The Harder I Try …

I think it’s a German saying that goes something like “the harder you try, the behinder you get.” What a saying! I’d like to examine what might lie behind its meaning. Most of us have been taught to “try hard” in order to achieve and get ahead in this world. In and of itself, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that philosophy and, in most cases, it pays dividends. However, have you ever had the feeling that you may be trying too hard? Others may say something to you like “just relax and let it happen. You’re trying too hard.” You mean what that old saying brings is not as true as it was meant to be?

Well, no, there’s really nothing wrong with the saying. The problem lies with our not realizing that there comes a point when our “trying hard” doesn’t need to continue. We have reached a point where the accomplishments that have resulted through our concentrated efforts are now quite well-engrained within us to the point that our need to continue to try so hard is no longer necessary. In other words, our conscious efforts at doing something have now become a part of our unconscious efforts which don’t require the effort that we needed to expend in the beginning stages of our attempts at mastering a particular technique. Our unconscious minds can now take over in that we now have a “feel” for what it is that we need to accomplish that doesn’t require the forethought that was required early on.

There are many examples of this phenomenon. For instance, my mother, who was an excellent cook, never used a recipe that I can remember. She would proceed with the knowledge that the outcome of her cooking would be scrumptious every single time because of the unconscious awareness of something that had become second nature over time. Her repeated efforts at cooking had brought her to a point of having that sense of unquestionable confidence that allowed her to enjoy the fruits of her labor without having to concentrate on the particulars of whatever she needed to do. Of course, the outcome for me was that I was to have to battle a weight problem for much of my life.

And, I need to note here, that my wife, who is not Italian, could barely boil water when I met her. After we were going together for a while, she began to join my mother in the basement of our home where all of the cooking was done (so as not to get the upstairs stove dirty) but she only watched. She did not participate … only watched. I can say that soon after our marriage, I didn’t need to go back to Mom’s home for the kinds of meals that she would make and that everyone raved over. I had those replicated in my own home via my wife’s unconscious learning. Without intending any insult, she even surpassed my older sister in some of the recipes that she concocted and improved upon from my mother’s repertoire without even trying.

Another example would be in the area of sports … sports of all kinds. An athlete is subjected to the fundamentals of a given sport which he/she needs to practice over-and-over again until that facet of the sport is engrained in their minds and body memories. They then move onto the next step and then the next until they become proficient in their sport. The initial effort that they need to put forth gives way to their sense of engrainment becoming a “second nature” feel for what it is that they need to do in the split second of what the play might require they need to do. And for most athletes, even as they may have been away from active play, apart from their bodies not being able to perform in the same way that they may have in their younger years, their attempts at playing around with their sport become like “riding a bike.” Once they’ve accomplished the successful outcomes of their initial efforts, the memory of those accomplishments never leaves them.

Even for accomplished athletes who require tune-ups from time-to-time from professional coaches or consultants one of the more common directives is that they need to relax more in the performance of their roles and not try so hard because it’s getting in the way of their sustained success. Yes, I guess that we CAN RELAX and just “let it happen.”

(8 October 2014)

Both as a consultant and author, Charles Bonasera’s story-telling have motivated people to change patterns and resolve problems in their lives. All of his books contain valuable, practical lessons that people can easily apply to bettering and managing their lifestyles. He has also written a myriad of articles which can be found on his website at

Click here to return to the index of stories for That’s Life


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *