For some reason (okay I’ll get to some possible reasons) I cannot get this topic out of my head this week. It might be the Philadelphia Marathon Sunday or the obscene amount of time I’ve been spending in the blogosphere/on social media lately. I’m sure that’s part of it, but I find this little voice asking me if possibly, just maybe, I’m trying too hard to succeed.
And then of course I turn to that thought and ask “but what does that even mean?” How do you know you’re trying “too hard” for something. Does it even exist?
I think it does.
Thanks Amanda for the Thinking Out Loud Link-Up! Now, climb aboard my thought train. By the end, you might realize that you’re trying too hard, too.
What you put in versus what comes out
We often think about the whole “trying too hard” thing when it comes to relationships. Most of us at some point have found ourselves putting in tons of effort to improve a relationship or friendship while the other person just kind of sits there and ignores the whole thing. With that sort of situation the advice is usually to “let it go” and not to give any more than you’re getting back. Plus, you probably need to ask yourself what all this “work” is really getting you. More false hope? Something to focus on to avoid harsh reality?
I would argue that this applies to other areas of life as well, not just relationships. Ultimately, when you’re doing a lot of “busy work” that isn’t bringing you joy or the outcome that you want, you MIGHT be trying to hard. BUT before you decide that this is the case, you need to think about what your goals really are.
What are your goals? What do you want?
If your goals are vague it is easy to try to do EVERYTHING to achieve them. Except doing everything in that case might just lead you to nothing. Because if you don’t have a focused goal and a realistic plan, it is easy to become overwhelmed and eventually burn out as you try to achieve everything and nothing all at once.
This happened to me with running at one point (and I find myself on the brink now) and it’s happening to me with blogging. I want to have a “successful” blog, but what the heck does that mean? It’s too broad, and so I just throw myself onto the internet and on social media and hope something clicks. I research too many avenues and then forget what I’m doing. I have no plan, and I need to get it together and figure out what it really is that I’m going for. Only then can I figure out how to get there. See? I’m trying too hard and need to pull back.
Working hard versus acting out
“We all have our quirks” is something I like to say about how people each have their own defenses and reactions to feelings of anxiety. My husband noticed soon after meeting me that I become obsessed and completely immersed in one topic or project at a time to where everything I do, read, speak about is related to that topic. It’s true. That’s why in my description I say I “do a little too much of everything.” When something has my attention I live for it for a while, but as the natural ebb and flow of life happens I eventually tire of it and move on to something else. EXCEPT if I’m anxious. If I’m anxious, I become even more obsessive about a topic or activity to escape from my fears.
What does this have to do with work? I’ve noticed that people tend to believe they’re doing a lot of work, when they’re actually acting out over anxiety. The work is either not focused, or it’s overly focused on details. Or the “work” is actually not work at all but rather “obsessive checking” (not judging, I’m guilty too.) I think it’s important for people to know the difference between the two. It might be really freeing when you realize how LITTLE you NEED to do to be effective and move toward your goals. The extra stuff might only be driving you nuts, and it’s a clear sign that you’re trying too hard.
Avoidance – my best friend and worst enemy
So you might realize that you’re trying too hard and spinning your wheels without moving. You tell yourself to stop, to refocus, redirect. But you can’t! WTF? In a society where being “busy” is synonymous with being worthy, it’s tough to just STOP the busyness, even if you KNOW it is pointless and not getting you where you want to be. In a time when busy is the new black, how do you break away and figure out a more effective way to operate?
I often find myself avoiding down time because it doesn’t feel natural. Being preoccupied allows me to avoid what I actually NEED to do. Do you ever find yourself with a few things on your to-do list that are overwhelming and then do another 600 silly/mindless things to avoid the 2 big scary things? I’ve had weeks go by where I just keep avoiding unpleasant or scary tasks and use the excuse that I forgot or didn’t have time or whatever. Like using the kids as an excuse for not making phone calls. Nope, that wasn’t their fault.
Anyway, what I’m saying is that sometimes we create extra work for ourselves when we try to avoid being uncomfortable. In this case, we can FEEL like we’re working super hard when we’re really just avoiding a big, necessary task. In this case, you’re trying too hard to take the easy way out. Avoidance never equals success.
A note on authenticity
I’ve been guilty in the past of trying too hard to “fit in” by attempting to appear to be something I’m not. Ouch. Sucked to write that one down. But I do think this is often a part of growing up, (even though by most standards I was grown and still doing this) learning who you really are and forming a self-identity. Ultimately, when you are trying to behave in ways that aren’t in line with your true nature, you will find yourself trying too hard and moving in the wrong direction. The past 2 years have been a huge time of growth for me in this area, and I continue to consciously commit to staying true to what feels like “me.”
I plan to reevaluate how I spend my time and energy. I want to dig deep, figure out what’s really important to me right now and come up with a plan. I like creating training plans because they’re easy and give me a sense of control over an outcome. Life plans? Those just make me nervous. But it’s time to open myself up to feeling a little nervous. I’ve been through worse, right?
What does “trying too hard” mean to you?