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The law of reversed effort

The law of reversed effort


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The law of reversed effort

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The Law of Reversed Effort

The more we try to do something, the worse we become at it.

Aldous Huxley called this the law of reversed effort. He wrote, “The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed."

“Proficiency and the results of proficiency come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, or combining relaxation with activity, of letting go as a person in order that the immanent and transcendent unknown quantity may take hold.”


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The law of reversed effort stems from an old idea found in Daoism, Wu Wei, which is to step away from all the busyness and just let things happen.

There is wisdom in knowing our limits. It's not about being lazy or an excuse for a Netflix binge. It is the opposite. Wu Wei is to appreciate, accept and give in to the pull of forces that are greater than us. Wu Wei is the stick riding the current. It's to surrender and recognise that some things need patience and space.


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Practical applications

Writing: Writers find a blank page terrifying. If you have been told to write something on a deadline, the mind often goes blank. It's better to write ideas down in a notebook as they come so you don't forget them.

Technical skills: When you learn a new sport or skill, you have to learn the technique. As you go through the motions, you'll get to a point when overthinking is detrimental.


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