“Try Harder” is something that often comes into my mind; often because I need to remind myself, less so that I feel the need to explain what it means to some unspecified listener.
Sometimes wisdom comes in tiny one or two-word packages that can take years to unpack and appreciate. Imagine struggling against a problem or goal, be it physical or academic, real or virtual, reaching the end of your wits, then turning to someone for a suggestion and receiving only “Try Harder” as advice. I can think of a few colorful two-word replies to that seemingly dismissive response. Let’s assume though that it’s not dismissive. Let’s assume it is what’s required.
The simple act of trying harder means focusing your effort. It’s not necessarily brute forcing your way through a problem or project, but being more mindful of the goal. Not all endeavors require an aggressive redoubling of effort.
Consider meditation, for example:
At it’s core meditation is a practice of calming the mind, and forcefully trying harder to meditate is obviously counterproductive. If an effort to calm the mind results in an internal shouting match consisting of you yelling at your mind to shut up, the point is lost. Mindfully trying harder means matching the appropriate method to the task at hand. In this case, trying harder to calm the mind may involve conjuring exceptional patience with yourself as you struggle to actually not do something.
Sometimes, however, Try Harder is exactly that. Bear down and push, go beyond your comfort zone, go to that place you’re afraid of. There’s rest at the end, but you have to get there first. In physical fitness, it could be lifting more than you ever have by focusing on technique, or it might be running faster than your best time by not giving in to that internal voice saying “It’s okay to quit.“
Try Harder means discipline, progressions, perseverance. Ten minutes of focus today, eleven tomorrow, fourteen the day after; 100lbs overhead today, 120 next week, 175 five weeks later. Even when there are setbacks you keep trying harder, you keep fighting to keep or gain ground.
Tracking progress and effort is key to growth. If you don’t know where you’re at or where you’ve been, how can you have any clear idea of where you’re going?
This all takes effort. None of this is easy. All of this requires you to Try Harder.