"> Trying Harder Does Not Work - So Now What?
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Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure.

Earl Wilson

Life Coaching

Building Focus, Energy & Courage - to Make a Better Life for You

Trying Harder Fails
- So Now What?


What's Wrong With Trying Harder?

Try Harder - sounds like an obvious winner, doesn't it? And for a time, it may get you moving. But in my experience, used on it's own, it's doomed to crash and burn long-term. Think about diets, going to the gym, being nicer to someone, reducing or removing a bad habit.

No - permanent, personal change is not possible through a try harder strategy alone. When you try harder, you haven't changed anything about the situation you're working on. Not the world, and not yourself. You're just denaturing yourself to make things work despite fundamental stresses which remain. I'm not saying trying hard isn't necessary, I'm saying it isn't sufficient for permanent personal change.

We want change to happen, and intellectually, we understand what must be done, but human minds are odd things, and they have components within them which work against our intellect. Depressingly, those components are often stronger than "we" are, and we find ourselves spectating whilst we sabotage our efforts and return, depressed and frustrated to the old status quo. This is a double whammy because - not only have we invested and lost, we also watched that happen - and that builds defeatism and may grow self-loathing, too. Nasty stuff.

So What Now?

Most people know all this already, and their cynicism may be entrenched. I've heard many people say "Look, I know what's required, but I also know "I simply cannot do it - I've tried and it doesn't stick!". But, that doesn't mean coaching can't work, it is, in fact, the point at which coaching takes over. I always say, we have to work with the person you really, actually are today. We have to make that person do the things necessary - not some theoretical super-you with iron willpower, a happy-clappy disposition and an orange robe (sorry, got carried away there...).

So what other tools are there in the box? What tools will work with the genuine, classic, old-school Mark 1 Human Being - you know - the one that's lazy, whiny, weak, tired, sad and secretly surrendered?

Well, there are quite a few of them, and you'll find many of them described in these articles, and today, I want to give you another one. I use it a lot in my coaching practice, and it works wonders. It's a tool I used a lot in management too, so those in a supervisory world might want to take note in that context too.

Structural Change

I call it "structural change", and the idea is quite straightforward. I can describe it with an analogy. You're in a boat. It's leaking and you're sinking, but you have a small plastic cup, and if you keep bailing water, you'll stay afloat. Sure, it works. For a while. But you'll get tired, the cup may get damaged, and after a while, you'll convince yourself that a nice cold bath would be the thing to do. You stop bailing and you sink. That's the Trying Hard Strategy.

Now a more enlightened sailor in the same predicament remembers his coaching experiences, reflects for a time on how life-changing they were, and on what excellent value-for-money they represented () and says "Aha! I'm currently employing a try hard strategy; I recognise the superior value of a structural change strategy, so .. here goes!". He takes the plastic mug, stuffs it in the boat's hole, and job done. No more leaks; no more bailing, no more aching arm, and no more chance of sinking. Life on the waves just got rosy again.

That's the essence of the structural change tool. Ignoring the dodgy plumbing in my analogy, I hope you can see the concept at work.

Rather than fight some constant force,
permanently remove that force,
and remove the struggle against it

Practical Application of Structural Change

All well-and-good in Newsletter land, but what about where you live? OK, here are some common scenarios which show how to apply the concept.

  • You struggle to find time for important projects

    -- but the day-to-day grind keeps you occupied and there's never any time left to do the good stuff.

    A try harder strategy would have you arriving sooner, staying later, working faster, working through breaks, trying to be more efficient, and so on. These strategies will work short-term, but you'll pay a price which will get pretty old pretty quickly, and your boat will sink.

    A Structural change strategy might permanently remove some of that daily grind. What is it? Where is it coming from? How can you make it go away? (Think "Automate, delegate or decimate"). Perhaps you can un-subscribe from some mail, re-assign the contact address to someone else, write an email rule to re-direct stuff, and so on. These are ways not to bail harder, but to do less bailing.

    Another structural change strategy could be to re-organise your day. Decide to make yourself unavailable for an hour or so every morning; book a meeting with yourself and make sure it's away from the hubbub. Do the golden work there.
  • You love chocolate, but it makes you fat

    A try harder strategy would have you promise to have only one square per day. If you've been coached by me, you might know about talismans and so you might leave a Post-It note in the cupboard (or other holy Chocolate Shrine) to remind you of your commitment.

    A Structural Change strategy might have you not keep chocolate in the home. So now you've got to bail (do work - go and buy some chocolate) to fail!
  • Your child keeps pestering you for money

    A try harder strategy is to keep discouraging them; explaining that you don't have much of it. Or you might say "if you have this, you can't have that", but then they probably know you don't mean it, so you've just postponed the next round in the fight. So. Works well, and it's great fun, right? Not so much..

    A structural change could be to allocate your child a fixed amount of cash per week, and to give it to them. When it's gone, it's gone, and they decide how to spend it. That's it. They are the master of their own finances (in some safely limited way). You will have removed yourself as the Big Bad Barrier between their white hot wishes, and any real-world realities or consequences. They will learn without you taking the hits for the lessons. If you stick to that you'll have changed their world by showing them the real one, and they will grow up to be far more responsible, civilised adults, and you'll have a better life too.

I hope you get the idea. Rather than struggling with things the way they are - change the way things are permanently.

Put your fun head on and be creative. Enjoy!


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