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It's Okay to Say Try

Updated on December 20, 2012

Good Advice Gone Bad

We frequently hear, "Don't say you'll try; say you'll do it." The idea is that saying try means you're uncommitted, fearful or unwilling. Hand in hand with that thought is the idea that if you simply replace "I will try" with "I will do," you automatically succeed. For some people this works. Internally deciding that they won't just try, they'll do something, makes them move forward. These are generally the people saying this. Unfortunately, as if to prove the point, those of us receivering this advice may not even attempt the task at all.

Why? Are we unable to do it now that we've jinxed it with that awful three letter word? Probably not. The unspoken message whether we hear it consciously or not is very black and white - you succeed completely or you don't succeed at all. Many people respond to this kind of perfectionism by freezing up. Also,there is a lot of guilt, blame and shame built into the statement as well. Not everyone responds well to those.

Guilt, blame and shame do motivate to a certain degree. However, too much can make a person feel anxious and even like they're a failure before they have begun. So, contrary to what this great advice is -ahem- attempting to do which is motivate action, it instead stops some people dead in their tracks.

Then what's so bad about trying? Answer - Nothing. If uncommitted, fearful or unwilling is how you feel, so what? Let's use ice skating with friends as an example.

Being uncommitted to a task someone else wants you to do, or that you have only a little interest in, is fine. So, you go through the motions of learning how to ice skate and see if you want to continue. If you do - great. If you don't - so what?

Being fearful of a new task is normal. You don't know what to expect. You may have no idea how to even begin. You may skate slowly and tentatively at first. Learning something new is a process. Your success usually comes from trial and error rather than a single moment of positive thinking. Although positive thinking may be needed when you fall down and have to get back up.

Being unwilling is also acceptable. You got to the rink, you put the skates on and you decide that you just really don't like it. You tried; it wasn't a good experience for you. Most of the time you can choose what you do. If you don't like the ice skating activity your friends choose, you can sit and watch or meet with them later.

The thing is, trying is not a sin. It's not failure. And it's not a sign weakness. Trying means just making an attempt. The first attempt is the baby step that moves us forward to bigger steps and eventual success.

So when someone says, "There's no such thing as trying, there is only doing," you can smile and answer, "Are you trying to motivate me? Because that's just not working."

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