top of page

Why The Harder You Try, The Worse It Gets? | Law of Reversed Effort

The Theory | Laziness to Gain Motivation

Ah, the motivation.

Why working hard is not the way to go and leads to laziness? Why the Harder you try, the worse it gets? This guide aims to explain the mechanism of motivation clearly and shortly. Then provide you with simple tools to fuel up your motivation and inspiration. No, you are not lazy and nothing is wrong with you. This short writing will introduce you with the law of reverse effect/effort taht will arm you against any situation in the future whether let it be work, working out or studying.

Introduction to the "Problem of Motivation"

This has been a question many asked. And now I realize that there are more to this than thought. The more we try hard the more we enforce the idea that next time the same job, work, duty will take more effort. Let me give you a clear example: You have an exam soon. You cannot study. You try hard. No chance. Then suddenly when it is too late you start studying; ultimately thinking "why didn't I start earlier". When you finish the study session after many hours of hard work you only feel a brief relieve accompanied with more regret of not starting earlier. Chances are that the next time you would try to motivate yourself with the relief feeling that you felt earlier you will fail. Because this is how our brain operates: Having fun and relaxing.

So what is the catch? How can you not only arrive to study, work, or do your chores? Today here I will teach you a new theory and not only you will achieve your goal but you will also learn to get fun while doing it!

First thing to realize is that if you are trying, that probably means you are trying to meet the expectations of someone, or some group, or some internal ideal. Or let me remind you this hard to swallow fact:

Essentially, the harder you "try" the further away from your desire you get. For example…you are ‘trying’ to lose weight or ‘trying’ to get fit…but the whole concept of ‘trying’ means that you already know you won’t succeed.

Where it all started?

I noticed this fact when I was trying to pet my own cat. The harder I wanted to pet him the more he run away from me. Then a few moments later when I am focused on something else my cat would appear and starts walking towards me.

This idea is hard to grasp and reconcile as we have been hard wired to think that "effort" and "hard-work" is the key to success. It is true that achieving anything requires effort and action there is a another aspect to it.

The law of reversed effort was once coined by English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley, who stated that we only achieve proficiency by combining relaxation with activity. I quote:

The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed. Proficiency and the results of proficiency come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, or combining relaxation with activity, of letting go as a person in order that the immanent and transcendent unknown quantity may take hold. We cannot make ourselves understand; the most we can do is to foster a state of mind, in which understanding may come to us.

Aldous Huxley

Imagine an insomniac trying to sleep. The more he tries, the longer he seems to stay awake. And the longer he stays awake, the more frustrated he becomes and the harder he tries. But after a while, the insomniac stops trying, accepting that he can’t sleep. And suddenly, without any effort, he dozes off. Sleep is one of those many things we cannot force. Yet, we often try hard to fall asleep, with horrible results. When we look at the nature of sleep, this isn’t much of a surprise. We can see sleep as the ultimate form of relaxation. Thus, trying to sleep is pretty contradicting, as we make an effort (or even force ourselves) to relax, which is the opposite of relaxation. Another thing we cannot force is attraction. No one chooses to be attracted to someone or something; it just happens.

Even Attraction

Even though this is a generalization, by and large, we see that clinginess repels, and elusiveness attracts. The more we chase someone, the less attractive we become. But if we stop chasing, we become more elusive, and the attraction may return. As the proverb goes: “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Trying too hard often backfires. Philosopher and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl observed that when we focus too much on achieving specific outcomes (and preventing others), we generate “anticipatory anxiety.” In many cases, this hyper-intention leads to the situation we try to avoid. An example from his book Man’s Search For Meaning is a stutterer who desperately tries not to stutter. But because he tries too hard, his speech falters even more as he’s anxious not to speak without stammering. And so, it’s with many things. If we try too hard to enjoy ourselves, we’re probably not enjoying ourselves because we’re so fixated on results that the fixation itself is unpleasant. So the first thing is not to fixate on the goal, the motivation, it is not to be perfect. Ot is merely trying the obstacles between you and motivation.

The personal conscious self being a kind of small island in the midst of an enormous area of consciousness — what has to be relaxed is the personal self, the self that tries too hard, that thinks it knows what is what, that uses language. This has to be relaxed in order that the multiple powers at work within the deeper and wider self may come through and function as they should. In all psychophysical skills we have this curious fact of the law of reversed effort: the harder we try, the worse we do the thing.

Aldous Huxley

When someone asked author Charles Bukowski how he writes and creates, how he motivates himself he answered:

You don’t (…) You don’t try. That’s very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks, you make a pet out of it.

Charles Bukowski

Can you remain tranquil until right action occurs by itself?

In the next part I will talk about how to achieve the zone or the mind or the remaining tranquil with the right intentions. So that the motivation is achieved!

32 views0 comments
bottom of page