It's Time to Stop Trying

(and start doing something else)

If you're a purposeful (perhaps driven) sort of person, an Achiever personality, you're probably always trying to improve.

We consume content (books, blogs, podcasts) and then try to put into practice the great tips, hacks, and advice we've just heard.

Sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

But always, always, we are trying to improve.

Maybe you've heard things all your life such as, "You're always pushing. Slow down. Relax. Stop trying so hard."

And you do... you try harder to slow down and relax!

### A personality thing? It seems very likely that this always-improving, always-trying-new-ways to do it better is hardwired into our personalities. It's also likely that the advice you get from your laid-back friends, while it may be valuable encouragement to take some time to Recharge and Connect, is never going to make you look like them. I's just not in you to stop trying.

However, once we settle this personality difference and stop feeling bad about our unending quest for improvement, we discover there's something else to feel a bit discouraged about: the fact that no matter how hard we try, we never seem to get there.

Wherever "there" is. But we feel that nagging sense of never improving to the point we desire, or perhaps never staying there long enough.

The diet fails, the gym visits slow down, the books go unread, our spiritual life gets neglected, our vows to be more patient are forgotten.

What's going on here? Why is that no matter how hard we try, we often don't seem to succeed in getting to the level of improvement we're looking for?

### Let's try a different approach. Let's try a mental shift in the way we're thinking about improvement. Read the following two sentences, and see if you sense the huge shift that occurs by changing only a single word:

"I'm not satisfied with the way I've been eating. I'm going to try to do better."

"I'm not satisfied with the way I've been eating. I'm going to train to do better."

What happens in you when make that word-switch? Can you see what a difference that might make?

Trying is something we do over and over, a constant struggle. But then, so is training, right? Training is a repeated effort, and it's often painful.

So where is the difference? In the mindset. That's it. It's that simple.

### A different mindset Trying begins with an almost fatalistic pessimism that the trying will result in failure. We say I'll try *when given a task that seems much too hard, and we want to make it clear to ourselves or others that failure should be expected. Or perhaps when someone asks us to do them a favor. *I'll try. In other words, even if I get it done, I need you to know that it was a big effort that inconvenienced me, so you shouldn't get your hopes up. In fact, if you're a Mom who has said I'll try to a child, you've probably heard "That means No," as they turn away, discouraged.

Training, on the other hand, begins with an end in mind, and that end is victory.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)

The Apostle Paul is talking about self-discipline in this letter he's writing. It's a self-discipline that is not about trying, but rather about training. And training is all about the end goal of crossing the finish line. It's a mindset shift that fully intends for the effort to prove successful.

A few sentences later, Paul says:

"I do not run aimlessly. I do not box as one beating the air."

In other words, the training isn't for fun. It's not a pointless exercise. It's to obtain the prize.

### A simple combination So what does it look like to make this mindset shift and start training instead of trying? For most of us, it's a simple combination of consistent, structured actions. In other words, intentional habits.

You might be able to be consistent with your training in an area, without having any intentional structure at all, but that's unlikely. You need a plan. A structure.

A bigger danger is to have structure (lot of great plans) with no consistency.

You've wasted your time creating that structure.

So it's a simple-to-understand combination of structure + consistency that becomes training. Not necessarily simple to implement, of course. That's why we're always trying.

That's where intentionally-designed habits serve us so well. They can make our training not only easier, but they can help us with that crucial mindset shift, because they're all about running for the prize. Both short-term rewards (tangible and motivating) and long-term rewards (life-changing) are built into habits, when done right.

### An important distinction In case you're thinking that this result of your training is completely in your own hands, let's make sure we're clear here: Spiritual transformation, even personal transformation on any level, is also a work of God in our lives. We put the training into place, we cultivate the practices and the habits and routines, and God causes the spiritual and personal growth to happen. A runner trains for a race with consistent practice that pushes the limits of his muscles, but then his body takes over and builds newer, stronger muscles without his causing it. He cannot force or direct the creation of muscle tissue, his body does that on its own. He can only take the actions that encourage his body to cause that growth. In the same way, our hearts and minds can be transformed by God into something new when we consistently put ourselves into training mode.

This mindset shift of training, as opposed to trying, puts us in the best possible place to see all sorts of transformation in our lives--from personal to spiritual, and even financial and relational.

And the next time someone tells you to stop trying so hard, tell them you're in training.

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