Law of Reversed Effort (The Backwards Law)

       The harder we try the less we shall succeed. This is the simplest way to explain the law of reversed effort. The 'backwards law' is talked about by two influential philosophical writers, Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts. These two writers took notice to the phenomenon that occurs when conscious will is applied to achieve results. If one is to apply more conscious effort in hopes of increased results, he will run into diminishing returns for his effort. More effort does not equate to better results.

     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 observation made by the philosophical writers is a truth encountered through life. The harder one tries, the less success one will have. It is entirely contradictory to how one might be raised in today's societies. People are taught to always try harder and this is the only way to achieve your best. A point of diminishing returns is reached through this method of persistent effort. These two writers learned that you need a combination of relaxation and effort to perform optimally. Trying too hard starts to grind the gears on the machine.

     The problem lies in getting caught up in what one is doing. When becoming fully immersed with the task at hand, a step back needs to be taken. It is important that all blinders are removed to achieve results more easily. Don't rush into anything. Take the time to do things at the right pace. Remaining relaxed is the key element while working to achieve desired results.

     The law of reversed effort is something anyone should want to follow. Why work harder than one must to achieve results? Stress should not become a factor during the work at hand. As soon as stress is involved, the effort applied becomes counterproductive. To accomplish desired results just relax and don't rush. Don't fall into the trap of 'working harder' in today's western society, find a way to work smarter. 

Author: Jordan Bonneau

Want to learn more about either of the two philosophical writers Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley?

Here are some links below so that you may learn more about their works!

Alan Watts:

List of Publications

Aldous Huxley:

List of Publications

  Alan Watts                                                                    Date:         1970s  Source:   Author:     Alan Watts Foundation

Alan Watts                                                                  Date:        1970s
Author:    Alan Watts Foundation

  Drawing of Aldous Huxley   Date:        1929  Source:     Aldous Huxley: A Man of Two Minds by                      William Leon Smyser. The Sphere                                Newspaper. October 12, 1929.  Author:    Drawing by Eric Pape (1870-1938).

Drawing of Aldous Huxley
Date:       1929
Source:    Aldous Huxley: A Man of Two Minds by                      William Leon Smyser. The Sphere                                Newspaper. October 12, 1929.
Author:   Drawing by Eric Pape (1870-1938).