How often are you trying too hard?


Today is April 7 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you trying too hard?” Author James Clear wrote “Strangely, life gets harder when you try to make it easy. Exercising might be hard, but never moving makes life harder. Uncomfortable conversations are hard, but avoiding every conflict is harder. Mastering your craft is hard, but having no skills is harder. Easy has a cost.” As so many other Navigate the Chaos posts have mentioned, translating one dream after another requires a strong work ethic coupled with consistent self-discipline over an extended period of time. Clear’s observation echoed such a strategy. Today’s reflection, however, allows us an opportunity to consider the nuance associated with such an approach and that is when you try too hard. This may seem counterintuitive but sometimes the persistent application of hard work over a long period of time just might push us further along if we backed off a degree or two in our effort.


In her October 9, 2015, Psychology Today article "Do You Try Too Hard," Atalanta Beaumont wrote “When you try too hard, it shows and unfortunately it seems desperate. Trying too hard usually stems from a childhood where your efforts were either not rewarded or were not regarded as ever good enough, where you perceived yourself to be undervalued or unappreciated. Humans can work like a wolf pack in groups, but if they get a whiff of desperation, they will either ostracize the perpetrator or target them unkindly. And try not to look too hard for an exclusive relationship with someone, even a potential partner. Most well-balanced humans will have other interests and other friends as well as family.”


In the Inc. article "10 Signs You Need to Stop Trying So Hard," Minda Zetlin discussed a number of things to stop doing. Two such tasks included in today’s reflection focus on our relationships and our goals. In the article Zetlin tells the story of Todd Patkin who learned first-hand the need to stop trying so hard. Patkin would go on to publish the book Finding Happiness: One Man's Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and--Finally--Let the Sunshine. On those relationships that aren't working for you anymore Patkin noted "Maybe they worked for you before, back when you were in college. But now it's 20 years later" Ask yourself whether you enjoy being with this person, or whether the prospect of time together fills you with anxiety. Keep in mind that the company you keep is likely to affect your whole outlook, Motivational scientists have learned that your outlook in terms of negative feelings or happiness will be the average of the five people you spend the most time with."


In addition to not trying to hard with relationships, one should also not go overboard with goals Patkin observed. He wrote “There's nothing wrong with goals, but some people overdo it. Examples include ‘they have to have 10 percent body fat, and this much money in the bank, and every Saturday they have to do this activity.’ If this describes you, it's time to do some pruning. You should have maybe two business goals, one or two health goals, one or two relationship goals, and perhaps one or two goals related to spirituality, which might be as simple as taking a walk in the woods.”


Zetlin emphasized the need for balance and as Patkin pointed out, manage your energy since life is a marathon and not a sprint. If you try too hard all the time you will most likely be unable to leverage your mind, body, and spirit over the long-term to navigate the chaos. For today’s reflection, consider asking yourself how often you are trying too hard with the following life situations.


During the last 30 days how often did you try too hard…


…in a romantic relationship?

…in a platonic relationship?

…at work?

…at learning a new skill?

…at working out and exercising?

…at meditating?

…at losing weight?

…at being perfect (at everything)?

…at winning every argument?

…at showing others how important you are?

  • Why are you trying so hard?

  • What would happen if you backed off your level of effort at one or more of the tasks? Note: that does not mean you completely stop doing the task; you just ease off a bit.

  • Is someone telling you to try so hard all the time?

  • How has trying so hard impacted your self-care?