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Try Hard. Please. Be perfect. Hurry up. Be strong.

The 5 behaviors that would rescue you, but no longer do. And how to change them for real.


Which ones do you recognize in yourself?


Which ones are taking up most of your time and energy?


And which ones seem to stand tallest in the way of your thriving at work and in your personal life?


You might even have tried time and again to change them, but it didn't work. And the ugly truth is: simply changing them will not work. Not until you understand what you really need to change.



Lifeguards and Life Script. Becoming how we are.

Rewind to your early life as a baby and young child. Your survival depends on the attachment to your caregivers. They are your lifeguards.


Your language and your understanding of the world are just taking shape, and you do not understand concepts such as identity, free will, choice, or consequence. Up to about 6 months of age, you don't even realize that you and your caregivers are different persons. For what it's worth, they are literally an extension of your body.

But your brain is already equipped with some of its most fantastic skills: observation and statistical learning.


Growing amid positive and negative experiences, you very sharply notice and learn what parts of you and your behavior tend to push your lifeguards away and which ones keep them safely close to you.

When your caregivers are unconditionally available and loving, you might register things like "I'm always free to express my needs and how I feel", "I'm loved at all times", "my caregiver responds to my bids for help", "my caregiver is there for me when I explore the world around me", and so on.


When the attachment is not fully unconditional to one or more of the caregivers, you instead register things like

  • "they always show more love towards other babies/children",

  • "they never respond to me when I cry at night",

  • "whenever I express [an emotion], they turn away from me",

  • "whenever I play with my siblings and something bad happens, I am always the one being shouted at"

  • "they care for me only when I'm sick"

and so on.



Based on the observations of such conditionings, you start building a story about yourself and your position and role towards others and the world, and what it takes for you to be accepted by others and the world. These story lines are imprinted in your mindset as simple rules with the form of a self-belief + a solution behavior, where the belief is negative and defeating to the natural urges of existence, attachment, identity, competence and security; and the behavior is the best strategy to defy the belief.


As years pass by, various events or contexts will still add and adapt lines to the story, but the main narrative formed early on - between the ages of 0 and 5 - will persist.


This story becomes the how of you: your Life Script (read more about Life Script in Claude Steiner's captivating book "Scripts People Live")


Adrienn Lee's "Drowning man" - pulled under water by beliefs (Injunctions), kept afloat by behaviors (Drivers)

The drowning man

Back to the present, the adult you is busy with solving problems in all areas of life.

In order to do so, you ideally employ a mindset anchored in the present reality, leading you to effective and healthy behaviors and solutions. This is the life vest under your seat.


But, sometimes, you may be triggered to activate one of the self-beliefs in your script.

When this happens, you switch into autopilot mode: you discount some aspects of the present reality, you forget about the life vest, and enact the solution behavior for that belief, even if it is not the most effective strategy for the problem at hand.


At work, this could look like..

  • you work in an fast-paced, high intensity, high performance environment, where communication revolves strictly around business, and there's little room for mistakes. This triggers an early belief of "nobody here cares how I feel. Don't feel!", activating your "Be Strong" behavior. You go to work even when you're sick, and you do your best to not let troubling personal events interfere with your day.

  • you join a new team and are the only person of your gender/race/age/nationality in a pretty homogenous group. This triggers an early self-belief of "Don't belong", which in turns activates your "Be perfect" behavior. You overstretch your resources to adapt and to fit to the group without pausing to learn about this group (in the present).

  • you get a promotion and, at this high point in the hierarchy, your manager, a C-level, doesn't have time for regular catch-ups, and is very brief in their communication to you. This triggers an early belief of "I'm not worthy of their time. Don't be important!", activating your "Hurry Up" behavior. You over-commit to work, you get swamped into tasks, and try to get everything done on your own. You're always busy, exhausted, and stressed.

  • your manager and colleagues criticize you whenever you come up with novel ideas or you want to take different approaches than the "way it's done around here". this triggers an early belief of "I'm not supposed to have a different persona. Don't be you!" and activates your "Please" behavior. You try your best to fit in and create a pleasing image of yourself, avoiding disagreements and conflicts any further.

  • you join as a junior in a team of highly experienced people. This triggers an early self-belief of "I'm not very smart and feel inferior. Don't think!", which activates your "Try Hard" behavior. You are never satisfied with the results of your work, you push yourself harder and harder without comparable results, and you don't give up even when you should. You over stretch and over stress about everything.


