“Do or do not; there is no try,” was the advice given to young Luke Skywalker, when he told master Yoda he would try. According to an online dictionary, the word try means an attempt to do something one has not done, and Luke was attempting something new. So, why was Yoda admonishing Luke for trying?

Isn’t trying a good thing? The wise Yoda reminded the young Jedi that once the decision is made to try, it’s important to whole-heartedly commit to the doing.

From a spiritual perspective, the word try is an oxymoron because trying to do something new and doing something new are very different choices that are based on different mind–body states.

Trying, by its very definition, means that I’m unsure of myself and that this thing I am doing will likely not end well. Trying is the acknowledgement that I’ve not completely chosen to commit fully to the doing. Being tentative about doing, as Yoda suggests, is never the way to proceed with any task.

The differences between the words trying and doing and the way we use these words in our lives speak volumes about who we are and whether we understand ourselves and our world.

For example, if I said to you, “I am trying to walk to the mailbox,” your first response would be, “What’s wrong?” You would say this because knowing me, you know that I can walk well; therefore, trying to walk to the mailbox only yards away should not be a challenge.

The word try in this context implies a problem. You might wonder if I’m physically impaired or injured, if I’m not very good at the task, or if I’m mentally struggling to find the inspiration to walk to the mailbox. I’m struggling to do.

When we use the word try to describe our doing, we are telling the world that we are unsure doers, for whatever reason, and the word try is the tell.

Many of us use the word try unconsciously as a warning for others not to expect much from us whether its something we’ve done before or not. Our trying attitude is why our lives look like they do. We are unsure of ourselves, and outcomes are often disappointing. Our families and friends don’t trust us do get anything done properly either.

I personally can’t tell you how many times I have heard myself tell people I care about that, “I’m trrryyying.” These people are often as frustrated with my unconscious doing as I am with myself. I was honestly trying as hard as I could. It was the truth. At least, I was trying, right?

The problem is that trying as hard as we can, will almost always still be half-hearted doing.

The problem is that trying as hard as we can, will almost always still be half-hearted doing.

To my younger self, I would say, “Trying is going to erode things quickly, because your mind and heart are not engaged properly in anything you try. ”

For the record, doing has nothing to do with doing perfectly. Doing means full mind–body commitment to a task; even if it is something you’ve never done before. Doing often involves conscious struggle, which is submission to learning and very different from trying.

Struggling consciously while doing is very different from trying because it involves self-reflection (is the doing going well), accountability (I will do what I say, when I say it), and taking responsibility for outcomes (making amends when necessary).

Say these sentences aloud, and see how they feel:


“I am trying to lose weight.” Vs. “I am losing weight.”

“I am trying to be a good parent.” Vs. “I am a good parent.”

“I am trying to work.” Vs. “I am working.”


Do you hear the difference? Do you feel the difference? One feels like an awkward struggle, while the other feels like knowing. One feels like I have no idea who I am or what I am capable of, while the other indicates that I know myself.

The difference between trying and doing is knowing ourselves—consciousness.

Okay, get your lightsaber, it’s time to do!

Today’s assignment is to observe the way you use the word try. Next time you find yourself using the word, take a conscious moment to breathe and relax.

Next, re-frame the sentence (and your spiritual posture) to, “I am doing ________, maybe imperfectly, but I take responsibility for my mood, behavior, and outcomes.” Then, take another breath.

This simple shift in behavior has moved mountains for me. I hope it helps. Have a wonderful week!