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Trying vs Effort – The Key To Unlocking Your Full Potential

Updated: Aug 5, 2022

It may not seem much, but there is a vast difference between trying and effort. The two words sound similar and are often interchangeable in sporting contexts and conversations.

But I will argue they are not, and my hope by end of the blog would be for you to understand the difference between the two words, and ultimately become aware if you are merely trying, or, putting in full effort. And when understood, using this as the key to unlocking your full potential.

I would like to begin with a quote from the Jedi Master himself, Yoda:

This short, yet powerful quote is a simple lesson in commitment and the power in giving something your all. Not just to try it. Not just to turn up and see what happens. Not just to have your body moving in space without your mind present. You need to hold yourself to higher standards that this.

Trying is the bare minimum that should be expected of anyone stepping into the sporting arena.

Trying is the chasing, running, and putting yourself on the line physically for the whole match. For any athlete worth their salt this should be a pre-requisite and a non-negotiable and the lowest bar to entry.

I would go as far as to say that if you do the above, if you are simply trying, this is a weakness. This is an empty way to compete and train.

Simply trying is hiding behind the physical side of the endeavour.

The reason I make such a bold claim is that the above definition of trying involves NOTHING to do with the MIND. And engaging the mind and having it fully involved in the process of whatever it is you are doing is the greatest battle to overcome.

And one battle that starts to separate the good from the great.

Watch this short clip from NBA superstar Draymond Green talking about this exact topic on a shown on Amazon Prime called Sessions


When I look at what effort is, I believe effort is one level greater than trying.

Effort is more about the mental side of what you are doing. Effort involves you accepting the burn and the hurt you will feel physically but deeper than that effort is using your mind to be aware, to stick to a plan, to play the right shot, to be able to adapt when necessary and ultimately being highly present and focussed in the match with your brain and your body in the same place at the same time.

In this below clip, World Champion and World No. 1 Ali Farag reflects on this idea of trying vs effort.

Effort is deliberate.

Effort is intentional.

Effort is the practice of coming back to the present moment time and time again.

Effort is mental toughness.

Effort is clarity.

And effort is holding yourself accountable before, during, and after every time you train, play, and compete. To stick to your goals and definitions of success you set before playing.

Therefore, effort is a way of living life, in each and every moment, both inside and outside of the sporting arena.

How much effort have you put in today?

How much effort was put in to your previous several matches?

Now is your chance to change your perspective.

Now is your chance to make the choice to be effortful in all you do.

Now is your chance to hold yourself to higher standards and behaviours.

Today, and this very moment, is your chance to grow and cultivate a new habit.

An effortful, deliberate, and intentional mind.

And when done well, the feeling of purpose is rewarding and beautiful.

Forget the old saying that practice makes perfect, or even perfect practice makes perfect. Rather think along the lines of:

Purpose makes perfect.

This does not guarantee success will happen today, but, over time, and with the right effort, the results will be remarkable.

Once again, Ali Farag here offering pearls of wisdom in how he tries to have a reset button when the negative thoughts and emotions are swirling in his mind.

In summary, try and challenge yourself to stay mentally engaged and to be aware of your inner voice. Recognise if there are negative or defeatist phrases coming into your mind, catch yourself in this moment, and then reframe them into a positive action you know you can control.

Just because you may understand this concept, does not mean it is easy to do. Especially so when the pressure is on. Practice keeping your mind and body tethered together. See the below practical tips to find out how.


- Now that you understand the vast difference between trying and effort, begin to view how you should look to enter training, matches, and all parts of life. Can you become more effortful?

- You can train the mind and this comes in many forms. One of the most powerful and impactful ways is to begin a meditation protocol. You can use the Meditation Timers in the SquashMind app for this and look to make it a daily habit.

- Furthermore, in regard to training the mind, Your Daily Insight on the Home Screen of the SquashMind app is a perfect way to get your mental push ups in. A new lesson in generated each day to mentally stimulate you and to deepen your knowledge.

- Before training sessions and matches, make a concerted effort to write down your definition of success. This has nothing to do with the result or the outcome, but rather a short list of reminders you set and intend to do and then hold yourself accountable to it. This list should be actionable and deliverable and used as a reminder during breaks in training and matches.

- As Ali Farag says, see if you can find a word or a trigger that is your reset button during matches and when you know the mind has gone and is not in the same place as the body.

If you liked this blog, please do share with others that may be interested on this subject and find it of use. I work closely with players on all aspects of their game and mind. I offer online Zoom lessons and become a mentor and accountability partner for players. I find 1:1 online lessons immensely powerful for learning and am now using the court more so for practice. Being able to learn away from the ‘distractions’ of playing is proving to be highly valuable.

“Learn online, practice on-court.”

Please do get in touch by emailing me:

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