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Productivity / Business Productivity

Neuro-linguistic programming: Why trying is trying

Being consistently productive is a common goal, but constantly striving to make every day as successful and consistent as possible can be unproductive and even destructive.

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What are you trying to do?

Every day of a soloist’s life can be vastly different, bringing with it many challenges, directions, and even, let’s face it, distractions. Before you know it, you can be way off track, with the best-laid plans gone to waste. 

Why does this happen? In my experience one key issue is often the hidden unconscious dangers behind the word ‘Try’. 

How often, consciously or unconsciously, do you say things like this to yourself?

"As Yoda famously told Luke Skywalker, ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’"

  • Today I’m going to try to finish X, Y, and Z
  • I’ll try to catch up with my backlog today
  • I’ll try to get through my ‘To do’ list this week 

What’s motivating you?

In neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), the problem with the word ‘Try’ is that it’s what’s called an ‘away from’ motivator, and factors that we’re motivated to move away from (rather than towards) tend to lead to inconsistent productivity and goals. 

I’ll give you an example from my own life. I run (and note that I don’t ‘try’ to run) as often as I can during the week. I don’t do it because I should; I do it because I enjoy the benefits I get from it, even if initially I may not feel like going. I’m motivated towards the increased energy and clarity of thought that running gives me, and not away from the guilt that comes up if I don’t do it. 

Want more articles like this? Check out the productivity section.

Make like Yoda

As Yoda famously told Luke Skywalker, ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ 

Follow Yoda’s advice, and eliminate the word ‘Try’ from your vocabulary and self-talk. Instead, do whatever it is you’re planning or needing to do – or don’t, as the case may be. 

Rate your results

Once you’ve done whatever it is you’ve decided on, grade yourself informally on your efforts. Your grading may range from abysmal to outstanding, but even if you’ve had a shocker, the fact you’ve done it instead of ‘tried’ means you’ll feel positive, knowing that you’re moving in the right direction in terms of your motivation. 

In fact, I went for a run just before writing this article. If I were to grade it, I’d say it was abysmal. My legs felt like lead, I couldn’t hear my music from the heavy panting that was coming from my mouth, and I was relieved when I hit a red light just to be able to stop for a bit. Yet some days I can just run and run and run, and feel so light I’m almost flying. 

Find the positive and you’ll stay in control

The nature of soloism is our daily lives can be as inconsistent as my running prowess. Some days we’re in flow, and some days it’s tough getting started at all. It’s inexplicably inconsistent! 

The key is to still do it, and whatever the outcome is, take the positive from it and remain in control and in charge of the results. 

This approach allows me to recognise my achievements when I do have an excellent run, but doesn’t sugarcoat a poor effort. It helps me analyse my performance at a deeper level and identify the elements I need to work on to strive for more consistency, but still allows me to take the good out of the bad. Today I’m telling myself that no matter how painful every step of my run was, at least it gave me the idea for this article for Flying Solo! 

Are you a do-er or a try-er? Any tips for those of us ‘trying’ to get off the try-treadmill?

Deborah Keep

runs training events and coaching that use NLP at their core, a powerful yet simple tool that helps create new levels of performance and results in any area of personal or business development.

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