01 Jan It’s Ok To Try
‘I always believe in trying my best in every moment, but, if I lose, I lose and I congratulate my opponent for being better than me.’
The above is a genuine quote from a highly successful sportsman (I’ll reveal his identity later).
Whenever I use the word ‘try’ in the company of coaches or NLP enthusiasts they immediately correct me with the classic line that ‘you can try or you can do’. The word ‘try’ they argue is only used when failure is anticipated.
In this blog I will argue that it’s healthy and realistic to ‘try’ and furthermore, when you ‘try’, you accept the possibility of failure and in turn increase the probability of success.
Before you utter the words ‘cop out’ please read on.
I should first explain that I do believe in the power of both positive thinking and positive language and that in my cognitive hypnotherapy sessions I always encourage people to adopt a positive outlook. I also regularly use several NLP techniques within sessions.
However, I also know that no matter how positive you are in thought and word, life may not go the way you want. No matter how well prepared you are, setbacks and disappointments will always happen. Saying you’ll definitely ‘do’ something (as opposed to ‘try and do’ something) doesn’t ensure that it will happen.
But there’s more to it than that. It’s out of touch with reality. Promising that you ‘will do’ something when you can’t guarantee that outcome creates unnecessary pressure. In our minds ‘will do’ quickly becomes ‘must do’ and ‘must’ is usually followed by ‘or’:
× I must do that or it will be terrible/unbearable
× I must do that or it will mean I’m a failure
Imagine being a penalty taker in a crucial football match. You have confidence in your technique, you’ve visualised scoring, your head is filled with positive thoughts, you’ve told yourself ‘I will score’. You step up and strike the ball perfectly to exactly the spot where you wanted it to go – and then the goalkeeper makes the most incredible save.
You gave it your best shot but, in that moment, it just wasn’t good enough.
The problem with saying you will definitely do something and then not delivering, is that it has a profound effect on our future actions and brings about the opposite of what we intended. It creates self-doubt and destroys self-confidence. Subconsciously we believe we’ve failed and this will impact on how or indeed whether we approach future challenges. Fear of failure is a form of anxiety which is closely linked to procrastination.
The quote at the start of this blog was made by none other than the great tennis player Rafael Nadal. No-one could accuse Nadal of not committing, he’s a consummate competitor with a fantastic record of success and yet he’s clearly happy to use the word ‘try’ because he knows he cannot guarantee success. Whilst Nadal prefers to win, always tries to win (and usually does win), he’s not afraid to lose because he’s in touch with reality and knows that wanting to win and being outstanding at tennis doesn’t guarantee victory every time. For Nadal, defeat is an unwanted but occasionally inevitable part of life. It doesn’t scare him or reflect on him as a person. On the rare occasions he loses, he accepts it, puts it behind him and moves on.
So, if you genuinely try your best but at the same time accept the possibility that your best may not always be good enough you are more likely to:
× Stay in touch with reality
× Maintain your self-belief and self-worth
× Face up to future challenges
× Perform confidently and effectively