Raise Your Hand if You’re Trying

Written by on November 21, 2016 in Accountability

tryingWhen it comes to striving to achieve pretty much anything in life the “I’m trying my best” tune is often seen as being weak at best, and at worst an engraved invitation to begin making excuses.

The most common response to this declaration is, “Don’t try, DO!”

Before we continue (you knew this was coming, right?) let’s consider the difference between trying and doing.

  • Try: Make an attempt or effort to do something, to exert oneself, to strive to do one’s best.
  • Do: Perform, achieve or complete an action.

The obvious difference between the two is that doing assumes completion. Just the kind of no-nonsense approach we need to charge enthusiasm, stay motivated and discourage excuses.

There’s just one problem with this level of commitment, it requires something beyond determination … it requires control. Specifically, it assumes that we have control over all of the circumstances leading to our desired outcome.

So am I just playing word-games here? Not at all, but I am poking a sharp stick at the attitude with which we tend to approach pursuing a desired outcome, whatever that may be.

Do. Or do not. There is no try. ~Yoda

The Paradox of Trying

Very often one of the first things we hear from someone who has failed to achieve a goal is that they tried their best.

Of course, what trying looks like is naturally going to be different for each of us. For example, we’ve all known people who make a habit of starting a diet only to give up at the first temptation. Really trying? Not so much.

How many people live in a dysfunctional relationship because their idea of trying to resolve their problems is to suffer in silence hoping the other person will eventually notice how unhappy they are? Sorry, but hoping others will read your mind doesn’t qualify as trying either.

Both of these examples speak volumes for the notion that trying is weak. But do we fare that much better with doing?

Let’s say you are determined to do whatever it takes to land a job that has just opened at a prestigious company. You’ve got the attitude and experience, an executive-worthy new outfit, and you put your heart and soul into preparing for the interview. But despite all of your efforts, the gal on the other side of the desk is the one who has control over the final outcome and chooses someone else.

How would you define that outcome? Would you walk away feeling like a failure because you didn’t do what you set out to do? Or would you keep trying, by staying in touch with the company and apply again in the future?

The point is trying and doing are not mutually exclusive, in fact, doing something is almost always preceded by an awful lot of trying. Trying only becomes a problem when we use it as an excuse.

One of the hardest parts of life is deciding whether to walk away or try harder. ~Author Unknown

Can You Learn to Try Harder?

The short answer is yes. The most effective ways to learn to increase your effort are by modeling others and learning self-motivation techniques.


Find others who have achieved the goal you are pursuing and learn all you can about how they did it. Then use what you’ve learned to come up with a plan that works for you based on your own circumstances and experience.

I recommend you look for more than one model, three is best, because this will give you an opportunity to learn different approaches.


What I’m talking about is not the typical rah, rah motivational self-talk. This is about learning what motivates you to do and be your best and involves some experimenting and introspection.

Think of times when you felt exceptionally motivated and try to identify circumstances that were present in each experience. Experiment with different ways to motivate yourself and carefully observe what does and doesn’t work.

Most people fall back on force of will to keep them going and as a result, fail repeatedly at the same goals, but you can learn what to avoid and how to build the momentum you need to keep you going.

How long should you keep trying? Until. ~Jim Rohn

How Long Do You Keep Trying?

Only you can answer this question, and it will depend to a large degree on your motivation for pursuing a goal and what you are willing to trade to achieve it.

You want to start a business, publish a book, buy your first home, go back and get that college degree? Great! Why? How much time, effort and resources are you willing to invest to achieve your desired outcome?

In another lifetime when my husband and I moved to Maui, jobs were in very short supply. He had a decade of experience with Pacific Bell in California but Hawaiian Telephone just wasn’t hiring. Eventually, we both found employment, but he’d always enjoyed working for the phone company and was determined to keep trying.

So, for over a year, every Friday afternoon Richard showed up at the Hawaiian Telephone human resources office and asked if there were any job openings. He always kept a smile on his face and over time made friends with the people in the office.

Thirteen months after that first visit he was hired, and six months later promoted to a management position.

So if you ask me, when you’re faced with a choice to stop or to keep going – if it’s important to you, you should keep going.

But that doesn’t mean you should do the same thing again, and again, Most worthwhile goals involve multiple attempts, and the willingness to learn, adjust, experiment and be creative.

The bottom line …

There are few guarantees in life, and that means that no matter how determined you are to do something, there are going to be times when you will still fall short. Perhaps your skills weren’t strong enough or your timing was off, or it may have been the result of circumstances out of your control.

The only thing you can control is the effort you put into something, and if you can accept that effort is a skill that can be learned then you can figure out how to make it work for you.

The only unacceptable reason for not achieving your desired outcome is that you truly didn’t try your best.

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.

