Sometimes old sayings bite you in the rear, just when you need them, or just when you’re putting together a post about something very, very big.
While taking a look at my reader yesterday, checking in with some of the folks I have been following lately, I came across a most serendipitous post from Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt on Twitter).
… and I just wish I had been the one to write it.
But I didn’t.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it. HERE it is.
“Do … or do not. There is no try” – Yoda
The purity and simplicity of this idea … it’s almost tangible. In my practice of the counseling profession, the idea of personal choice is one of my core principles. It is my belief that many of our problems (problems with ourselves, our environments, our relationships) are rooted in a confusion about who actually has control. Is our world (or environment, or other people, or society) the driver for our problems (and the solutions) or are we the driver of our problems (and our solutions)? To we employ an external (outside) or internal (within ourselves) locus (center) of control? That topic at length, is a topic of many more posts, but I just want to touch on it briefly because that idea is the core of this idea.
Why is it so important that we hold on to the idea of “trying”?
I believe it’s for (at least) two reasons:
1. It desensitizes us to failure.
If everything is “ok” because we “tried our best”, failure no longer has a sting, it loses its intensity, and loses it’s meaning. A failure doesn’t matter if we can turn each failure into an “almost success” and hang it up next to our trophies of wars won and giants slain.
What if David “almost” hit Goliath with that single stone?
Now let me clear. There are times in our lives where we need to learn the value of “trying” (or what I might call: “feel good failure”). My son, Daniel, is five years old. He needs to learn to give exceptional effort. He has no idea where his limits are, or what he is even capable of. His brain and emotions are young. As parents, we use the word “try” a lot with him. He is often scared or nervous about new situations, experiences, or tasks. Using the word “try” is a way to say: “No matter what, you are safe and Mommy and Daddy love you.”
My son is also 5 years old. We once were an age where milk would sustain us, before we could handle the meat that life has to offer. We, as adults, often discredit ourselves and what we are capable of doing. My son doesn’t understand his true potential. We (I) recognize our potential, but we (I) often ignore it. This leads me to reason number two about why we cling to “trying”.
2. An attitude of “I tried” keeps us from really learning the lessons we need to learn.
When we take the route to “try”, we concede that there was nothing else we could do about the outcome. We concede that more than an activity of our will and effort, an event was the causation of the environment around us. We work to help ourselves to believe that the last attempt was the best, that there is no better, and that the goal or objective must be unobtainable because I “tried” and didn’t get it, therefore it just “wasn’t meant to be”. Failing is teaching. Failing is learning. When we recognize that we have a role in our failures … that our failures aren’t simply the summation of a long line of coincidences and circumstances, then we can learn how to overcome those seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We have to recognize that we have a role to play.
In March of this year, I decided that I would “try” to complete a list of goals. Currently, I am roughly 90 days shy of the 12 month target to accomplish these tasks.
I am not going to make it.
I could make a long list of reasons why, but I would rather use two of the list items to illustrate my point more clearly.
In May of this year, I set out to climb a mountain. Not just any mountain. A 14,000 foot monstrosity known as Pike’s Peak in Colorado. I trained. For several weeks I was logging many, many miles on local trails and inclines to break in my boots, and train for the exertion the best that I could.
I “tried” to climb a mountain, and at 10,000 feet, 6 miles into the trek, I failed. But I also made a mistake that day. I told myself that I gave it my all. I told myself there were reasons outside my control that kept me from the summit (90mi per hour winds, snow caps, and cog-rail cancellations not withstanding). At six miles in, my wife and I decided to turn around. I told myself that “trying” was good enough.
It was not.
Just over one year ago (probably closer to 14 months) I pounded pavement in my first ever road race: a 5k in a community just east of Nashville, TN. Since that time, I have accomplished many of my running goals. I have completed 2 more 5ks, I have completed my first ever 10k.
This past Saturday, the greatest distance I had ever faced (12 miles in an attempt to summit a mountain) was met with a greater one: 13.1 miles. I was not ready (who really is ready for something like that anyways?).
Saturday was different. Trying was not an option. It was completion, or exhaustion and physical failure.
I am pleased (and relieved, to be honest) to say that I met the goal, reached the finish line, completed the objective … and didn’t die, faint, pass out, or break a limb.
The point I mainly want to make is: If you had asked me a year ago (before my first 5k) what I thought about a half-marathon … I would have called it impossible. If you had asked me if I would be able to complete the 13.1 miles after my mountain failure in May … I would have told you that I was going to “try” to finish the race … but would have been filled with doubt … and to be perfectly honest, also filled with a fear of failure about the 13.1 miles waiting for me in Memphis, TN.
Failure is not to be feared. What should be feared is complacency and mediocrity brought about by a perpetual acceptance of the idea that “what I can do today is all that I will ever be able to do”. To be satisfied with: “I tried my best.”
When March 10th comes, and the clock ticks from 30 to 31 years, I will have a list of “did’s” and “did not’s”, but I resolve to take joy in what was done, and learn from what wasn’t, and decide upon what I will accomplish in my 31st.
To simply repeat what Michael said on his blog about trying (because he said it better than I ever could):
Where are you trying to improve?
- Are you trying to get in shape or are you getting in shape?
- Are you trying to improve your marriage or are improving your marriage?
- Are you trying to make more sales calls or are you making more sales calls?
This may sound like a small distinction, but it has huge ramifications.
Maybe it’s time to quit trying and just do it.
Have a great week!
(For those of you interested, I took several pictures of the race on Saturday. You can find them on instagram (thomsthoughts) or follow me on Twitter (@thomsthoughts) and search back to my tweets from the 3rd. I pretty much logged the run live while it was happening)