What To Do When The Harder You Try The Worse it Gets.

Have you ever felt that the harder you try the worse it gets? The more you pursue something, the more desperate and desirous you are, the further away it feels. Have you have noticed that the more you desire something, the more difficult it is to attain.   It feels like the harder we try the less we succeed.   We are taught that working harder, putting in more effort will get us results, but this may not be the case.

The Harder You Try The Worse It Gets

The Harder You Try The Worse it Gets

“The Law of Reversed Effect” – or “The Backwards Law”.

It works (or not) like this – the more desperate you are – the less likely it will come to you.

Remember playing Monopoly, or any game, and wanting so badly to win? How often did you get set back, miss a turn, go to jail, not pass go, land on a place with so many hotels it broke you…  the more you want something,  the harder you try, the worse it gets.

Recall a relationships you dreamt of, – and spent hours seeking, only to be rejected. Think of that job you so badly wanted, only to miss out.. or the lotto you wanted to win – and didn’t. These are examples of the Law of Reversed Effect. That which you want is replaced with that which you do not desire.


Two influential philosophical writers, Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts speak about the “backwards law”.

The greater the conscious effort, the less the subconscious response”

or understood another way

“Whenever the will (conscious mind) and imagination (subconscious) are in conflict, the imagination (subconscious) always wins.

Even though you want a desired outcome, your subconscious will always hold true, to the original belief
Your known or unknown subconscious belief will over ride the picture of what you want. Or don’t want, for that matter.

Here’s how that works. You consciously want a particular outcome. Maybe you want to start a business, to set yourself free from the 9 to 5 grind. Yet your subconscious doubts your ability, your commitment, your motivation.  Your subconscious, trying to protect you constantly reminds you of all you have begun and failed, or not achieved.  It does this without even having to say a word.


The simplest way to explain the law of reversed effort is that you don’t have to work hard to get what you want.
Imagine this, – you desperately want to not be lonely, so in the pursuit of love – you chase it away.   Being alone, is a direct result of your neediness and fear as you are so focused on not being lonely.  Your mind picks up on being lonely and gives you exactly that.   What you focus on is what you get!.
In order to not be lonely picture yourself with friends around so you can attract exactly what you want. Imagine being in company, and enjoying what you do.
Being desperate, clingy, destitute, penurious drives away that which you crave.
By appreciating what you had (the negative experience) or what you learned from the experience, it turns it into a positive experience.   Weird hey?


Im going on and on about “how the harder you try” the worse it gets, or even the more you want something the further away you push it. But I desperately want you to get this – and the law of reverse effect tells me that the more I go on and on – the less you’ll get it.  So I just have to risk this, I guess and hope you understand.

Mark Manson in his book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*%k” puts it like this…

The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

Quite possibly, this concept is something that you may struggle to grasp. How does a negative experience become positive? “Impossible” I hear you say.


Here is a quote by Aldous Huxley himself explaining the backwards law:

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. 

We cannot make ourselves understand; the most we can do is to foster a state of mind, in which understanding may come to us” – Aldous Huxley

To simplify the law of reversed effort, here is a quote from the writer Alan Watts:

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone”  Alan Watts


The Harder You Try the Worse It Gets We have been told to work hard, work long, try harder to achieve results. Pursuing something (money, love, work, happiness) – only reinforces the belief that you are lacking it in the first place.   It creates a scarcity mentality.

Focusing on what you want, riches, success, companionship, love, makes you aware of what you lack. This may make you cynical, bitter and bent. Sadness and resentment amounts and you push away that which you want.


The opposite of resentment is gratitude.  To avoid spiralling into an abyss of negative life don’t try to escape the situation.  Avoiding the emotions the negatives is exactly what keeps you stuck.  Being grateful helps find the balance between what hurts and what was a lesson.

Here’s an example:
You lose your job, which means you can’t afford rent.  Loved ones are concerned and you feel pressured and this destroys the relationship. All this stress causes a heart attack.   This spiral of negativity was created by focusing on the negatives of one event.
Having gratitude for a negative experience, shifts your energy. Seeing benefits that could come, opens doors to a better experience.
You may see how it opens up doors to better pay, relocation or all sorts of good things.


