“I’ll Try” and Other Forms of Self-Sabotage

overcome self sabotaging behaviorDo. Or do not. There is no try.
~ Yoda

Most people who say they want to heal recognize what their primary issues are. If they came from a toxic background, or if their choices consistently lead to the life they do not want, they have some basic understanding of the negative patterns in their life, but they don’t know what to do in order to change them. They may have read books, gone to seminars and workshops, and spent years in therapy, and yet they are still feeling stuck and unhappy. In fact, the longer a person “tries” to heal, the more they come to believe that they cannot heal, which is completely false. Nevertheless, the belief in their inability to heal and be happy becomes their primary form of self-sabotage.

The easiest way on earth to sabotage yourself and simultaneously rationalize that sabotage is to spend your time stating, “I’ll try.” What do I mean by that?

We are all taught that we should try things, and if we don’t try things, then we will never know if we can succeed at them. This is certainly true. If you don’t try to ride that bicycle, then you will never learn how. You have to sit on it and physically move the pedals. Of course, in doing so, you will wipe out a few times, scrape your knees, and acquire a few bruises. That’s a given. You will fall off that bike in the process. But then you must get back on it and do it again.

The problem with “I’ll try” is when it becomes a built-in excuse for failure. “I know that beating myself up is counterproductive, so I’ll try to stop doing that,” you might think. But by saying, “I’ll try,” you’ve given yourself carte blanche not only to fail, but to console yourself with the knowledge that “I tried.” In other words, “Well, I tried all of that, but it didn’t work.” And you give up and remain stuck in your comfortable, if miserable, status quo.

The primary difference between people who are successful and people who are not is their attitude. Successful people do not say, “I’ll try.” They say, “I’m going to do this thing. I don’t know how to do it today, but I’m going to figure it out.” And then they do. When they fall off their bicycle, they get back on. It took Thomas Edison 10,000 attempts to create the light bulb. For some, that would be 10,000 failures. But Edison didn’t think that way. In an interview before he succeeded, a reported asked him if he felt like a failure. He reportedly said, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.” Shortly thereafter, he succeeded.

People who do not succeed are not less intelligent, less talented, or “born under a bad sign.” People do not succeed because they “try” and then give up too easily. Any worthwhile endeavor, particularly one as important as emotional healing and finding your happiness, deserves your total commitment. If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you have yet to find the method that will work.

Emotional healing and changing bad habits, such as looking at the world through a negative or self-defeating lens, requires hard work and persistence. You must rewire your brain. Literally. Your nervous system is so accustomed to walking the path of self-abuse and unhappiness that you are going to have to apply yourself if you truly want to change. And you can change.

Successful people are committed people. They have committed themselves to a goal or ideal, and they don’t give up until they have figured it out. Likewise, if you want to succeed in your healing, you must commit to it. You must commit to you. You  must leave behind “I’ll try” and say, “I am going to make myself happy, and I will figure out how.” You do not have to know the path in advance. You don’t even have to know where to begin. But you must first decide, for yourself, that you will commit to yourself and not give yourself the ready excuse for failure that “I’ll try” implies. Commit. Or don’t commit. There is no try.

As you walk, stumble, trip, and wander along the path of healing that you have committed to, give yourself permission to “fail.” In reality, there is no such thing as failure, but you may have to adjust your understanding of that. Some days, you may succeed 10% of the time. You may catch yourself in the act of self-abuse and turn it around, say “no” when you need to, and give yourself permission to do something that makes you happy. The other 90% of the time, you may not make it. This is okay. But with practice and persistence, you may find that the 10% of successes gradually transforms into 20%, then 30%, and so on. As you create new neural pathways in your brain, as you experience the results of these successes, they will build on each other. The path will become easier. Eventually, you will find yourself jogging easily down it. And one day, you’ll stop and look back in awe and think, “Wow. I did it!” And it will be because you were committed.

“I know that beating myself up is counterproductive, so I’m going to stop doing that,” thinks the person who eventually finds their happiness. Where there’s a will—and a commitment—there’s a way. That way will be as individual as you are. No two paths look alike. No one else can find it for you. So stop trying and just start walking.

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