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  1. Ruth Bowers

    Little words can make such a big difference to our success, don’t you think? There is such a big difference between try and do, as you so aptly pointed out. Lately I’ve noticed myself working at removing the “try” from my own language. So instead of saying ‘I’m trying my best’ I say ‘I’m doing my best.’ I think it honors the action and energy invested in the attempt (and definitely sounds less whiny).
    Ruth Bowers recently posted…[Friday Five] 5 Time-Saving Content Creation TipsMy Profile

    • It is so true the words can affect us in so many different ways, which is why I love them so much. In terms of the article and trying vs doing, the truth is neither word means squat unless it’s backed up by action. I’ve known people who spent weeks looking for just the right “word” for their One Word Resolution theme, even crafted beautiful vision boards, and then never took any action or completed any goals. If “doing” gets you the results you need, that is all that matters. Thanks for sharing Ruth!

  2. Very thought provoking post. Remember that Nike slogan from the 1980s, “Just Do It!”. That come to mind. Also coming to my mind while reading this, is sports competition and the fact it does matter how hard you tried, it’s how you performed. Lastly, some people frustrate me because they tell me over and over what they are going to do, like I am supposed to be impressed. Just tell me what you did and then I will be impressed. Just up the good work. Regards, Robert
    RetiredRobert recently posted…Activities is the AnswerMy Profile

    • Welcome Robert! Thank you for sharing your thoughtful insights with us! You’ve made some excellent points, and I understand exactly how you feel about people sharing what they’re going to do. Here’s something to think about in that regard. I’d wager 90% of the advice online about setting and pursuing goals includes a recommendation to tell people about your goals as a way of giving you some sense of accountability. Most people take this advice to heart not considering the impression they’re leaving with others when they fail to follow through time and again. Personally, unless I’m participating in some sort of competition, I never tell people about my goals until they’re pretty much a done deal. 🙂

  3. Edward Thorpe

    Loved the story of your husband grinding out a job after 13 months! IMHO, that’s how you do it. Those that don’t try & keep trying, don’t get…
    Edward Thorpe recently posted…How To Live With Age Related Heart DiseaseMy Profile

  4. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty! What a wonderful post my friend! WOWSY the last sentence was SO POWERFUL!! “”Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!
    Thank you for sharing,,
    Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…Can You Help Make America Great Again?My Profile

  5. Marquita, loved the definition between TRY and DO: Make an attempt vs perform. It is difficult to accept that EVERYTHING we attempt is not going to be the success we thought it would be. It might be bigger in the area of a Learning Curve. What did we learn? Great blog!
    Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

  6. Joy Healey

    Hi Marquita,

    Loved this post because I always think of myself as a “tryer” – and completely agree that “doing something is almost always preceded by an awful lot of trying”.

    Yes, I am still “trying” to earn a full-time income online. There have been some big highs and some deep lows, and I haven’t yet “done it”. Well – actually I DID manage it once, but then one of those “out of my control” things happened, and it all came tumbling down. So I had to try again 🙂

    But what I always “try” to do, is learn what went wrong with the failures, what went right with the successes – and take those lessons forward with me.

    If I had stopped as soon as I hadn’t “done it”, that would have been a long time ago.

    I think I would then always have been left wondering if it could have worked out if I hadn’t “tried one more time”. So, here I am… still “trying” 🙂

    Joy – Blogging After Dark
    Joy Healey recently posted…Free Online Shopping Store For YouMy Profile

    • We all are in one way or the other Joy! You know I almost didn’t use that example of my husband in the piece, because when I think of trying what immediately comes to my mind is the Wright Brothers. Funny, huh? But when you think about all the years they spent working on that first airplane with no assurance other than their own belief that it could even be done – if that’s not trying I don’t now what is! Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us. 🙂

  7. Enjoyed reading your post, Marquita. As I read the various views expressed in the comments, it made me think of how complex the English Language really is. One word can have multiple meanings, and each meaning is determined by the context in which it is used, as well as the individual perspective of the reader.

    I agree with your point that there are different ways to look at trying. I remember when one of my daughters was a little girl, she had a hard time with mathematics. I would cajole, reason with her, and sometimes get angry because she always said “I’m trying.” She really wasn’t as she had created mental blocks against the subject. On the other hand, when she said she was trying to find a topic for her essay, I knew that meant she was working on it because she really enjoyed writing essays/compositions.

    • Terrific example Yvonne! As previously pointed out, few things – including “trying” – are simple black and white. But then that’s what makes life so interesting!

