“Do or do not. There is no try.”
Yoda in Star Wars utters a profound truth (which is why he is Yoda). We’ve come to use the word “Try” to mean an attempt, or a mighty effort. The subliminal connotation, however, is that that the attempt ended in failure. “Well, at least she tried.” Depending upon which side you’re on, this failure can be trumpeted and exploited. If the attempt is successful, you’ve no longer tried. You have done it.
Even more insidious in the use of the word “Try” is a judgment of others. “You never know until you try.” “You’re not even trying!” “She makes it look like she’s not even trying.” Talk about the confusion of mixed messages? How many of us get sucked into unwise actions because we were goaded to “try?” And how many of us make our list of resolutions for each new year, filled with statements like “I’m going to try to lose weight. I’m going to try to save money. I’m going to try to find a better job.” What does that even mean? We set ourselves up for discouragement. We spend ourselves in useless exertion, and often end up with yet another invitation to feel bad about ourselves.
I’d like to reclaim this word, “try,” and shift to another legitimate meaning: that is, “to sample.” “Try the fudge, won’t you?” You take a little nibble of a dish, you “try this on for size,” you easily and gently experiment with a new action. If you like or don’t the result, at least you have broadened your perspective, and enlarged your “database” of personal experiences. The act of sampling something carries no baggage of self-condemnation or self-congratulation. It’s merely a way of establishing a personal preference, or refining an action so that it can be performed at a higher level — that is, so that it works better. You can actually PLAN an experiment, consisting of real actions. Then, you can evaluate the outcome at each phase, and correct course if needed, to get closer to the outcome you want. There is no failure, only information. Suddenly, you’re not trying. You are doing.
So much of what we “try” to do is bound up in our habitual patterns of thought, emotions, actions, stories, and reactions. As Moshe Feldenkrais said, when we “try” and our primary motivation is to achieve something, we are not free to be creative, innovative, or to find a new and unexpected approach. We just always do what we’ve always done. Small surprise that the results are disappointing. Our muscles contract in unproductive and parasitic action, resulting in strain and injury. A big part of the Method which bears his name, and which I practice, is to free oneself of those actions which are superfluous. Noticing what you do when you “try” develops your awareness. You, and I, can learn to do things differently.
Through a long process of experimentation, I have learned that my plans proceed much more smoothly when I don’t announce them prematurely. Revealing too much too soon can kill a good idea, or can stunt one’s ability to take action. So this year, I’m going to experiment with keeping my plans to myself until they are ready to launch. I’m going to experiment with floridly hallucinating the results I intend. I’m going to experiment with taking small steps every day. I’m going to experiment with seeing everything as a grand experiment, and with staying curious to see what emerges.
[Today’s prompt is provided by Kaileen Elise, one of the founders of #reverb10.
Prompt: Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?
[Blogging each day this month in a creative production frenzy: I confess I have enjoyed the process. The prompts from #reverb10 have been controversial, maddening, squirm inducing — and very valuable and effective nudges toward expression.]