Stop Trying So Hard (and treat success like a bad boyfriend)

I’ve done it and you probably have too – the act of trying hard to make something happen. We looked awesome, we did our part, we killed it, we poured our heart and soul into it, we did a tap dance at the end, and nothing. We didn’t get the call. We didn’t get the part. We didn’t get the job. He or she still didn’t love us. And we were devastated.

As you probably have as well, I’ve experienced the painful “let down” that sets in after my valiant effort fails to manifest what I’ve been trying so hard to achieve.

As I have explored the Buddhist practice of detachment (not relying on outcome for peace and happiness) for the past few years, I have come up with a mantra for myself: stop trying so hard.

Now, the Buddhists don’t suggest this, but try dealing with success like dating. Yes, do the work (in the case of dating, look hot and put yourself out there as much as possible), but then let the chips fall where they may. The “trying” part of trying to hard, is the attempt to control outcomes when you can’t. You can’t make someone like you and want to be with you just like you can’t control every little thing that is required to happen in order for a desired outcome to take place.

Rather than trying to hard, try being a bit aloof about stuff that you want. In her book, “Yes Please”, Amy Poehler recommends loving your passion (creativity), but treating your career (success) like a bad boyfriend. As Amy says, “Your career won’t take care of you. It won’t call you back or introduce you to its parents. Your career will openly flirt with other people while you’re around. It will forget your birthday and wreck your car. Your career will blow you off if you call it too much. It’s never going to leave its wife. Your career will never marry you.”

Great advice, Amy. Don’t bank on your career or any other outcome to do what you want it to because it’s gonna do what it’s gonna do. You can’t force your career or any other outcome to do what you want it to anymore than a bad boyfriend so just focus on what makes you happy.

Dating is the ideal analogy for this relationship between you and your dreams. When it’s meant to be, it will be. The universe knows just the guy for you.

Yes, apply effort and take action, but then practice ambivalence – don’t need the outcome and know that no matter what happens, you’ll be okay. In fact, you can kick it up a notch and know that life has a plan for you and it may be ten times better than the outcome you have in mind.

Rather than wishing, hoping, and praying, for success to come running to you, see what happens when you play hard to get. Maybe not caring as much about what happens will make you more attractive. Yes, I am suggesting you play games with success. You have to admit, it’s a great strategy for dating – when you don’t want someone or don’t care if someone likes you, the more likely they will ask you out.

Yes, just like a bad boyfriend, your career (or any other outcome) doesn’t like needy.

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