  8. Kimba

    Love this advice (!):
    “Find others who have achieved the goal you are pursuing and learn all you can about how they did it. Then use what you’ve learned to come up with a plan that works for you based on your own circumstances and experience.”
    Kimba recently posted…What Would Donald Tweet?My Profile

    • And I SO wish I could take credit for it Kimba but I’ve been a fan of Tony Robbins for years and that tidbit of advice is a cornerstone of his teaching. It’s a great way to expose ourselves to different ways of thinking and doing things and can save a lot of time in the long run. 🙂

  9. Hi Marquita,
    I was thinking of Yoda even before you said it. There is no try only Do.

    I liked best the part about achieving your goals by learning from others. Using what you learn from others to come up with your own plan that works for you.

    Great article!
    Kathryn Maclean recently posted…Wonderful Online Affiliate Programs for the HolidaysMy Profile

  10. sazia says:

    hi Marquita Herald, wonderful article shared. One has to attempt to move forward the first step is making an attempt which leads to success. Thank you
    sazia recently posted…Common Cold-Blocked NoseMy Profile

  11. Stella Chiu

    Hi. Marquita

    One of your quotes in post touched me in great deal: One of the hardest parts of life is deciding whether to walk away or try harder. ~Author Unknown

    No matter what kind of event, It presents two choices: to do or not to do. Sometimes, it is not so clear cut as you said on the post.
    I believe we should follow our 6-sense or instinct as long as we don’t use “I try” as an excuse

    Happy Holidays

    Stella Chiu
    Stella Chiu recently posted…5 Obstacles to the Manifestation of your HealingMy Profile

  12. Vatsala Shukla

    I’m wary of the word ‘try’, Marquita. Unless I know the context in which it’s being said, it always hints at the lack of intent or motivation to actually do a task or complete something. Of course, if it’s a case of attempting to do something that involves a physical activity like opening a jar or a door, then the context is different. Other than that, no excuse for not doing. 🙂
    Vatsala Shukla recently posted…Confront and Banish Your Fears and WeaknessesMy Profile

    • There’s no question that it would be so much easier to maneuver our way through life if everything were black and white, but it is much more a sea of different shades of gray and what is or is not acceptable code of standards will inevitably be different for each of us. The tricky part is doing the work to understand what our standards actually are. In fact, I have an upcoming post on the topic of standards so we can continue this discussion at that time. Thanks for sharing with us! 🙂

  13. Loved your perspective in this post, Marquita. Yes, we do have to ‘try’ and be in action doing, to ultimately reach, or not reach, a desired goal. I really resonate with the idea of only we can determine how long we want to keep trying. The example of your husband is a wonderful example of not giving up and continuing to go after what we want in life. Often my mother will say she is “trying” to change her less than healthy eating habits and we say back, “You either are doing it or not. There is no trying.” It’s an interesting conversation and so often we feel we let ourselves down when we don’t achieve the outcome, when we actually were trying our best and it still didn’t happen. Great distinctions in this post! Many thanks…
    Beverley Golden recently posted…You Say You Want a RevolutionMy Profile

    • I’m glad you found value in the post Beverley. As I mentioned at the beginning my intention was to poke a stick at the attitude we undertake pursuing a goal. Sometimes, as with the first two examples I used, it’s painfully obvious that someone really isn’t trying their best. But other times it’s not so clear. For example, I am a “Type A” person who is an unapologetic workaholic; I would never hold anyone else up to the standards I set for myself because it just wouldn’t be fair. We each have to determine what our “best” effort really is, and live with the consequences.

  14. Vanessa LeVan

    Great article, I like it when articles really spur one to reflect and wonder, which this did! I love the story about your husband and his persistence. Persistence pays off, persisitence is trying. If you find that you are persistently working on something you can be assured it is something you are interested in achieving and working towards. Keep going!

  15. Suzie Cheel

    I love this quote Do. Or do not. There is no try. ~Yoda always a great reminder I love the story of your husband, such a wonderful example of holding onto to the What You Do really want and keeping the desire in what i call you vibrational bubble . thanks for another empowering and inspiration article that encourages us to take action. xxx
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…How To Really Focus on Abundance for 2017My Profile

  16. Donna Merrill

    I love the way you think Marquita,

    Their is trying and then there is trying…. I guess it all depends on something we may think we want, and something we really desire. The example of your husband is the later.

    It boils down to try and know what you are in control of and what not. If things fall down, then try try again. But on the other hand, if it is really not worth the effort (and only we can know the circumstances) then learn from the experience and go on to something else.

    I liked what you mentioned about modeling. Try three different types of “roll models” and see what fits for you. It sure works well!

