What do Yoda (that enigmatic Star Wars Shaman), the late Dr. Byron Medler (profoundly wise professor of counseling at the University of North Texas) and you & I have in common? We all struggle with the sometimes daunting task of addressing life's challenges in meaningful ways. How many times do you hear others or yourself say something like, "I'm really trying to . . ." My guess is that we either hear or say that phrase more times than we are even aware.
Back when I was going through graduate counseling training, Byron Medler quickly became one of my all-time favorite professors and friends. He was a true mentor to me -- still is even though he has passed through the veil between this world and the next. I often "volunteered" for counseling technique demonstrations in class. Hey! It was a great way to get some free therapy! Although those were "demonstration sessions" I decided to bring real issues to the table rather than role play each time I sat across from him.
Often, I would hear myself say, "I am trying to . . ." Byron would pause after my statement of defense and frustration, flash that wry little grin of his, generate a twinkle in those pale blue eyes (still don't know how he was able to do that "generation of twinkle" thing) and ask, "And what are you doing?" That used to frustrate the hell out of me! "What am I doing? What do you mean, what am I doing? I'm trying, damn it!"
I finally became so frustrated that I asked him during one of those sessions, "What's the point of asking me what I am doing all the time?"
"Glad you asked," he replied. "You see, when we try we are merely spending time and energy thinking about doing something. It fools us into believing that we have actually done something about our problem when all we have actually done is think about doing." The dawn began to break! It's like spinning your wheels -- expending lots of energy but going nowhere! He went on to explain that if I responded with something like "I am working on . . ." then we could dissect my actions; tweak my plan; devise new strategies. Wow! It blew me away! Since that time I have worked to eliminate try from my vocabulary. Every now and then, it slips back in (sneaky little devil) and I immediately stop myself and change my statement to include working instead. That forces me to be honest with myself. Am I really doing something about my situation?
Yoda was a bit more direct in his counsel when he said, "Do or Do Not! There is no Try!"
About a year and a half ago, I was working with a student. He was way behind in credits toward graduation -- discouraged; depressed; defeated. He was even a little belligerent. As we visited, I shared with him this story that changed part of my life -- moving from trying to doing. I'm not sure what happened in his heart but the collective wisdom of Yoda, Byron and the forces of the Universe must have flipped a switch inside that young man, because he completely turned things around for himself! He has gone from being convinced he would not graduate to making all A's and B's; has more than caught up on credits; is making plans to enroll in college in the fall; and has clarified a plan to pursue his newly found passion for engineering graphics! He is one of my heroes!
All of this from the seeds of statements born in a galaxy far-far away, refined in the trenches of personal therapy and disseminated with care. Simply amazing!
My question today is this: What are you trying to do in your life today that might be best altered by doing instead?
Let's see if we can do this thing called life together through the power of mutual support!
Until next time . . . Peace!
Mark Hundley has worked with children, youth and families since 1971 – devoting 13 years to youth and family ministry; another 10 years to service in public education as a teacher and high school counselor; and the remaining time as a therapist, consultant and writer. He earned his B.A. in Sociology from Hardin-Simmons University; his Master’s in Counseling from the University of North Texas. He is a co-founder of the Journey of Hope Grief Support Center in Plano, TX, and author of Awaken to Good Mourning, a personal guide through the journey of grief.