Trying too hard?

Jun 26th, 2011 | By | Category: abundance, Career advice, mentor, trying too hard

It is ingrained in our psyche. The harder we try the more likely it is we will succeed. It is drilled into us by our parents, teachers, coaches, and all would be givers of sage advice. Hard work = Success.; If at first you don’t succeed try harder; The harder you try the more you will succeed, these and more everyday expressions that beam a constant message to put more muscle behind it (physical or mental) only to realize less than desired results. If this seems familiar are you “Trying too hard?” Yes you are.

Although there are countless books and articles on “Giving it your all” there are also several authors who have discovered “Trying too hard” is just as detrimental to our goals as not trying hard enough. A Google search of “Are you trying too hard returned 175,000 results. So the idea of trying too hard is nothing new. (Here are few links to just a few from the search “Trying too hard” [http://www.crazytownblog.com/crazytown/2011/04/are-you-trying-too-hard.html ; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-cara-barker/are-you-trying-too-hard_b_464477.html ; http://thefuturebuzz.com/2010/02/26/trying-too-hard/ ]

Most of us often experience the folly of trying too hard, but fail to realize it as the root cause of our failure. I fall victim to “Trying too hard” every time I play golf. When I tee up the ball, I tell myself to relax and swing easy. This works all the way to the top of my backswing. Then from somewhere deep in my psyche comes an uncontrollable signal to swing like I am “Casey Up At Bat” with similar results “There is no joy in Mudville, for might Casey just struck out. Yep, completely miss the ball sometimes. Although I know I am trying too hard I can’t seem to break myself of the habit.

The same is true in careers. In our efforts to reach the top, we spend endless hours working feverishly to dig ourselves into an ever-deeper rut. We take on more projects than we can effectively handle, we volunteer for extra work, or work extra hours and weekends in attempt to out produce the competition, we have to speak up meetings (even when we have nothing relevant to add), the endless list stretches on to what seems like infinity. Like a black hole, trying too hard sucks in boundless energy and gives nothing back. Eventually it begins to show. Instead of having a healthy quest for success, we develop a crushing fear of failure. Labels such as: desperate; ambitious; cut throat; workaholic; and similar less flattering adjectives are applied. Once someone told me they were at a fairly high-level office meeting, where they were discussing choosing someone to for a doomed to fail project. I was told my name came up with the statement “He will do almost anything if there is the slightest chance of promotion.” Instead of displaying the desired charismatic trait of a team player, I was perceived as desperate. (I was assigned the project, I did succeed, and someone else got the promotion.) In attempt to learn from that experience, I tried to temper my strategy. By taking a little wider view, I realized management used employee’s ambition like a carrot and stick routine and it worked on most employees, just like in the cartoons. The carrot of promotion was dangled just out of reach of the ravenous donkey, who tried harder and harder to reach the carrot only too collapse having expended all his energy, and the rabbits leisurely hop up and eat the carrot, while the donkey helplessly looks on. “But you were so close.” “Just a little more effort and you may have reached your goal.” And the beat goes on -Try Harder.

So what are we supposed to do? Give up and sit idly by while the competition marches past? No – Like everything there is a balance. We have to give it our best effort, but we do not have to fall into the trap of expending endless energy trying to achieve the impossible. A wise general picks his battles; the part of that advice that goes unspoken is he avoids the ones he can’t win. Look at history; the greatest powers of the era were ultimately defeated by trying too hard.

If you are an enterprising ambitious person with a goal of success tempering your tendency of trying too hard is like breaking any other habit.
First : Recognize when we are trying too hard.

Second: Make a conscious effort and take the time to think through the situation. If the donkey took a wider view he would have see the string and stick holding the carrot. He may even realize it is tied to his head and a simple nod could shake it loose and he could reach it without taking a step. Work smarter not harder should be your mantra.

Third: Establish realistic goals. No one can climb a mountain with a single step. You need to study the terrain, plan a route, and avoid wasting energy. Look at the teams that failed to reach the top of Mt. Everest. They all get trapped at base camp, within reach of the summit, out of supplies and energy. Most do not survive to try again.

Work smarter not harder, and remember the donkey could have had the carrot at any time, if he would have only taken a wider view and thought it through.

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