Why Creative Solutions Can't Be Found By Trying Harder | Blog

Should You Try Harder?

What if there was an easier way? What if the harder you try, the harder it gets? I read a quote once from Martha Beck that said, “If whatever you're doing isn't working, don't do it harder.”

Often, something doesn't seem to be working or flowing, and my initial impulse is to try harder, and I can slip into thinking more effort is the solution. Add a deadline to the mix, and my internal state shifts into urgency, and pressure builds. This usually leads to stops and starts and less than satisfactory results. It can lead to activity, but that activity does not always result in the quality I am hoping for.

Last year, I saw a similar scenario playing out with a team that hired me to help resolve an issue they were having with communication and making progress on an important project. Collaboration was difficult, upset was at an all-time high, and creativity was non-existent. New leadership had been brought in, and they were feeling frustrated and stumped. 

When doing intake calls with each team member, it became pretty clear that while every person cared deeply about this project, they were starting to feel the wear and tear. There were different theories about the problem and the solutions, and people were definitely trying, but nothing was producing the kinds of shifts needed. 

They knew it wasn't working, yet no amount of trying harder was creating the breakthrough they needed.

This is not an uncommon experience for any of us and actually makes complete sense when we understand that creativity, innovation, and solutions are harder to come by when we are in a reactive internal state. In fact, it's almost impossible. 

When we are stirred up, pressured, and frustrated, our minds constrict, and our feelings are amplified. In those moments, we are living in a distorted mind. If we don't see it or understand that our internal climate is reactive, we are often led astray or go down paths that lead to nowhere.

Addressing challenges requires new consciousness, and new solutions require new thinking. Creativity requires we listen beyond and draw from something other than our usual thinking.

Things shifted when the leaders on this team started to experience the difference between a distorted and reactive internal state versus an open and receptive one. Ideas began to flow more freely. They listened to each other with more openness and interest, and collaboration naturally improved. 

If communication started going south, they could feel it and take a break or a pause and come back to it. The team no longer respected internal urgency and the pressure to figure it out. Instead, they regulated themselves and the meetings and started noticing when they started to feel constricted, or the energy was diminishing. 

Rather than “pushing through,” they each were able to take responsibility for their internal state and adjust when needed. They were pulling the right lever. 

Laughter and lightness returned to the meeting room. Within a few days, they had new ideas and a new way forward. While it was great to see this happening, I was not surprised. I've seen it over and over again with myself and my clients. 

When we live in a feeling of ease, openness, and receptivity, we naturally have more perspective. We receive sudden breakthroughs, flashes of clarity, and insight from this space. 

Their experience reflects what's possible for all teams and leaders and for us as individuals. When we value and understand what it means to have a receptive, open, clear mind, we do what is needed to foster that internal climate. We step away rather than leaning into the upset or urgency. 

In the words of one of my clients, “So what you're saying is, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough don't keep going, they take a break.”

“Addressing challenges requires new consciousness, and new solutions require new thinking.”

We have the capacity to shape our interactions and outcomes when we access the wisdom that is available in the moment via an open and receptive mind.

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Barbara Patterson is the owner of a global coaching and consulting company helping solopreneurs, entrepreneurs & leaders access more clarity, creativity, have greater impact and higher levels of fulfillment in work and life. She is the founder of Beyond Limits in Business, a global platform and community designed to point people to the source of human potential. That potential resides within and is experienced via our minds. If you’d like to experience in-depth, robust and transformative mentoring for you and your business check out Barb’s 4-month virtual Beyond Limits Small Group Mentoring ProgramBarb is also the host of the Real Business Real Lives podcast. You can follow Barb on LinkedinTwitter and Instagram. You can also subscribe to her weekly blog on her website at barbarapatterson.com