Trying Too Hard & 5 Ways to Get Over It

I started this post a number of times, but was dissatisfied with it.   I was trying too hard.  I was trying to be clever.  I was trying to be deeply intellectual.   Guess what.  It didn’t work.

It’s not that I’m not capable of being clever or even deeply intellectual…on a good day.  But, I think today, I was just trying too hard to force myself to be those things.  It happens.

When I think about this notion of trying too hard in a leadership context, a number of things come to mind.  For instance, some leaders try too hard:

To be Popular

I think everyone, to a greater or lesser extent, likes to be liked.  But, trying too hard to be popular gets in the way of our ability to make tough decisions and to lead in a judicious way.  In my experience, people respect and respond well to those leaders who are fair much more than those who focus on being popular.

To be Perfect

Those who strive for perfection can also have a tendency to micro-manage everything to death to avoid making any mistakes.  Of course the trouble is that, in so doing, they manage to annoy most everyone who works with them, or for them.  While it is admirable to want to do things well, it is not possible to get everything right all of the time.  It’s just not.

To be All-Knowing & All-wise

Leadership does not come with all the answers.  It’s too bad, but there it is.  If we try too hard to create the impression that we are the font of all knowledge, we are bound to disappoint.

To be Strong

To some people, a leader should always be strong and impervious to the problems and worries that afflict other mortals.  While it is true that leadership asks us to bring our courage to work, it does not mean that we cannot share our concerns with others.  As individuals, trying too hard to be strong, places a great and unnecessary burden on us.  As leaders, it also excludes the possibility that others are willing and quite capable of helping.

So, how do we avoid the problem of trying too hard?  Well, here are some thoughts about that:

1.    Know and Accept ourselves, warts ‘n all

I think having a good handle on what we’re good at and what we’re not good at, is a place to start.  It doesn’t mean that we should stop learning, growing and improving…not at all.  But having a certain confidence about who and how we are, somehow gives us permission to take the focus off ourselves and onto others without having to try so hard.

2.    Embrace the Imperfect

I struggle with this one all the time but I keep working on it because when I strive for perfection, I invariably achieve only frustration.

3.    Look and Listen More… Talk Less

I think, when we try too hard, there is a tendency to talk far too much.  Whatever the reason for this, while we are doing it, we are undoubtedly missing the opportunity to observe and listen to others. Incorporating the thoughts and ideas of others takes the pressure off us to have the right answers all of the time.

4.    Dare to be Vulnerable

This is about allowing our humanness to come through and striving to place more value on the giving and receiving of empathy.  I think human beings are stronger when they allow each other a glimpse into what matters to them. Trying too hard to be strong and stand apart from the rest leads not to strength but to isolation

5.    Lighten Up

Sometimes you just have to laugh.  When we’re trying too hard, it’s entirely possible that we’re also being way too serious about it all. Laughing at ourselves can take the pressure and worry out of most situations.  So, wherever you go, take your sense of humour with you.  It will serve you well.

So, that’s what I think about trying too hard.  What do you think?



Filed under building awareness, Building Relationships, communication, Leadership, Leadership Development

14 responses to “Trying Too Hard & 5 Ways to Get Over It

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head, Gwyn. My own experience is that whenever I “try” to come across a certain way, what really comes across is that I’m trying. The biggest issue is where my attention is – on myself or on what’s happening (the work, the person who is talking, etc). Instead of focusing on myself, when I genuinely pay attention to what’s happening, my talents emerge naturally (most of the time) and those times that I’m off, and not a bright, competent, or undertanding as I would like to be, then I try to reach for the pool of self-compassion that forgives my mistakes and puts them in perspective. I especially appreciate your last piece of advice – to lighten up. Life is way too short to take ourselves too seriously.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Jesse, those of us who get caught in the trying -too- hard trap could learn a lesson from you. That is, when we focus our attention on what’s happening outside ourselves, our natural talents tend to emerge without having to “try”.
      Thank you for that and for sharing your experience here.

  2. Gwyn, I think you wrote this for me. My life’s journey has always been about being too knowing, too perfect, too strong. And so I work hard to have more knowledge, more fun and to be more perfect. I’m learning the same lesson over and over: when I let go, that’s when the universe supports me. Sigh. I’m getting better at it.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Mary Jo ~ We could be related 🙂
      I love the notion of letting go and allowing the universe to provide the right amount of support. It kind of allows us to relax into ourselves more and worry about ourselves less.
      Thank you for that.

  3. Very good post Gwyn. Like you, when I try to hard to be funny or profound or whatever, in writing my posts I can’t achieve what I want. But when I’m present and calm and having a good day, the words just flow.

    I liked and agree with your comparisons to Leadership and what it means. Perfection is an illusion or at least relative, or self-defined. We expend so much energy on that illusion and then do tend to overcontrol a situation. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

    I agree with Jesse and you – lighten up.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Cherry, And, while we’re pursuing perfection, trying to be profound and exhausting ourselves in the process, we are bound to be missing something that could *really* be interesting, useful and of service to someone or something else! Thank you!

  4. Gwyn – Pertinent to your post, I saw this the other day.
    Imperfect = I’m perfect

  5. Hi Gwyn,

    I love this post and I have to say what struck me was this single vein of a question that ran throughout that I think every leader would benefit by asking themselves – what am I motivated by in doing this?

    By being honest with ourselves over what’s our motivation behind our decisions, our approaches and even what we communicate to our team, leaders can ensure that their leadership is not self-focused, but instead looking out at serving those they’ve been given the responsibility to lead.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Tanveer, thank you for adding this. Being honest with ourselves opens up many doors, particularly the door that encourages us to place our concerns about how we are perceived behind our responsibilities and commitment to others.

  6. Gwyn, with our current election campaign floundering into its final stretch I think all the leaders could have benefited from your common sense advice.

    Gwyn for Queen of Canada!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Yikes Dan! ~ Queen of Canada doesn’t bear thinking about! Besides I’m not sure I could say “May husband and I” with a straight face.
      I appreciate the sentiment though and share your perspective on our country’s current leadership candidates. 🙂

  7. Amanda

    Hard to accept but its actually the reality that we live. So first you have to find yourself to find a resolution, that way we relive stress and we have a good time at the end. That is what matters nothing else.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Amanda ~ Yes,a good dose of “know thyself” helps us to keep things in perspective and recognize when we are trying too hard to be someone we aren’t. Thanks for coming by!

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