The Difference Between Trying and Doing

​How to Turn Attempts Into Accomplishments

There’s an instructive scene in the Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back. Yoda is instructing Luke Skywalker in how to use the Force. He asks Luke to retrieve his disabled spaceship out of a bog where it has sunk, using only his mind.

there is no try

Luke, of course, thinks this is impossible. Sure, he has been able to move stones around this way. But a spaceship? That’s completely different. Or is it?

Yoda patiently explains that it is only different in his mind. Luke reluctantly agrees to “give it a try.”

Yoda famously says, “No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Why Trying Doesn’t Work

Tony Robbins gave similar advice to a woman who was struggling in her marriage. She stood up in one of his seminars to ask a question. She complained that she had “tried everything” to improve her relationship with her husband but nothing had changed.

Tony went on to make a distinction that I think is vitally important. He asked the woman to try to pick up the chair she was sitting in. She turned around and picked up the chair.

Tony said, “No, you picked it up. I said try to pick it up.”

The woman looked confused. Tony reiterated, “Try to pick it up.” The woman just stood there, not knowing what to do.

Tony continued, “No, now you’re not picking it up. I said try to pick it up.” Again, she picked up the chair.

Again, Tony, said, “No, you picked up the chair. I asked you to try and pick it up. You either pick it up, you don’t pick it up, or you try to pick it up.”

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Just Stop Trying

The point is that when we say we are trying we don’t really have to do anything. It also provides us with an excuse for why we didn’t accomplish the outcome we say we want.

Do you understand the difference? You either do something or you don’t do it. Trying is really the same as not doing it. It just makes it easier for us to let ourselves off the hook when we fail.

Where are you trying to improve?

  • Are you trying to get in shape—or are you getting in shape?
  • Are you trying to improve your marriage—or are improving your marriage?
  • Are you trying to make more sales calls—or are you making more sales calls?

This may sound like a small distinction, but it has huge ramifications.

3 Suggestions

Maybe it’s time to quit trying and just do it. Here are three suggestions:

1. Eliminate the word “try” from your vocabulary. Language is subtle. The words we use can program us to perform certain ways. Using the wrong language can create an outcome we don’t intend.

“Try” is a worthless word that accomplishes nothing. It might make us feel better when we fail, but it actually induces the kind of behavior that leads to failure.

2. Decide either to do or not do. If you don’t want to do something, fine. Don’t do it. But don’t pretend that trying is the same as doing. They are two completely different postures.

This is what Yoda was telling Luke. Everything important we accomplish begins with decision. We don’t slip into our greatest achievements. We commit and then make them happen.

3. Commit 100 percent to the outcome you want. Like the project manager in Apollo 13 said, “Failure is not an option.” Play full out. Don’t quit. Don’t settle for merely trying.

Remember the point behind suggestion No. 1 above. Language is subtle. When we get comfortable with trying, even a bit, we open the possibility of failure because we make it respectable to walk off the field before the whistle blows. Don’t give yourself the out.

As Yoda suggested to Luke, the difference may only be in your mind, but it has a dramatic impact on the outcome of whatever you set out to do.

Question: Where have you been trying instead of doing? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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