Identify the secret or limiting belief that may be holding you back.
Not an easy task, simply because it is a hidden belief. A belief that you most likely have held for so long, it doesn’t feel like it is doing any damage.    It will be an emotion that was triggered by an event long ago,
Its important to do this. Know this, your mind is lazy, it looks for shortcuts and stores memories and emotions. Every time an event happens, it recalls something similar and pops emotion or feeling into it.
Every time an event reminds you of that emotion, feeling or result your subconscious automatically reacts that way.  Being aware stops that reaction.
If you are unaware this just makes everything seem harder to accomplish.  Unbeknownst to you – you are sabotaging what you are doing. Thinking you want something, yet having an unknown hidden belief can hold you back. This then makes it feel like the harder you try the worst it gets.
Then, you give up, stop wanting or dreaming and create more of the same.

Why would the universe give you something you truly want, if you don’t believe you deserve it.

The trick is to step into the suffering and pain, embrace it and see how that changes your life. (Side note – step into and through it… don’t sit and dwell in it)
The technique of stepping into your pain, which I can assist you with is simple.  Not necessarily easy but ultimately well worth doing.   Feel the emotions that come up, name them, recognise them and look for other times you have felt like this.   Once you know them, realise they are connected ONLY to that event, not to you.
Doing this frees you.  You then stop feeling that the harder you try the worse it gets, but rather that life is enjoyable and easy.
The effort one puts into avoidance forms part of the struggle of trying to escape the struggle.   Avoiding the pain of heartache, causes your heart to ache even more.
Dodging pain means you care to much which in turn makes the very thing you care about – a negative experience.

Acceptance creates advancement.

Here’s an example:
The fear of getting older, focuses you on old age, what you cant do instead of what you can do.   Thus creating the effect that there is so much you can’t do.    Where you put your focus is what you see.  Don’t focus on what you want. Focus on the journey, on the learnings, the experiences, and you will get to the end result quicker.
I recall when I first started walking for “fun”. I went with a friend and complained the whole time about how difficult the walk up a steep hill was. She told me to not look at the top of the hill, but to focus on small sections, one step at a time.
To appreciate any experience and for growth to happen, it is necessary to accept discomfort and celebrate the sweat and tears.  
Acknowledging your weaknesses makes you more confident and trusting to others. Yes, it makes you a little vulnerable to others. Opening up and allowing people to see the hurt, diminishes it. The hurt loses its power and control over you.   Weird hey? Embrace the suffering and hardship and growth, resilience, perseverance, grit and courage occur.
In trying to dodge the pain and suffering, you create even more pain and suffering for yourself.
It’s like not paying a small fine, ignoring it until it turns into a court summons and a greater fine. If you are able to accept the pain, the journey, you will advance forward.


Vicktor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning writes about his time at Auschwitz. He says those who made the most of what they had and focused on why they needed to live…
like a loved one, or an unfinished career, survived easier than those who felt victimised, punished and lesser.
You can take everything away from someone – except themselves.
It’s your attitude, beliefs and mindset that create your reality.
Continual effort diminishes the returns as you grind and grind. It wears you down – just as grinding the gears on a machine wears them down and tears them apart.   Relaxation and persistent effort is the secret to optimal performance and lifestyle.
It’s easy to get caught up in what is going wrong and we become so immersed in the situation, we lose sight of what we wish to do.
Stepping back (or a trip to the other side of the world – works for me) – removes the blinkers and results can happen. Looking at situations from a different perspective helps you to accomplish your goals. Do things at the right pace for you, don’t rush. Relaxation is the key element whilst working toward desired results.
Why work harder than you need to?
Often working harder creates stress and diminishes any effort applied. Don’t buy into the trap of “working harder” working longer, working more, find a way to work smarter.
By following the law of reversed effort, you will see your life flourish. Be grateful, focus on the good you have amongst the not so good, and more good will come.
A simple mindset reset can change the outcomes you get. Busting beliefs is like having a librarian come along and re-catalogue your mind.  It’s aligning your beliefs to what is important to you so that you can then get on with doing what you desire.
Confused?   Great! If the law of reversed effect works, that should mean that you understand completely.
Yet, if you don’t, and would like to know more, download my 7 Steps to Enjoy An Easier Stress-Free Life.”   You can either go to the Book Now page and schedule an Adventure Session or message me on Facebook, and we will connect and have a chat.   See where you are at and what you may wish to change even, and then by following my 5 Step Reset Process, you’ll be able to get exactly what you want.