Try Softer

Trying harder isn’t always the best strategy.

The trouble with “try harder” is that it may not get you the result you are looking for particularly when learning something highly technical. Perhaps the only time “try harder” works is when you are talking specifically about an effort related to aerobic or anaerobic energy systems where movement patterns have already been established and are well ingrained. Then yes, get your head around it and try harder or hang in there longer or whatever you need to do to endure the suffer-fest.

Highly technical activities or new skills however need a different approach. Sometimes you need to “try softer” or “try slower” or “try lesser” or “try frequently”.

Try harder can create tension in places where you don’t need or want tension. Sometimes try softer is a better approach. Sometimes you have to focus on suppleness and softness first and then build tension where it needs to be built.

Try harder is problematic learning new skills because it often results in moving too quickly. Sometimes you need to try slower first. Trying slower allows you to actually pattern movements properly. It allows your nervous system to feel the way it’s supposed to move. Ballet teachers have known this for as long as ballet has existed. Ballet classes are always filled with slow, precise movements and static (but perfect) positions before they are performed quickly.

Try lesser may be a better approach for particularly complex movements. Instead of trying harder to do it all at once, try doing less at once. Break the movement up into manageable pieces- refine those movement patterns then connect them together.

Trying frequently with great technique is the best way to get better at something as long as the trying part is done properly. It’s better to try softly with frequency than it is to try harder with less frequency.

Try harder can lead to over-thinking. Over-thinking is another great way to create tension in your body in places where it shouldn’t be. If you have practiced the skill and have gained some competency then your nervous system knows how to execute so let it execute. Try harder that leads to over thinking is usually counter productive to clean execution because the thinking part of your brain interferes with nervous system patterns that are already well established and know what to do. The thinking part of your brain is actually pretty clumsy at physical execution- it’s too mechanical. Once a movement is ingrained in your nervous system it’s there forever so the best strategy is to simply get out of your own way- stop thinking about it and just let your body do it

Next time you are inclined to try harder consider whether it is actually the best strategy.

About Jasper

Jasper is an Ironman Champion and professional athlete turned coach and entrepreneur. He also has a passion for the philosophical and creative side of life. This is his personal blog.

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