Enlightened Living

Meaning and mindfulness in everyday life

How Trying Versus Doing Limits Potential

On personal empowerment – stop trying

One of my teachers, Grandmaster Lee, is often heard saying, "There is no "try" - only do!" While at first blush this may appear to be one of many almost stereotypical aphorisms of a wizened old Taoist priest, it is, in fact, a rather complex social commentary on how not to build negativity into our lives and, simultaneously, maximize our potential for success.  In his typically oblique Chinese fashion, he means it just that way.

As soon as we say that we are "trying" to do something, we build into our intention the potential for failure, or, at the very least, limited success. When we say that we are "doing" something, it sets us up to succeed right out of the gate.

Anyone who has written goals and objectives will recognize this ethic straight away. We set a goal, "Tommy will pay closer attention in class." And we set objectives to support that goal - "Tommy will...". Not "Tommy is going to try to...", but "Tommy will...". The element of success is built right in to the intention and the potential for failure or limited success is built right out.

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This seems like a simple enough idea, but it is a trap that each and every one of us falls into almost every day. "I'm trying to be a better husband." "I'm trying to be a better parent." "I'm trying to take better care of myself." Well, stop trying and show up!

That is, indeed, the hard part -- not because it's hard to show up, although that is hard -- but because it sets a standard for behavior and execution that we start out doubting that we can achieve in the first place. It's kind of like being passive-aggressive with yourself.

This notion of predetermined self-defeat pops up everywhere - look at the recovery movement. If we attest that we are "recovering", does it not build into our intention the possibility of relapse? What if we were to simply intend, "I am sober."? Or within the mind-body framework, isn't being "cancer-free" a bit more deterministic and concrete than being "in remission."?  A wise friend and colleague of mine calls this "living as-if, instead of what-if".

It sounds like we're just talking about language, but language is the vehicle of our intention. If we change the manner in which we talk about something, then we change our belief system - the way that we think about that thing -- and, in changing our belief system, we can change our entire system of consciousness.

This isn't a soliloquy on the power of positive thinking; it's a template for re-envisioning ourselves and our outcomes through a shift in self-perception that will ultimately compel and perpetuate a maximization of our human potential.

In the end, it is about being fearless. It is about running headlong into the fire, rather than thinking about it. By casting ourselves into the crucible of our own intention, we are able to transform ourselves, our experience of the world and how our family and community experience us.

So, take a look at your life and see where it is that you are "trying" versus "doing". Set an intention and become, in that moment, what you envision yourself to be.  Rather than striving for change, just change.

Wax on, wax off.

 

© 2009 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved

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Michael J. Formica, M.S., M.A., Ed.M., is a psychotherapist, teacher and writer. He is an Initiate in the Shankya Yoga lineage of H.H. Sri Swami Rama and the Himalayan Masters.

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