shifting our language to ‘practice’ vs. ‘try’ it changes our expectations. We never fail at practice. Practice always leads to improvement no matter how marginal it may be. It also psychologically allows us to come back and confidently repeat a task with no other expectation other than to improve on our last attempt.
- If we stop trying it gives us permission to attempt things that we might feel we are unable to do
Fear of failure is a very real thing and often prevents people from making an attempt. When we change the language we change our expectations around a successful outcome. This gives us the freedom to experiment, knowing that every attempt is simply a milestone on the path to success.
- Trying is stressful
Let’s face it, when we try and accomplish something we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to succeed. That can be tremendously stressful, taking us off the path of contentment that we are seeking to find by adding whatever skill it is we are practicing.
- It’s pretty easy to give up trying
When we shift our focus to practice we are far more likely to continue.
This mind shift was a fairly big epiphany for me and the impact it has had on my mental well-being has been profound. One other tactic that I have found that has worked well for me is to find someone who is good at the thing I want to do and if at all possible find some of their early work. You may just find that you are starting at a level above where they were when they started.
So let’s take all those New Years’ resolutions, stop trying them and start practicing them. Try it on and see how it feels. Let me know if your experience is similar to mine.