Do or Do Not ~ A Note on Trying

Do or do not.

“Do or do not. There is no try.” ~ Yoda from Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back

I usually don’t find myself quoting Yoda, but in this case, I think he’s absolutely right. Show of hands: how many people really believe somebody when they tell you that they’re going to try to do something?

  • I’ll try to make it there.
  • I’ll try to get to that this week.
  • I’ll try to give you a call.

I bet if you really think about it, probably not many of you do. Try means no commitment. You’re not on the hook for anything. There’s no risk of failure. You can always get out of it later ~ well, I said I’d try.

I once was lucky enough to attend a seminar given by a neurologist who had been studying the brain for three decades. She talked at length about the enormous impact that thoughts have on the body & your health. Then, and I loved her for this, she talked about the power of words. She explained how studies have shown that positive words can actually increase memory function, improve health, and a slew of other good things, which I’m sure surprises no one. Later on, she talked about how the kid phrase sticks & stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me was “a lie from the deepest pit of hell.” And finally, she talked about the language you use when you talk about your life, your goals, your dreams: how what you tell yourself can affect everything ~ influencing the reality around you & changing the scope/shape of your life ~ for the better or for the worse.

Trying was one of those words. Unlike saying you’re trying or will try, saying you’re doing or will be doing something equals commitment.  It signals (actually releasing positive chemicals in the brain) to your mind that you’re serious, which then manifests in your outward actions (propelling you to act), at least that’s the way I understood it at that seminar. One thing, among many, that I took away from that lecture was that the language you use can determine how successful you are in reaching your goals. So you see, it turns out Yoda was right.

What’s the point?

The next time you hear yourself say, “I’ll try to ________ [FILL IN THE BLANK],” ask yourself if you actually want to do it. If the answer is yes, then drop the try and commit.

How do you feel about saying you’re going to try? Is it sincere or a brush-off? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.

26 thoughts on “Do or Do Not ~ A Note on Trying”

  1. Great post, Shelli! When I say, “I’ll try” to someone, it really means, “I don’t want to but I will.” At least, that’s the way I think…

  2. I think this is a great little look at mindset because that is one of the things that I need to try and do. I say ‘Try’ a lot and need to stop saying that and actually do what I’m talking about.

    1. Hi Peter! I found that lecture fascinating because it never occurred to me that dropping the word try would actually make it more likely for me to achieve my goals.

  3. Shelli, I absolutely love this post. It is spot on. “Trying” really is very different psychologically from “doing.” I’m with Yoda too. Or maybe I should say, “With Yoda, I am.” 🙂

    1. Hi Dina! I didn’t know before that lecture that it’s physiologically different, too ~ actually changing the chemistry in your brain. This made me lol: “With Yoda, I am.”

  4. Shelli, you are so very right! Yoda is one wise little green dude. I can feel the cop-out coming when I say I’ll “try” to do something, and as David says, I know it’s not too high on my list. When I want to do something, though, I am right there, no equivocation.

    Also, I heard a variation on the “sticks and stones” line several years ago that has always stuck with me–“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will break my heart.”

    1. Hi Nancy. I love this ~ “When I want to do something, though, I am right there, no equivocation.” That’s the key, isn’t it? You want to do it. I loved when the neurologist talked about that sticks & stones phrase. I always thought it was rubbish & she just confirmed it with science! 🙂

  5. Well I’m going to try to stay away from the word try. 😉
    I actually mean that I’ll get to it, but that it’s bound to be a few days late if the other projects don’t get tied up as planned. 😀 However, knowing the perception of the word try now, I will stay away from it as much as possible… Lol!

  6. Love it! And I agree 100%. It goes hand-in-hand with something else I firmly believe. Happiness is a choice (love the title of that book!). It’s all in your words and attitude. Sure wish more people believed that, and made them part of their rules to live by. It never ceases to amaze me how many negative people I know. 🙂

    1. Hi Kristy! I completely agree, happiness is a choice. So is the language you choose to use. Now I know it changes the chemistry of your brain. I don’t know how many people are aware of just how much their words play a part in how their lives turn out. 🙂

      1. I think too many don’t have a clue. I know it makes me cringe when I hear people say things like, if I didn’t have bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all. Makes me want to shake them and say LISTEN TO WHAT YOU’RE SAYING!

        It’s good to know that it does change the chemistry of your brain. That’s something I didn’t know. Guess it’s time to get back into a habit I’ve let slip by. I used to make short lists of positive statements I’d make a few times every day. I do love lima beans…lol…NOT. That will never make it on any list of mine (except foods to avoid like the plague!).

        No, it was things like I AM a disciplined writer. Or I can do _____. Not sure why I stopped doing that. :/

        1. I do the same thing ~ cringe ~ when I hear people beating themselves up. It’s even worse when I hear them doing it to their kids. That stuff sticks ~ sometimes for a LONG time. I do the positive-qualities list, too. I used to do it every day & now it’s down to once a week. Still, every day was better for me so I’ll get back to that. Although, you’ll never find me writing a list that includes, “I do love lima beans.” ~ lol.

  7. I think there is so much truth to the impact of words on the brain. If you verbalize negativity you will take that course. Modifying our language is the easiest way to influence positive change. And it doesn’t hurt anything to at least try!

    1. Hi Sara! That seminar was definitely eye-opening. That neurologist said similar things about language ~ the most effective way to make a positive change in your life is to start changing the way you talk to yourself & the way you let others talk to you. 🙂

  8. Love Yoda quotes! So true about positive words. Another blogger recently did a post that showed that listeners tend to not hear conditional phrases like “Don’t” so if you have trouble with your spouse forgetting to take out the trash try saying Remember to take out the trash instead 😉

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  11. I agree Shelli that when we say I’ll try, it can be a brush off, but I also don’t make promises to anyone, for anything, because you never know what might come up and then you can’t keep the promise. This is especially true for kids, because they hold you to it and I hate to see anyone disappointed. But I do love Yoda’s philosophy!

    1. Hi Karen! *waves* I’ve gotten in that same habit of not promising much of anything anymore because I’ve learned that unexpected things seem to always pop up that keep me from following through. I, too, love Yoda & his philosophy! 😀

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