Converting tries

As I’ve said before, there are certain words I really don’t like. Seconds after I hit the ‘publish’ button last time, I realised that I’d used one. The pebble originally read

Do you feel like you sometimes get stuck in the twilight zone? What will you do to try to step out of it?

Try’? There it is. What kind of word is that?  Am I saying ‘oh, just give it a go and it might work out’? If you say that you’ll try, are you really saying ‘hmm, I’m really not sure about that but I suppose it might work’? Or are you saying ‘I don’t want to upset my boss so I’ll tell her I’ll do it and then hopefully she’ll forget about it’?

I went back to the post and edited it immediately.

‘Try’ seems like a big red flag to me saying ‘Wait a minute! Let’s dig a bit deeper before we move on’.

Why are you using the word ‘try’? Is the idea still too woolly and you’re not sure what to do? If so, can we refine it and then check how you feel about it.

Is it that it’s just not that important to you? Let’s drop it then and move on to something else.

Is now not the right time or are you not the right person for that task? Let’s explore that and see what impact will it have if you don’t perform the task, or if you don’t perform it now.

Or does the idea scare you so committing to it is a leap too far? What’s behind that feeling?

These are all reasons why, when we notice ourselves thinking ‘I’ll try’, it can be a red flag to warn us to stop and analyse that thought.

‘Do or do not: there is no try’ said Yoda.

Does this seem a bit harsh? Does it feel like I’m saying ‘if you can’t guarantee you’ll succeed then don’t bother? That’s not my intention: read on.

In the early days of rugby, the players scored points by scoring goals. If a player placed the ball in the other team’s goal area, he didn’t receive any points but was given the chance to try and score a goal without being hindered by the other team. This manoeuvre was known as a ‘try at goal’, later shortened to ‘try’.

So a try itself didn’t gain a team any points: it only allowed them to attempt to win points by scoring a goal. However, having achieved the try, the player didn’t just idly kick the ball vaguely in the direction of the posts: he put all his energy into that kick, using his skill and expertise to give the ball the best possible chance of soaring through those posts, thus literally achieving his goal. My issue with the word ‘try’ is that sometimes it can stop us putting all our resources into achieving our goals. What do you think?

Today’s pebble for your thoughts:

Have you noticed the word ‘try’ in your conversations? What is it flagging up?

Let me know what you think,


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we can work together?

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2 Responses to Converting tries

  1. Mia says:

    I absolutely agree, I do not like this word either. When I hear it, it makes me feel that you are setting yourself up to fail, that you’re not going to put too much effort in, if any!, because you are unsure, unmotivated or already know, that you just aren’t going to do it.

    I always ask people what they really mean, when they say “I’ll try” to me. Are you or aren’t you going to do it?? They either say, “well no, I don’t think I’ll be able to ” or they think about it and say “I’ll do my best”. Commit to what you are saying and doing, I’m happy with that.

    Mia x

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