In the first week of the fall 2016 semester, and five minutes before class ended, Dr. Nancy Watson gave us a little golden nugget of information. This piece of information was first introduced to her by Ms. Judy Kuttner and then passed along to us. She essentially told us to ‘stop trying’. Before understanding the context of her words, I tilted my head a little bit like a confused dog and wondered what she meant. I mean, I have never ever heard that before. Society constantly tells us to ‘keep trying’, to ‘try harder’ and to ‘try it anyway’ but she told us to ‘stop trying’? After listening to why she said that I had an a-ha moment.
The idea of ‘stop trying’ means to remove the word ‘try’ from your vocabulary as much as you can. As I was pondering in my 10 minute trek from class to my office I reflected on this thought and finally concluded that if I ‘stop trying’ I will start doing and becoming. What do I mean by becoming? Well to me, that means that I will be better at assertiveness and accountability and good stuff will result from that. Why is this even relevant and why am I even sharing this with you?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I am a pro at giving excuses. I’ll give you some examples. In multiple occasions, instead of turning down an invitation, I would say “I will ‘try’ to go”. I really meant I was not going because I don’t know how to say no. I would also say “I will ‘try’ to go to the gym tomorrow morning”, I will probably set an alarm, hit snooze, not go to the gym, and then complain I did not go -- but I ‘tried’ and that’s what matters, right?! Well clearly, in both personal instances I was not ‘trying’ enough. The list of examples can go on and on. I have essentially done this all my life. And I think it is time to stop.
This concept is applicable to the workplace too. From now on, take a moment and reflect every time you say you will ‘try’. If your supervisor, advisor, professor, or someone else asks something from you, don’t ‘try’. Do. Say “I will get it done by Friday” instead of “I will try to get it done.” Are you in a group project? Are you ‘trying’ to submit your portion of it? When are you actually submitting? Trust me this will make you a more assertive person and a doer in the personal and professional realm.
Side note: It is completely okay to say no to the gym, to a social event, or to say you cannot complete a task by Friday, but don’t ‘try’. Say when or say no.
My advice to hold yourself accountable is: first, listen to yourself whenever you say the word ‘try’. What did you mean? How can you say the same sentence without the word ‘try’ in it and how are you going to act? Promise yourself you will do that certain thing by certain day and certain time. Let’s say I ‘tried’ going to the gym in the morning. That did not happen. Well now I have to either move things around and go that same day or really do it the next. No excuses this time. Another thing that helps me a lot is writing daily to-do lists. Everything has to be checked off by the end of the day and this list includes personal, work, and class related items. Prioritizing is a great way to keep yourself accountable too. Find that technique that works for you and use it.
Now, I don’t think it is easy to remove a word from your vocabulary, but it is a habit and practice that will highly benefit you in the long run, especially when it comes to holding yourself accountable. Keep yourself accountable for everything in the academic, work, and personal world. You would be surprised of how many things I have accomplished since I started to remove the word ‘try’. Since then, I can sense a positive change in my energy and routine. The amount of stress is significantly lower, and ever since I ‘stopped trying’, I have more time for myself (which is absolutely needed in grad school). I stopped the excuses, I started doing more, and I started becoming a more assertive and confident person.
Again, this goes for anything you may think or need. Seriously. Stop ‘trying’. Start doing. Stop excusing yourself and start becoming.
Mara Schaffler | Educational Administration and Human Resources Development
is a second year in the Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education (SAAHE) program within the College of Education and Human Development.