“You never fail until you stop trying”. This is famous quote by Albert Einstein. It is used for motivation, for recovery from setbacks and, until recently, I loved the ‘never stop trying’ message it spreads. But what if trying actually leads to failure?

What if we reworded the quote… “You’ll never fail IF you stop trying.”

I know this sounds strange. Since we were kids we have been told to always try our hardest. BUT the word ‘try’ itself implies weakness in the face of challenges. It means we are resisting the natural process of our actions. We don’t ‘try’ to walk, we simply walk. We don’t ‘try’ to clean our teeth, we simply clean our teeth. We don’t ‘try’ to watch TV, we simply watch TV. And we are pretty expert walkers, teeth cleaners and TV watchers – all without ‘trying’.

It is only when we are faced with something challenging and self-doubt arises that we being to ‘try’. And this ‘trying’ causes tension. When dieters try to eat healthily, they only get stronger cravings for unhealthy food. When gym-goers try to stretch, they only get tighter (do it now – ‘try’ straightening your arm and you’ll feel both your extensor tricep and flexor bicep muscles tensing. You are fighting yourself). When a weightlifter ‘tries’ to lift the bar, they end up failing the lift. This is common in elite sport and is seen when athletes ‘choke’ under pressure – when they ‘try’ to consciously control a movement that is usually carried out automatically, negatively affecting performance (think Rory Mcllroy at the 2011 US Masters)

Less effort can create more results. By letting things happen and stopping the stressful approach of ‘trying’, we make natural progression by working right at the edge of our comfort zone. We flow with life rather than fight against it. We avoid the burnout.

If you are a tennis player, don’t try to hit the ball, just let the racquet swing. If you are a long jumper, don’t try to jump, find your resolve, and then let your body do the jumping. If you are yogi, envisage the pose, and then let your body move into it.

And this letting go of ‘trying’ is helpful in life as well as sport. Set your goals, prepare yourself, and then allow life to take its course. Let things happen naturally. Don’t resist the natural process of your life – this resistance of what is, is the root cause of stress and tension. Resist ‘trying’ and you will reduce stress, improve focus, enhance performance, learn from setbacks, and enjoy your growth and progression.