I am not, in this blog post, going to talk about Star Wars, so stay with me people. Rather, I am going to talk about his much quoted advice of an ancient alien with unusual syntax( subject-object-verb). His advice to Hans Solo, Princess Leah, and their merry band of robots was “Do or not do, there is no try”, and Yoda is not the only alien, or person to give this advice. I hate to quibble with a Grand Jedi Master, as he seems like a nice enough alien, but I think he was wrong on this point. You see, I think that the “no try” advice is problematic, and I think this is especially problematic after any kind of loss. After a loss of some kind we quickly want to move on and find something else to replace it, filling the void and masking the pain, and it certain instances like with a job it can make logistical and practical sense to do so. However, even then, we are hopefully able to take a moment to at least try the job on in our mind and not just jump in it out of desperation ( I do understand there are of course, times when that isn’t practical, and that financial responsibilities require otherwise). But if there is no risk to life and limb and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs have all been met, then I would suggest that you take a minute, try on some stuff and not be so quick to commit. When there is a void after a loss we might not really know what we want other than not feeling the loss and this is where we can have a tendency to get rebound jobs, rebound relationships and rebound life-decisions-we-might-not other-wise-make-if-we gave-ourselves-a-moment.
Here is how this philosophy of “no try” can be detrimental: Dating: “It isn’t okay for me to date a lot of people, I need to hurry up and find the one. I need to be in a committed relationship and this one is in front of me so I should take this.” Very often we make that last part of the internal statement a kind of quieter repressed blur, we may not want to know that we are doing this.
Career: “ I need to have a bliss, a passion, a single-minded vision. I need to be absolutely sure and single mindedly focused on making this career happen. I am tool old to be trying something new. It is too late for me to try again. I can’t take a risk, I have a degree in business so I can’t do something that is not in my wheelhouse.” If you feel this way please watch this lecture by Cal Newport or read his book. Bliss and passion are great, as are goals, but they are things that can develop and are not always love at first sight.
Choices: “ I need to know right away if this is the right thing, I can’t try stuff. I need to be absolutely sure. I don’t have time to try. I should know. I should be certain.” Well, if you don’t know you don’t know, give yourself a minute to find out what you really want. Let both sides of the choice be conscious in your mind and let yourself sit in the tension of those opposites. Let your self try on one choice and then another and find our what really fits for you.
Clothes: “I have bought those jeans before, I am not going to try them on. I am just going to buy them.” Clothes sizes vary, even within the same brand. I am only half joking here, it is truth and it is a metaphor. Just because something fit before it doesn’t mean it fits now. You have changed. Their pattern maker has changed. Take the time to try it on. No ‘to buy or no by, there is no try’, take the time to try. Yes, I know, Yoda never said that. Yoda wasn’t much of a shopper.
My “try” story Two years ago today-ish, I decided to “try” to write The Next Happy. Now, let me be clear what I mean about “try”---I didn’t not work; I worked a lot. I wrote a pitch. I went to a conference. I pitched the book. I got an agent. I did everything the agent told me to do. There was a lot of work in this “try” attitude of mine. When I say ‘try’, I mean that I was relaxed and easy and kind of chill about trying to make this happen. ‘Try’ for me is more about giving it a shot but still working hard on it and being a little more detached about the outcome. Yes, of course, I wanted it to happen, which is why I kept doing stuff to try and make it happen. The difference between this and the focus, tenacity, and “it must happen” attitude of a goal or a vision or a “I must have this” I had around trying to conceive was a world a part, no, actually, it was a couple of universes apart.
“Try” is like trying something on in a dressing room. Goodness gracious, you don’t buy a swimsuit or a pair of jeans without “trying” them on. It would be super unreasonable to expect that you would have a perfect fit or a perfect pair of jeans without trying them on first. You could, but you would likely be pretty disappointed. You need to see if it fits before you commit( the ghost of Johnny Cochran is haunting me).
One of the gifts of grieving my dream of having a baby was that I didn’t have a whole lot of energy for “BIG dreams” afterwards. I was tired and depleted by that big dream and I didn’t have it in me to dream again. I somehow knew that it wasn’t wise to immediately jump into another dream and so I started to just try stuff on and see what happened and follow where my energy was, and I didn’t need that energy to be bliss, passion, certainty, clarity or vision. It could be just a simple feeling of wanting to read something or do something or take a class. There was no longer big attachment to the outcome and, let me tell you, that was a big relief. It feels so nice to be able to pursue an interest or a hope and not have it consume me in the way having a baby did (all my eggs in one basket and all my happiness dependent on that one thing did not make me happy). I am much happier trying stuff and seeing what happens, and ultimately being okay no matter what happens.
So, I apologize Yoda, we will just have to agree to disagree on this one. And to you, dear reader, may the force of try be with you.