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The Mysterious Word “Try”

January '13

How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? If you’re like one friend of mine, the answer is “beautifully!” But if you’re like some folks at my gym, the answer is “not so well!” January usually finds our exercise room packed, so you have to wait to get on a treadmill. By March there’s always one free. This year, however, after the passage of only a few weeks the crowd has faded along with their New Year’s resolutions.

The blog of one gal who found her resolutions dissipating recommended turning them into suggestions. I can’t credit her properly, because I don’t remember her name. Perhaps that’s just as well, because I suspect it’s better to ignore making resolutions altogether than to create a bunch of “suggestions” for the year. I appreciated the lightheartedness of her reframe, but didn’t find her recommendation effective

I make this assertion as a result of my NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) training, which taught me to listen carefully to any commitment – especially for the word “try”. More specifically, when someone says, “I’ll try to do that,” don’t count on positive results. As a Life Coach, when I ask a client if she is willing to commit to a specific action, whenever I hear, “I’ll try”, I move for further clarification. For example, I might say something like, “doesn’t sound as though you’re really committed to that possibility.” Then together we find a more preferred action. Or she might recognize the hesitancy in her initial response and decide to fully commit to the action I suggested.

Think about it for a minute. Imagine saying to yourself, “I’ll try to do that.” Then say, “I’m willing to commit to that.” Which statement do you feel is more likely to result in action on your part? Now imagine you’re listening to someone else make these statements. Again which one do you want to hear?

Back to that friend who already made a successful New Year’s change. After reading last month’s Midlife Discovery with the subtraction approach to resolutions, she called to tell me she thought I wrote it just for her. For months she had considered relinquishing a volunteer position she held for years. Her friends nagged her to give it up – especially since more hours had been added to her paid work. But she remained reluctant to let go until last month’s newsletter landed in her inbox. Within a week she had submitted her thoughtfully worded resignation. She told me her sense of relief and new found freedom signaled she had done the right thing.

How about you? How are your resolutions working out? Did you make any? If not, you could resolve to listen for the word, “try” in your statements, or in the uneasy commitments of others. I’d love to learn about any of these circumstances and your reactions when you hear others, or yourself saying, “I’ll try.” Please share them with us.

Happy New Year!

P.S. The challenge in making any New Year’s resolution is to answer the basic question of “What do I want?” If you find yourself uncertain about the answer to this basic question, check out my new downloadable, journaling course, “Reinvent Yourself – Write Now.” At the end of nine-weeks you will be wonderfully clear on what you truly want for yourself and your life.



  1. Claire Petersky said on January 24, 2013:

    The only successful New Year’s resolutions I have had are one-word resolutions. This year’s resolution is RELEASE. Last year’s was VIBRANT. The year I had the resolution of GROWTH (ai yi yi), it took two years of resolutions like CONSOLIDATION to recover from the stress of that year.

    I also highly recommend the website 43things (www.43things.com) as a supportive environment for goal setting. Over the last six years as a user of the site, I have really made some serious life changes and overcome major obstacles. It has well been worth the effort to maintain a goal list, and also cheer on support others on the site with their life’s goals.

  2. Bonnie said on January 24, 2013:

    Hi Claire!

    Love the focus and simplicity of your one word resolutions! Thanks too for sending along your goal-setting resource; so glad it’s been helpful to you.


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