When these triggers show up often in your life, the behaviors start taking a big toll on your physical and emotional wellbeing. But for your mind, they are the natural thing to do, undoubtedly.


You may start feeling out of control - like on autopilot, dissociated, tired, exhausted, jaded, in overdrive, while simultaneously fundamentally believing you are behaving in a positive way.



Why changing these behaviors hasn't worked so far

Because changing the behavior means actually letting go of it and replacing it with a new one. But letting go of the behavior un-solves the underlying belief, transforming it into an unresolved and really ugly truth. Your mind at one point realizes "this behavior is painful for me right now, but it’s not nearly as bad as facing the consequences of not doing it”.


Just imagine cutting the ropes to the balloons keeping you afloat. That's not a wise thing to do without some of the weights pulling on your feet being gone.


You'd rather not, so end up self-sabotaging and "safely" returning to the behavior.


You might even engage in some forms of therapy and coaching that prove counterproductive. Techniques aimed at relieving stress post-fact might to some extent reinforce the idea that you behave in a positive way.


How to change them for good

Conceptually, lasting change for such behaviors is achieved when you can fundamentally and successfully rewrite a story line, by replacing the belief with a new belief reflecting the present reality, and the solution behavior with a reinforcing or re-validating behavior for the new belief.


The re-write is successful if, the moment a situation that in the past would trigger the early belief, will in place trigger the new belief with the same intensity, and the new behavior will be activated instead.


This is hard work. But, in reality, not nearly as hard as simply carrying on. You can either take a path of self analysis, or, more effectively, you can engage with a practitioner - coach or psychotherapist, to guide you along the journey.


Several forms psychotherapy and coaching are proven to be effective in achieving lasting change.

Psychodynamic approaches can help you bring these old unconscious decisions into awareness.

Gestalt techniques can bring you face to face with the original pain, thereby giving you a powerful motivation to redecide.


Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy outlines "cognitive restructuring" or "schema change" (schema therapy) as processes that lead to re-decisions and lasting behavior change.


Transactional analysis is a very accessible type of therapy that can help you understand the roots of the beliefs, thereby facilitating the redecision process.


Redecision therapy assumes that there are multiple viable ways a person may "redecide". A redecision practitioner helps you identify viable ways to redecide and collaborates with you in considering and trying out such possibilities

How a redecision can look like in the work examples above:

  • you work in an fast-paced, high intensity, high performance environment, where communication revolves strictly around business, and there's little room for mistakes. This could trigger a new belief centered on the importance of your presence and your well being to deliver high performance. It may sound like "my contribution is important. I am at my best when I am healthy/well/rested", activating a behavior whereby you are aware of yourself, you set healthy boundaries, and care for your mental and physical health.

  • you join a new team and are the only person of your gender/race/age/nationality in a pretty homogenous group. This could trigger a new belief centered on the interestingness of the context and your positive opportunities. It may sound like "I can learn so much from new people. I enjoy sharing my unique perspectives and life experience with others", activating a behavior whereby you grow by learning from the people in the group and give them the opportunity to grow by learning from you.

  • you get a promotion and, at this high point in the hierarchy, your manager, a C-level, doesn't have time for regular catch-ups, and is very brief in their communication to you. This could trigger a new belief centered on the importance of your current needs. It may sound like "I am important in this role, and I need more support and communication regarding priorities", activating a behavior whereby you assertively express your needs towards your new manager, get what you need, and ace the prioritization of your work.

  • your manager and colleagues criticize you whenever you come up with novel ideas or you want to take different approaches than the "way it's done around here". This could trigger a new belief centered on the realistic fit you have with the culture. It may sound like "I am aware of myself and I don't see myself fit in this environment", activating a behavior whereby you would choose to leave it.

  • you join as a junior in a team of highly experienced people. This could trigger a new belief centered on the growth opportunities. It may sound like "I am smart and bright. I've been entrusted with this role, and it will be a great booster to my career", activating a behavior whereby you constructively learn and build on your experience with the support of the seniors in the team.


Eager to change or know more?

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Yes, Cristina, I would like to change and learn more about this subject. Thank you for the explanations, this article is therapeutic for me. I'm waiting for you to write more.
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