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The law of reversed effortThe law of reversed effort was originally described by Aldous Huxley who noticed the fact that sometimes in life the harder you try the less likely you are to succeed.

I like to think of the law of reversed effort as being similar to the Zen teaching about clarity and muddy re-quoted succinctly by Alan Watts;

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone”.

(Alan Watts was actually talking here about The Backwards Law which is a very similar concept to the Law of reversed effort).

Some things in life things tend to sort themselves out when we don’t do anything and just leave them alone, at other times this ‘not doing’ is a state of mind, a flow state of automatic action, a clarity of effortless concentration that resides when we are present in the now.

At times the harder we try the harder things get, this is the law of reversed effort, a great example of the law of reversed effort in everyday life is riding a bike, if you can ride a bike then the best thing to do is relax and ride it, but if you try too hard and ride it just like you did when you were learning  you may still wobble and fall off.

Here is the original quote from Huxley about the Law of Reversed effort.

“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 (The Law of Reversed Effort).

In Summary.

Sometimes the harder we try the worse things get, perhaps letting the dust settle and a state of mental relaxation is the only way for clarity to be achieved, so next time you have a problem, let go and let the answer come to you, this is the law of reversed effort.

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8 Responses to The Law of Reversed Effort

  1. […] The Law of Reversed Effort […]

  2. Anonymous says:

    How can we identify when we are in a situation where the law is operating? How can we identify the circumstances that put it in effect?

  3. […] quote makes reference to the reverse effort principle. What Mr.Watts simply wants to say is to don’t force things, don’t create tension. […]

  4. […] quote makes reference to the reverse effort principle. What Mr.Watts simply wants to say is to don’t force things, don’t create tension. […]

  5. […] be with the experience and don’t fight it. Sometimes in life we find something we call Reverse effort. As Alan Watts once wrote: “When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; […]

  6. […] go, to be with the experience and don’t fight it. Sometimes in life we find something we call Reverse effort. As Alan Watts once wrote: “When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when […]

  7. […] be with the experience and don’t fight it. Sometimes in life we find something we call Reverse effort. As Alan Watts once wrote: “When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; […]

  8. […] be with the experience and don’t fight it. Sometimes in life we find something we call Reverse effort. As Alan Watts once wrote: “When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; […]

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