A Kid at Play or an Adult at Work?
Have you ever sat back and watched a young child at play? I’m sure most of you have. What struck you most about the child’s actions, expressions, and movements? Was it the way they rolled the ball across the room, or the way they pushed the buttons on a toy?
Children of all ages have a natural curiosity. They want to know more. They want to put their hands on everything. They want to feel and hear and see new things. The desire to want to know more causes children to be willing to try something new. If it brings excitement, then the child will likely try again so that they can receive the same response. If something new causes the same child frustration, then there’s a good chance that he or she will move on to the next thing.
Now, if you were to reflect on your own life, would you say that you tried as many things in your adolescence and adulthood as you did when you were a young child? In your current life, when an opportunity presents itself – one in which you have never seen before – are you likely to try it? What does it take to get you to give it a shot?
I believe, that, as we mature, we tend to try fewer things. So, instead of trying things, we focus more on what we already know how to do. In other words, we continue to attempt something that we have some skill for doing. As a result, we eliminate some of the uncertainty that comes along with trying something.
Try this. Attempt that. We hear the words daily, but do they really mean the same thing?
As I think about all the things that I’ve tried in life, and all the things that I’ve attempted, I can’t help but think how both have shaped me – in different contexts and at different points in my life.
The Relationship Between Trying and Attempting
When I think about the words ‘trying’ and ‘attempting’, I tend to associate each of them with a two-word phrase. When you try something, you try ‘just because’. On the other hand, when you attempt something, you attempt ‘because of’.
Within each of these phrases, there is something deeper. There is meaning that isn’t written in the definition of either word, but rather needs to be seen through a different lens. As adults, it’s important to recognize that your growth is dependent on both, however it’s your level of deliberateness that will determine whether you are trying or attempting.
- Attempting something is a deliberate action with a desired result – Have you ever known, or do you know, someone who has pursued a doctorate degree? A doctorate degree requires several years of researching and studying a specific topic to be considered an expert in that field of study. People who pursue these types of degrees commit themselves to these rigorous programs and typically don’t do so ‘just because’. The people who commit to these programs attempt to engage and learn with the deliberate intention of becoming an expert in a very specific topic so that they can share and teach their knowledge with others.
- Attempting something follows a specific process – Because an attempt is deliberate, it requires process thinking that works through a series of steps to arrive at the desired result. In the example of someone who is pursuing a doctorate degree, there is an entrance exam, specific coursework, research, and a dissertation – all of which must be completed. Each of these components is requirement in order to obtain the degree. In any facet of your life, if you were just out to try something, then it is likely that you would be less concerned with the process for how you arrived at the goal and more concerned at simply arriving. With an attempt, you take to heart the process because you recognize it’s importance in the journey.
- Attempting something is best accomplished with the support of others – Anytime you can utilize the support network of others, it can help you to make progress towards something you are working towards. When you attempt something, you learn by receiving feedback from those around you. It’s the support of many that aids in the accomplishment of one. Alternative perspective, different viewpoints, and thought-provoking suggestions are just a few ways in which the support of others helps contribute to any process. Imagine trying to learn to ride a bike for the first time – what do you think the long-term success would be if you went out and tried to ride by yourself (without training wheels) and versus having a parent helping you and providing you with feedback on each deliberate attempt?
What Does this Mean for You?
For the rest of your life, you are going to find yourself in many situations in which you will be required to try or to attempt something. There is a purpose for each, and it’s important to understand how the two words relate to one another.
It’s easiest if you think of it in terms of trying something that you may do once or twice. It may work or it may not work. Either way, you try it, and you move on. On occasion, there will be something that, when you try it, you can’t get enough of it. You enjoy it, and you try it repeatedly. It could be something as simple as picking up a basketball for the first time, or solving your first crossword puzzle.
When the uncertainty in something new shifts to a desire, then you have moved from simply trying something to attempting it. And when you attempt it, you want to get better at it. And when you get better at it, you deliberately choose to do it because, in it, you find both passion and purpose. For all or us, any attempt at something that we have a passion for, and in which we find purpose, is something worth pursuing.
So the question becomes, what are you pursuing today? Are you passionate about it, and does it provide you with purpose?