Nearly 30 years ago when I worked in an alcohol-drug treatment center, a favorite gambit of counselors was to toss a tissue on the floor and say “I’m trying to pick up the tissue.”
Of course nothing happened.
Then they’d say, “Okay, now I’m picking up the tissue” and would actually pick it up.
- “I’m trying to lose weight.”
- “I’m trying to look more professional.”
- “I’m trying to control my temper.”
Familiar things we’ve all said or heard others say, right?
I’m here to suggest that you stop trying.
“Trying” implies a lack of commitment. Are you trying, or are you doing? Are you committed to the change you’re talking about, or are you just saying the words?
Did you read the Randy Pausch book or watch the video, “The Last Lecture”? Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie-Mellon who volunteered for a project called “The Last Lecture.” This was a hypothetical lecture a professor would give if he or she had just one last lecture to give before dying.
What made his project especially poignant, was that after he volunteered to give the lecture, Pausch was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The topic he chose was “Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” It’s one of the funniest and most moving speeches I’ve ever heard. Do yourself a favor and check it out on YouTube.
One of the many things Randy talked about was a great piece of advice a woman told him she gives to other women:
When it comes to men who are romantically interested in you, it’s really simple: Just ignore everything they say, and only pay attention to what they do.
Trying? Or doing?
The way I talk about it with my patients is sentiment versus orientation. Sentiment is what you say, talking the talk. Sentiment is easy:
- “I love you.”
- “I’m trying to lose weight.”
- “I’m trying to be on time.”
- “I’m trying to control my temper with my child.”
Talk is cheap!
Sentiment versus orientation
Orientation is harder; it’s walking the walk. It’s committing and doing. In addition to telling your partner that you love him or her, a loving orientation would be thinking about what helps your partner feel loved, and doing that.
Instead of continuing to say that I’m trying to conquer my fear of public speaking like I’ve said for the past ten years, this year I joined Toastmasters and since January I’ve given seven speeches: five at Toastmasters and two elsewhere.
Instead of saying that you’re trying to be on time, walking the walk means taking action, perhaps using backtiming, a technique I learned from a producer. You start with the time you need to arrive, and work backwards from there. If the meeting starts at 6:15pm, you budget time for each thing you want to do before you leave and you plan it out completely, so you know what time you need to start that routine. Maybe that’s 4:50pm in order to be comfortable and ready to go at 6:15pm.
That’s the difference between saying you’re trying to be on time and doing what it takes.
Or instead of saying you’re trying to control your temper with your child, you think about the consequences of yelling at your child, what a blow it is to your child’s self-esteem.
You can also keep mental “videos” of favorite moments with your child to return to when things are challenging. You actively hold on to the love and warmth of those moments during the challenging times.
The difference between sentiment and orientation can be part of the difference between living a passive, so-so life, and one that is actively engaged and satisfying.
So remember: Stop trying—and start doing!
If you’d like to work on the difference between sentiment and orientation, don’t hesitate to contact me. I look forward to speaking with you.