Maybe this is what Yoda meant

My cliff notes for “Stop trying to try and try“:

When we’re in learning mode, our lack of knowledge and skills is in focus, and we may sometimes be painfully aware of how little we know. People imagine mastery is like learning mode, but where you know lots of things. It’s not — it’s more like when you’re in teaching mode, helping others, and their skills are in focus, not yours. Your knowledge in teaching mode, or as a master, is “just unconscious assumptions in the background”.

When you’re a master/in teaching mode, you’re expected to be capable; when you’re in learning mode, your responsibility is to try to be capable.

My advice is simple: notice when you’re expected to try, and consider reframing. It’s much harder to solve a problem when you’re Expected To Do Your Best than it is to solve a problem when you’re immersed in various subtasks, with the assumption that you’re going to solve the problem buried implicitly and unconsciously in the context.

Activities are more difficult when you’re focused on it as work, or as trying. Exercise is a good example: It’s far easier if it’s recreation. Being friends is another: Consider what the phrase “trying to be friends” evokes in you in contrast with “just being with friends”. When you’re trying, the inevitability of failure at some point is implicit, and gnawing at some part of you, wearing you down to the point where you excuse yourself for giving up. [Or, your efforts to try may get in the way of you recognizing you’ve succeeded.]

Switching contexts such that your actual goal is in the background rather than the foreground — such that pursuing it is not a conscious choice that you need to reaffirm every time you find a stopping point — is a powerful tool.

Actually trying to perform some an activity, versus trying to try, is very different. In the latter, you have to doubt your abilities, and stop and ask yourself how to go about it… In the former, you simply do. There’s less mental overhead. It’s like situating yourself in a stream — and now you’re swimming.

“Actually trying” (the former) is not the same as applying extra effort on top of trying to try (the latter). Rather, it’s simply tackling one small task at a time, after another. Identifying the next step, and tackling it. Whether solving problems large or small, it’s the same. Shift from your “expected try” gear to your “I’m competent” gear, and get to work.

So find a way to see the work as one task at a time, instead of a large problem, and find a way to enjoy it.

[I]magine someone who’s “playing soccer” [as opposed to sprinting up and down the field for exercise] with respect to your task or problem, and ask yourself what they might be doing. The key is to make the pursuit of your goal implicit, and spend your focus on the subproblems.

This post is part of the thread: Replacing Guilt Cliffs Notes – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

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