Trying harder works sometimes, for some things.
But what about when it doesn’t? Why does it work sometimes and not others?
Why does it work for some people and not me?
In my search for answers I have come across a few ideas so far.
1. Trying harder doesn’t work when we don’t have the right tools
For years I tried hard to be the wife, the mom, the Christian I wanted to be. I was trying to do it on my own. I wanted deep, healthy relationships. I didn’t have the tools for that kind of relationship.
It turns out you only learn those tools in relationship. I felt stuck for a long, long time. When I finally risked relationship with genuine people things started to change.
2. Trying harder doesn’t work when we have the right tools but don’t know how to use them
I did Boundaries in a study group years ago. I knew I needed boundaries. I loved the freedom, purpose, and empowerment I heard from people who knew their boundaries.
It didn’t work. I didn’t have a framework in my thinking for them to work. I had the right tools boundaries, but I had nowhere to put them. I couldn’t explain this at the time. I just felt more messed up and hopeless than ever.
3. Trying harder doesn’t work when we have the right tool with the wrong intention. (It’s worse yet when we don’t know we have the wrong intention.)
When my children were elementary age I found a parenting book I loved, Loving Your Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk. One of the concepts was to offer choices whenever possible. This keeps you from always saying no. It also allows for your children to begin practicing decision-making skills.
I really wanted to use this new tool of offering choices. The part I didn’t get was how to offer two real choices. It usually sounded like “Do what I said or be in trouble” That’s not really a choice. It’s manipulation trying to disguise itself as having a choice.
I thought I had the right intention but I didn’t and it didn’t work.
4. Trying harder doesn’t work when the right intention isn’t connected to the right tools.
I asked my daughter what she was thinking. I could see she was irritated. My intention was to be a safe place for her to talk about what was upsetting her. It turns out I was what was upsetting her.
My intention to be compassionate and empathetic were not connected to the relational skills to do that. I quickly fell to defending myself and explaining my choices. It led to disconnection and more hurt instead of the connection I had intentions for.