It’s been tough getting to sleep the last few nights.
I’ll go to bed and turn off the light and then the thoughts start pouring in. I’ll worry that I didn’t do the right thing in any number of situations during the day. I’ll worry about the work I have to do the next day. I’ll worry that no matter what I do, I’ll never be closer to my dream of buying a house in the mountains.
It occurred to me last night while I was lying there, though, that you can’t force sleep. If you try to fall asleep and see that you’re not, that’s just one more thing to worry about. The sleep will come; it always does. There’s no point in trying to force it to happen.
The thought then occurred to me that that notion is true for a lot of things: love, success, peace and life in general.
For most of that stuff it’s true that you just have to be patient for the right thing to happen. If you try to force things to happen, there’s a good chance it will feel contrived and unnatural. It may even backfire on you.
It’s certainly the truth with relationships. You can’t make someone love you. It just doesn’t work like that. Dating experts will tell you that there are certain things you can do to improve your chances. But the biggest, most defining rule of relationships is that you have to be attractive. The best way to do that is to be comfortable and confident in yourself. Chasing people and trying to force something to happen screams of desperation, which is almost the exact opposite of attractiveness. It’s best to just be you and be awesome with you.
You also can’t force things in your career. Sometimes big opportunities take time to develop. They take patience to build. Forcing the issue when it’s not ready may cause it to fall apart.
It took me six months of talking to my editor at The New York Times to get my first article published there, and it took me another six months to get my second one published. After that, though, after I had built a good relationship with my editor, he began incorporating my work into the everyday workflow and now it only takes a couple of weeks for me to publish something new.
I imagine this to be true for any major stepping stone in your career. You have to put in the time and the work to slowly push that boulder up the hill. Every little success is like a ledge you can build from, or another stone in crossing the river of success.
If you try to force success you’ll only end up annoying people and closing doors that were open or opportunities that you could’ve had.
Life is one long series of events that can either build on one another or collapse in front of you, depending on how you treat them. If you show these events respect and use them carefully as stepping stones, there’s no stopping you. If you ignore them, though, thinking you can do better and get farther by forcing your way through them, you’re bound to slip and fall into the proverbial river.
Don’t get me wrong; determination is good, but it’s not the same thing as forcing something. Determination is having a goal in mind, doing the necessary work and having the necessary patience to see that it comes together. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Trying to force it will only make you more frustrated.
Just like sleep, life will come regardless of whether you try to force it. It’s probably best not to worry yourself about it.