How to Unplug the Increase Effort App: Play!

The Increase Effort App loops these messages: “Try harder." "Come on, everyone else is working long hours, too." "Hurry up." "Here’s another option, try this one, too." "If you just tiptoe, or whisper, or don’t say that word he hates, it’ll get better." "It wasn’t good enough." "Try harder!”

The anxious, almost subconscious, urge to increase effort lies at the foundation of overkill in communication. Voice pitch and decibels rise. Repetitions and exaggerations take over. Motives shift toward winning or punishment. Lost is the true answer to "What do I really want in this conversation?"

To unplug the Increase Effort App, do the day with an attitude of play! The feeling of play is essential for poetry, song, praise, and anything creative. To disable the "Try harder" loop, play! Look at something upside down and laugh at it. Play a game with a child. Play!

To disable the first app that powers systemic anxiety, find a way to play. Put play on the calendar! Make a play-date with a co-conspirator. Talk in high-level meetings about the need to play. Take up a play-hobby. Read clean jokes and laugh. Laugh together. Play!

In ancient Jewish religion, the Sabbath was meant to interrupt the drive toward the Increase Effort App. Honoring the Sabbath breaks the cycle of activity, commodity, and consumerism as usual, and invites toward enjoyment things often considered non-productive, like beauty, nature, books, music and other art, resting, and being with someone.

If it seems totally impossible to let go of the Increase Effort App, then see if letting in a little play will help. Schedule just one play date. Merely discuss play dates with a friend. Upon waking up playful, use the drive time to imagine what to play. Making room beside the Increase Effort App for a little play will make a big difference.

Some of the ideas in this article came from: Friedman, Edwin H. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. New York: Seabury Books, 1999, 2007.

Copyright 2015 Wilma Zalabak