The Truth Behind “I’ll Try”

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Can you imagine asking an employee to do a given task, or telling a receptionist to please call someone and getting “I’ll try” for an answer?

When we ask someone we know is capable of doing something for us, we expect them to say “I will” and do it. Unless, of course, we are asking for something that may seem impossible to them, in which case their answer will most likely be “I’ll try.”

At first glance, these two responses sound very similar. Yet, the difference is not semantic. The difference is so profound that it could actually be a matter of life or death.

When most people say “I’ll try” they are -consciously or subconsciously- creating a convenient way out, even before trying whatever it is they are supposed to “try.”

It’s a smart cop-out response, especially when dealing with anything that presents a challenge.

When most people say “I’ll try”, what they really mean is: “I’ll give it a shot,” or “I’ll put some effort into it,” or “O.K., I don’t have much to lose by just trying.” Thus, revealing what they are actually thinking, namely, “I don’t think I can do it.”

Some may say it because they are afraid of failure, or because they are afraid of being held accountable.

Humans are smart and they know that the best part of using the words “I’ll try” is that not only you will never fail, but you will also get ‘credit’ for “trying it.” So, it seems like a win/win situation.

However, the automatic consequence of saying “I’ll try” is not only that, by default, you have already given up even before even attempting “to try” it, but more tragically, that you are also lowering your expectations instead of raising them.

I have yet to see someone who is fully and truly committed to succeeding use the phrase “I’ll try.”

As opposed to the automatic self-defeating answer of “I’ll try,” the mere fact of envisioning an impossible victory when we say “I will” is in itself a victory.

The knowledge that we have to do our very best to succeed is, in itself, a major driving force and determining factor in whether we do succeed or fail.

And even though we may not succeed, the fact that we did our best, is a step forward.

Most people take failure and success as personal and yet, neither is really about ourselves but about our directive correlation with our environment.

Looked from a holistic perspective, both failure and success are not just a matter of perception but they are also relative.

The fabric of progress has been woven with “failures” and “successes.”

Next time someone asks you to do something, please don’t even say “I will,” just do it!

JC Wandemberg Ph.D.

President & Founder

Sustainable Systems International

About the author: Dr. Wandemberg is an international consultant, professor, and analyst of economic, environmental, social, managerial, marketing, and political issues. For the past 30 years Dr. Wandemberg has collaborated with corporations, communities, and organizations to integrate sustainability through self-transformation processes and Open Systems Design Principles, thus, catalyzing a Culture of Trust, Transparency, and Integrity.

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