    Donna Merrill recently posted…How Can Black Friday 2016 Make You Successful In 2017My Profile

    • I’m glad you found value in the article Donna. You know the modeling exercise is worthwhile in pretty much every area in life. When I worked in hotel sales I traveled all over the world and anytime I visited a city for the first time I always included site inspections for the 3 hotels that I considered our closest competitor. I’d check out the rooms, facilities, guest activities and (especially) their marketing materials. I can’t tell you how many ideas I got that way that we ended up morphing into something unique for us. One, in particular, earned us a major marketing award! Thanks for stopping by, and especially for sharing. 🙂

  17. Lydia Brown

    This was one of my favorite topics to discuss with clients who kept saying, “I’m trying.” As an example of the difference between trying and doing I’d ask them to try and pick up a pencil on my desk. Once the pencil was picked up I’d ask, “so did you pick the pencil up or did you try to pick it up?” Of course the answer would be “I picked it up.” Then we would discuss the difference and how staying in a trying state would always stunt our growth and how taking action will be a visual experience.
    Lydia Brown recently posted…Celebrity Fame Alcohol and Substance AbuseMy Profile

  18. ikechi

    Hi Marquita

    I love your thought on this this topic. There is a difference between trying and doing. I do believe that trying harder makes the difference and as long as one laser focused on his goal, he can go the mile till he gets what he wants.

    Thanks for sharing. Take Care
    ikechi recently posted…5 Common Thinking Errors That Prevents You From Standing Out From The CrowdMy Profile

    • Well said Ikechi. Many times people will try hard to do something, but they fail to learn and adjust as they go along, opting instead to keep doing the same thing. We used to own a boat it sailing is a good analogy here because you’re constantly having to adjust course based on the circumstances. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  19. Well said Marquita! The gist of the article is that put in action in the direction of the goals without expecting the results with a positive mindset.Reminds me of the story of 2 little mice who fell in the bucket of cream and struggled so hard,that they churned the cream to butter and crawled out.My aha from this article is to keep trying different things until we make it to the goal to avoid getting frustrated.
    Priya Prabhu recently posted…Why do some windows reflect more light?My Profile

  20. Dave

    I can completely empathize with your “weak” definition of trying. I have seen it used as a crutch by others for rationalizing why things are the way they are, and I’ve seen it occur in my own life.

    Your thought processes, as always, resonate with me. When we can transform the meaning of “do” to not necessarily equate to completing an action, but rather “doing” everything in our power to give ourselves the best opportunity to achieve success (whatever that entails) is all we can really ask of ourselves. Only then are we truly trying in a way that holds water.

    I will give you a very personal and pertinent example. As an aspiring author, I’m trying my best to establish an author platform and audience base that resonates wtih what I create in my blog posts, stories, and novels.

    I feel that I truly am trying my best, doing everything in my power to bring about the end result I am searching for. Does this mean it will utlimately happen? No, not necessarily. But, so long as I know in my heart of hearts that I’m doing the “right” things and putting my best effort forth, I am more able to release control of the outcome to the powers that be 😉

    Thanks for sharing your always insightful and motivating articles, Marty 😉
    Dave recently posted…All AboardMy Profile

    • That’s a wonderful example Dave, good for you! I agree that releasing our death grip on the outcome is so important because quite often we end up in a different place from where we started, but even better because we couldn’t see all of the possibilities when we started! 🙂

  21. Ravi Chahar

    Hey Marquita,

    You totally banged it on.

    There is a difference between trying and doing. I like the concept.
    In our, we all are trying to achieve something. But till when?

    At some point, people get disappointed and lose their hope.It seems pretty boring sometimes.

    But if you have the hard determination then trying is the best option. Keep trying until you reach your destination.

    Keep motivated.

    Thanks for sharing this article.
    Ravi Chahar recently posted…41 Tempting Reasons To Use WordPress For Your Website.My Profile

  22. Jeri

    I’ve always known I try really hard at things and put my best effort forth most of the time. So though I may feel like I am flailing and not doing the right thing, I don’t give up, and that effort eventually brings rewards. Good thing I am quite patient;)
    Jeri recently posted…#LitChat: A Monster’s Sticky Books by Candy KormanMy Profile

  23. Mark

    You so nailed it as usual M!

    And I can truly appreciate your masterful distinction between trying and doing!

    And understanding both have uncontrollable circumstances.

    And had you not taken the time to really dissect and explain the true paradox of trying, I definitely would be drawing the wrong conclusion.

    And thanks for making it crystal clear, that continuously trying, doesn’t necessarily mean, doing the exact same things, or approaching a situation in the exact same manner, over and over!

    Which will obviously lead to more frustration and yield (for the most part) the same dismal and or disappointing results!

    It’s definitely a distinction we need to understand and appreciate! Thanks so much, for helping us do so!
    Mark recently posted…Why Being An Entrepreneur Definitely Means Adding Value And Solving Problems!My Profile

    • Glad you found value in the post Mark, and you picked up on an important point. So many people misunderstand the process of persistence and end up going round and round without ever really getting anywhere. Life is dynamic and that means constantly learning and adjusting our course. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, always appreciated. 🙂

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