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Advice for everyone for success: Stop trying so hard

March 8, 2009
By Matthew Goodemote

When I sit down to write this column I often have no idea what to write. I get to read it as I write it.

The last article I wrote was one of these articles. I find it amazing that so many people had similar experiences about Ed Dugan. Thank you to all who e-mailed me and stopped by or called to thank me for writing the article. I am sure Ed has a smile looking down on us.

Last night, I sat down to write a column and it just didn't seem to flow the way I am used to.

I have wanted to mention some things I have been reading about over the last few weeks.

Unfortunately I just couldn't find the words.

It just dawned on me as I was driving into work why I was trying too hard.

I wanted to stress a point, but in the end I didn't even understand what I was writing.

So instead you get this article.

There was a man sailing in the ocean.

He fell out of the boat and noticed the boat had drifted away from him.

He started to swim to the boat.

Strangely each stroke he made the boat drifted away from him so he never got any closer.

The man started to panic and swam harder, the harder he tried the farther away the boat drifted. He stopped for a minute and started treading water.

He screamed for help but no one heard him.

He started to get upset and this made his cries even more desperate.

Finally he decided to try and swim again with the same result, the more he tried the farther away his goal became.

He started to doubt that he could make it back to the boat and interestingly the more doubtful he became the further the boat drifted.

Once again, he stopped and gave a final yell for help, this time someone threw him a "life saver."

So he started to swim to it and the same thing happened, the "life saver" drifted farther and farther away.

Then the man heard "stop trying so hard."

He did not know where this advice came from, but out of complete surrender he stopped swimming.

Amazingly the "life saver" came to him. The man got excited and tried to swim to the float causing it to move just outside his grasp. He heard again, "stop trying so hard."

He stopped trying to reach the "life saver" and it miraculously came to him.

Then when the float made its way to him, he was able to grab the float and make it back to the boat.

The man realized in an instant that he had worked so hard and tried so hard while all the time he needed only to let go and trust that help was available.

After climbing back into the boat, the man realized his great fortune.

He learned that when we are trying and trying and our goal stays beyond our reach it is because we often are trying too hard.

Suddenly the man heard someone struggling like he was, this time he threw the "life saver" and yelled "Stop trying so hard."

How often have we all tried to fix our problems only to find the very thing we are searching for stays just outside out reach?

The more we try it seems the more it stays at an arm length from us.

Or we achieve success only to want something new to bring us happiness, peace or success. So the struggle starts all over.

Each week people tell me about hardships they face and how they struggle every week.

The struggles are often physical, but at the Wellness Center we encourage a whole body approach so we often hear about emotional/psychological and spiritual struggles too.

Every week we do our best to help people back in the boat.

We are all looking for hope. We want to believe that we can have quick results, but often the solution turns out to be temporary or they are not effective at all.

Often, we try so hard to fix one aspect of our lives that we overlook the other aspects we need to get well.

I was just reading an advertisement for a supplement that reports it is capable of relieving pain.

The advertisement says that when you take this particular pill you can have the results you are looking if you doing the following:


Reduce calories

Stretch every day

Strengthen weekly

Get proper rest

So how about just doing the five things above and skip the pill.

Of all the treatment approaches to back and neck pain the one that consistently works and works for the long term is exercise.

People who have tried exercising for a few weeks have not given themselves long enough.

I understand the frustration and discouragement that comes with back pain or any other physical ailment.

I understand that people get fed up and have to "try" something else.

They want to get better so they are willing to believe the claims made out there.

Too often we fall prey to the belief that we can find wellness if we "fix" one of our issues.

If we fix our back then we will be able to exercise to lose the extra weight we put on.

If we can get our depression under control then we can exercise.

If we can fix our problems so we don't have to worry so much then we can eat healthy foods.

When the economy gets betterthenwe can turn off the TV and go outside for a walk.

When the weather gets warmer, colder, less damp, less dry or whatever we wantthen we can get more active.

Consider this article my attempt to throw out a float to help bring you back in the boat.

We use several different approaches to help the individual get well again, but in the end every solution out there requires the willingness to receive the help.

We have people who are trying so hard that they actually keep the solution just outside their reach.

For example when you go to a practitioner for help and they offer a solution it is up to you to take hold and get the help.

Too often people reject the advice because it is unfamiliar or isn't what they think will help them.

Again I understand the frustration and discouragement that comes when you don't feel well, but the bottom line is if you are hurting all the time and you are struggling the time has come to receive the life-line.

Exercise is not glamorous nor is it easy. At times exercise can be difficult and time consuming.

The bottom line is if you want to have a healthy life, exercise is a requirement for the majority of us on the planet.

Arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart attacks, strokes all benefit from exercise. The fact is there are very few conditions that exercise does not help.

A teacher of mine has a great way of describing this process.

He was speaking to a man who wanted freedom. This freedom could be freedom from pain physically.

This freedom could be from worry mentally. This freedom could be from the bondage of sins.

Freedom, my teacher says requires your full commitment. It is like you want to swim in the river.

The best way is to go into the lake and swim. Instead, a lot of us go read a manual on how to swim or we keep practicing on land. We keep trying to find the right circumstances in our life to allow us to finally get started.

The bottom line is you can't swim if you are not in the water.

If you are tired of your back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia, extra weight or whatever your physical concern is, the time has come to claim your freedom.

In order to achieve what you want you have to be willing and open to be guided to your destination.

Wellness is not about the short term, it is about the long term.

If you are truly ready then your actions will prove you right. Find someone to guide you so that you are safe, but understand you must reach out to receive the help.

Matthew Goodemote, a Gloversville native, owns Community Physical Therapy & Wellness. His Health & Wellness column will answer your questions and discuss topics that are relevant to your everyday way of life. If you would like to ask a question, e-mail Matthew at



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