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Why ‘TRY’ doesn’t work

Have you ever wondered why, when you have ‘tried’ to do something, you haven’t succeeded in doing it?

The word ‘try’ is such a powerful one but we often don’t here ourselves saying or thinking it. Have you ever heard someone saying, “I’m going to ‘try’ to give up smoking” or “I’m going to ‘try’ to go to the gym this week.”

When you say the word ‘try’ you’ve already given yourself, subconsciously, permission not to achieve it.

If you manage to give up smoking (or become a non smoker as I would prefer to say) then surely you haven’t tried to stop, you have actually done it! The same applies as soon as you have entered the gym. You haven’t tried to go there, you’ve actually gone there.

The word ‘try’ is used extensively in our daily lives and yet we don’t often hear ourselves saying it. When I coach people, either in groups or 1:1, I notice the body language that is attached to the word ‘try’ or ‘trying’. There is little conviction in the words almost as if the person has agreed that what they said they would do wouldn’t happen.

An example of the word try can be shown using the analogy of booking an appointment with your doctor.

Let’s imagine you need to see your doctor for some reason so you make the call to the doctors number.

There are 3 ways you could approach this:

1: You could ‘try’ to phone the doctors and make an appointment

The chances are that if you only TRYING to phone then you won’t, as other things will get in the way. Let’s face it, you’re a busy person.

2: You could phone the doctors and TRY to make an appointment

The chances are that you’ll pick the phone up, make the call and get through to the receptionist. When they say they don’t have any appointments in the next couple of days but can see you next month, you’ll agree and take the appointment which in reality is too far away to be of a help to you.

3: You could PHONE the doctors and GET an appointment. (Notice the lack of ‘trying’)

By choosing this approach you are saying to yourself that you’ll definitely pick up the phone and make the call. You’ll also be aware that if (or when) you get told there are no appointments until next month you will respond in a way that is more likely to get you what you want.

Instead of passively agreeing to this later appointment, you’ll display behavioural flexibility and influence the receptionist to give you an earlier appointment.

It should be noted that just because you remove TRY from the third example above, it doesn NOT guarantee success. It does, however, mean you are much more likely to achieve your desired outcome than if you just ‘tried’ to do it.

The power of the word ‘TRY’ can be seen in boxing. Have you noticed in big boxing matches how both fighters before the match say they are going to win.

If one of them said, well I’m going to try to win, then it gives an indication that they have no real belief in their own ability to win. Whereas, if they say to others (and themselves) that they are the best fighter and will win, they stand more of a chance of doing it. Clearly there is often only going to be one winner in a boxing match but, as before, not ‘trying’ does not guarantee success, it just makes it more possible.

What about politics, imagine two political leaders in a debate and one said, “I am the right person to lead this country and I will sort the economy out so we are in a strong position.”

Then the second person said, “I will try to lead the country through this difficult economic period and I’ll try to do my best to be a good leader.”

Which one gets your vote? Surely it’s the one who will ‘do it’ rather than the one who is ‘trying’?

How is this knowledge useful to you and how can you apply it?

Firstly start noticing how many time a day you are saying to yourself and others, “I’ll try to do xxxxx”

When you notice you are saying this, change it. Remove the word ‘try’.

  • I am giving up smoking (I prefer I will become a non smoker)
  • I am going to the gym
  • I am sorting my life out
  • I am getting the job of my dreams
  • I am going to remain calm when the kids are playing up.

The word try is permission to fail. Don’t give yourself this permission. Go and do it if it’s important enough.

Thanks for reading and keep making the conscious choices.

Darren