In life, we often think when something isn’t working, we should be trying harder. But it could be the case that we should be doing things differently.
I rediscovered the above statement, ‘Don’t Try Harder, Try Different’, when reading a book by Katherine Gray, The Unexpected Joys of Being Sober. I say rediscovered because I have seen the saying before, but somehow it resonated with me more now than ever.
I gave up alcohol six years ago. I have never looked back. I’m still loving the way sober life makes me feel. However, as ok as I am with being booze-free, I find that other people seem to have difficulty accepting my lifestyle choice. Many feel uncomfortable being around a teetotaller, especially one who was once a ‘proper drinker.’ Because of this, I find it interesting to learn what brought others into sobriety, how it impacts their life and the people in it.
In her book, Kathrine not only talks about her battle with booze, and how it affected her friends when she gave up, she also discusses how it is known, that when giving up alcohol, not every approach works for everyone. One person may benefit from going to AA meetings, another will find it sets them back, one person may be able to continue socializing very soon after quitting the booze, another person may need to avoid all places that serve alcohol for months or even years. It is about finding an approach that works for the individual. Which I totally agree with, for all areas of life.
However, if you’re anything like me, you may find when something isn’t working or not giving the desired results, the inner-critic emerges. It tells you that you’re not working hard enough and need to put in more effort. But it’s often the case that when something doesn’t work, it’s not always because we are doing it wrong or being lazy, it could be that we are not doing what is right for us. We are following a recipe that was for someone else’s success.
An example of where this happened for me is in yoga. I’ve done yoga for over twenty years. I started practising to a) find inner-calm and balance and b) to help ease my ‘hairdressers back’ (after years of doing 12-hour standing days, in heels, it took its toll on my lower-back). The promised inner-calm came quickly. In fact, after one session I could feel a shift in how I felt, but my back problem didn’t go away.
Although I gained incredible benefits from yoga, over the years of trying and ‘working harder’ at yoga poses (even qualifying as a yoga teacher) my back problem did not get resolved. Many good teachers demonstrated poses that worked for their back problems or their students. I tried them. They didn’t work. I told myself it was because I wasn’t working hard enough or getting deeper into the poses. I thought I wasn’t being accurate in my positioning or that I needed to spend more time practising. My ego mind also got involved; telling me I needed to be more bendy and work to be like all the other yogis who could tie themselves into effortless knots. It took me many years to learn that I had to do asanas differently. If something isn’t right for my body, and its imbalances, it doesn’t matter how much I work to perfect a pose, I would never get the benefit.
It is understandable why we tell ourselves we need to work harder. We are led to believe the only way to succeed at anything is through graft. And yes, hard work pays off, but only when we are doing what is right for us.
Now, I am not encouraging anyone to give up on their dreams because they are not happening quickly enough. Good things don’t always come easily. Some things take many years to manifest and the journey can be very enjoyable. But if it’s not working, a new approach may be needed.
We live in a ‘one-sized-fits-all world’. We are sold the ideas of miracle cures or easy ways of making money. ‘This worked for thousands of people, so it will work for you.’ But we are all different…
I have noted many times, in my writings, that what works for one will not always work for another. I learnt that through trial and error, and I am still learning it.
My ‘well-programmed’ brain does not always want to hear that I have to do things differently in order to succeed. To reap the benefit of some yoga poses, I might have to bend my legs where others need to keep their legs straight, when doing high-energy exercise, I might be better doing a hill-walk instead of a run, I might be better expressing myself on paper, whereas another is better doing it verbally…
The brain likes to keep us safe. It thinks that by following the crowd it’s the safest route. It likes us to follow the rules laid out for everyone else because there’s less chance of danger and we’re not as vulnerable. And for some people, this works. Some are very happy and successful by following the well-walked path. But if you’re not getting the desired results, and it doesn’t feel ‘right,’ maybe it’s time for a new plan?
It takes courage to move away from the herd. It takes bravery to step out of our comfort zone and do it differently. But trying different instead of harder could be the exact thing we need to see big changes happen.
It can apply to all areas of life too: diet, exercise, people, work, business, family life, etc. When one way isn’t working, there will always be another way to do it.
A good way to uncover ‘new ways’, other than the usual internet searches, is by tuning into inner-guidance. Spending quiet time listening to our intuitive mind, instead of the rational mind, can be incredibly revealing (see this post on how to question yourself).
Whilst we continuously do what is not a fit for us, we give our power away. So, when something isn’t working, instead of trying harder why not try different?