I’ll try ….

I’ve been trying to get this article written for a while. That’s the whole point of trying, isn’t it? A declaration of intent that never quite works out. We’ve probably all heard versions of this:

  • We’ll try to get the part by Wednesday
  • I’ll try to remember
  • I’ll try to phone you back before the end of the day

It’s almost guaranteed as a promise that’s well meant but unlikely to be fullfilled. Have you ever heard yourself say ‘I’ll try to …’ either out loud or to yourself? That’s what prompted me to write this article. I noticed I was often telling myself ‘I’ll try to….’.

Yoda, the little green guru of Star Wars expressed a hardline point of view about trying:

There is no trying, only doing or not doing!

In terms of behaviour he’s quite right, you either do or don’t whatever it is that you are trying to do.

I started to wonder what was behind ‘trying’. What kind of beliefs or compulsions lurk within ‘I’ll try’? Here’s the list of ideas around the problem: “I’m trying to write this article.” I wrote the statements down as pairs of opposites because if there is a tension between doing and not doing, then I probably have conflicting impulses, and I’d like to flush those out into the open. (The numbers in parentheses indicate the subjective strength of the statement).

  • I am writing this article (6)
  • I am not writing this article (8)
  • I can write this article (7)
  • I can not write this article (0)
  • I should write this article (3)
  • I should not write this article (8)
  • I must write this article (0)
  • I must not write this article (0)
  • I will write this article (6)
  • I will not write this article. (4)

NLPers amongst you will recognise the modal operators of possibility and necessity. In everyday terms, sentences starting ‘I can’ and ‘I must’ etc indicate beliefs about the permissions or restrictions we give ourselves and are usually taken on board from others. These beliefs frequently operate below the surface of awareness limiting our behaviour and ideas about what’s possible and desirable for our lives.

Starting with the strongest, ‘I am not writing this article’, I used EFT to neutralise that statement. Then I worked my way through each of them, including the ones that look positive, neutralising them in turn.

After doing that I find myself in an unpressured state in which writing this article is quite easy. I don’t feel any sense of compulsion for, or against, doing it. I’m just writing the article and feeling statisfied doing it. Quite a different feeling from ‘I’ll try!’.

By the way I didn’t bother asking myself why I had any of these reactions. I’ve no idea why “I am not writing this article”, or “I should write this article”, had any intensity behind them. I didn’t need to know about that at, all I needed to do was neutralise ‘cans’, ‘cants’, ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ and allow a more useful, balanced, state to emerge.

I’ve just realised I could have added:

  • I need to write this article
  • I don’t need to write this article

to the list.

Maybe next time.

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