Don’t Try Harder — Resist Less

I know this concept seems a bit foreign to those of us who have been successful trying harder and harder … and eventually succeeding. Yes, we can overcome that obstacle. Yes, we can fix that problem. Yes, we can create a workaround. Yes, yes, yes. We just keep saying yes to trying harder and harder.

And people come to expect that of us.

And we expect it of ourselves.

But what if trying harder doesn’t work? And what if we could have been just as successful, maybe MORE successful, by not “trying so hard”?

“Don’t try harder – resist less.” (As quoted by Anne Lamott in Hallelujah Anyway.)

That sentence took me aback when I read it. What does it even mean?

For me, it’s come to mean acceptance. Acceptance of the circumstances for what they are, and – here’s the kicker – not judging them as good or bad.

Because I’ve realized that a lot of my “trying harder” is really resistance. It’s resisting a reality that I don’t want to accept. So, I just keep trying harder and harder to fix it or change it or, sometimes, deny it.

It’s like a boulder in a stream. The stream doesn’t try to move the boulder. The stream doesn’t try to force the boulder to get out of its way. It simply accepts its presence and moves around it. It incorporates the boulder into itself and keeps flowing. Eventually, of course, it wears the boulder away, but not by trying harder. Just by being.

So, what if you took that problem you are trying so desperately to solve and just accepted it? Stopped fighting it. Stopped judging it.

What if you resisted it less?

My husband and I have a problem in our home that we’ve been trying to “fix”. We try this. We try that. We think we’ve solved it, and it shows back up in another place or form.

We’ve been resisting it because, well, we kind of like our home and our stuff in our home. This boulder feels very threatening to that.

But somehow this sentence popped into my head today.

What if we stop trying so hard and resisted less? What if we stopped trying to impose our will on this “boulder” in our lives and simply let go? What if we release all our preconceived notions of how things “should be”?

I tried it.

The first thing that happened is that I experience a whole big rush of peace. Ahhh. There’s a boulder here. Let’s look at the boulder instead of trying to roll it up the hill. It’s just a boulder. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The next thing I experienced was a sense of curiosity. Hmm, how does the boulder fit into our lives? What would it look like to flow around the boulder? To stop resisting it? How can we make the boulder work for us instead of against us?

Then, all of a sudden, I started seeing other opportunities, maybe other options to work with the boulder. Interesting.

I’m not saying I’ve “solved the problem”. The boulder is still there, but now I’m curious instead of fighting it. Maybe there’s another way to approach this. I don’t know yet, but now I’m hopeful that I will find one.

“Don’t try harder – resist less” doesn’t mean giving up. It doesn’t mean to stop working toward your goals or working to improve your life or your career or whatever.

It does mean to stop fighting the things that seem to be getting in your way. Because when you stop resisting the reality of things, when you stop judging them as good or bad, your curiosity shows up. You see opportunities to maybe USE the boulder or flow around it rather than struggle to get it out of the way.

And that might just mean you can get where you’re going a whole lot faster and easier than if you spend all your time and energy trying to roll that darn boulder up the hill.

Where in your life are you trying harder?  Where could you stop trying so hard and start resisting less? I’m curious.


    • Karen Ann Bulluck

      Thank you! I love your post as well! These sneaky saboteurs!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *