The Magic Of Not Trying Too Hard

The underlying premise of this article comes from the concept of Paradoxical Intention. It’s something that was originally coined and conceptualized by Dr. Viktor Frankl, more popularly known for his ground breaking book, Man’s Search For Meaning. Dr. Frankl saw Paradoxical Intention as something that could be used for therapy and cure of various kinds of phobias and anxiety disorders.

Paradoxical Intention means deliberately and consciously thinking of and exposing yourself to the exact thing that you’re afraid of or trying to avoid. For example, if you are someone who stammers while speaking, you deliberately try to stammer as much as you possibly can. That takes away the pressure on you to not stammer and you end up stammering a lot less than you would otherwise have.

This has several applications in life and since most of the work that I do is related to the applications of psychology, here are a few.

  • Insomnia

If you’re a person who struggles to fall asleep at night, just the thought and the anxieties of not being able to fall asleep could keep you awake. Try this instead. Try to just stay awake. When you do this, it reduces the anxiety of not being able to sleep. Because now, you’re not trying to sleep anyway. This automatically kick starts a process of relaxation that helps you fall asleep a lot more easily.

  • Performance Anxiety

Whether it is on stage, during an exam or in front of an authority figure. When you have to perform, you are trying to do your best and give it your every ounce. As a result you end up becoming nervous about your performance and end up doing the opposite. That is underperforming or not being able to give your best performance. The next time you have performance anxiety, try this. If you have to talk in front of an audience and are afraid that you might goof up. Then get on stage with the intention of goofing up and making people laugh through your mistakes. This will reduce the stress on you to perform and will calm you down enough to speak fluently and comfortably on stage.

  • Fear Of Failure

I meet a lot of people in my coaching sessions who have a very high fear of failure. The fear of failing in a new job, in a new country, in a business or even in a new area of life. What this does is that it makes you avoid that situation. For example, a guy who is afraid of starting a new job in another organization might avoid that situation by sticking on to the same job. In the long run, this causes him to land up in the exact situation that he was trying to avoid. He ends up failing because he kept sticking on to a job that he didn’t fit into but was afraid to shift out of. If you have a fear of failure, then try to enjoy failing. Tell yourself, “I’m going to fail at something every single day. I’m going to practice failing and I’m going to enjoy failing.” This will push you to try new things without the fear of failure and in the process; you’ll be surprised how many things you actually end up being successful at.

To sum all this up in a couple of sentences, do the exact thing that you think will happen to you when you are out of control. Get yourself to purposely magnify and demonstrate the very symptoms that you’re trying to avoid. Dive into more of those scary and outrageous outcomes that you’ve been trying to avoid all along and you’ll trivialize them in your own head. This will eventually produce more of the results that you want in life.


Article in the Mindscape Section of the November 2018 Issue of Stayfit Magazine by Vinesh Sukumaran.

To know more about Vinesh and his work visit


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