“Remember the old Chinese handcuffs thing,” a friend reminds me when I get stuck doing the same thing over and over, even though whatever I’m doing doesn’t work.
A Chinese handcuff is a toy, a small bamboo tube, about four inches long. You stick an index finger in each end. Then when you pull, you’re trapped. The harder you pull, the more stuck you get. Your instinctive reaction, not the handcuffs, keeps you trapped. To set yourself free you have to take certain steps. Letting go isn’t enough. You have to relax, then gently push in before you can pull yourself loose.
Sometimes taking action means relaxing and doing the opposite of what our instincts tell us to do. If we have tried to do something a hundred times, and the way we’re doing it hasn’t worked, it probably still won’t the next time. It may be time to try something else.