It seems to be commonly accepted that pressing the "Try Harder" button does not work. While I agree with this in general, I would argue that there are edge cases where trying harder is a valid option.
To illustrate this, is a story: of science, and how I used it to change a particularly pernicious habit.
A Story of Habit Change
I used to have the bad habit of lying on my bed and using my computer, rather than utilizing my desk. This was bad for several reasons:
1. Reduced productivity, as doing work on paper becomes practically impossible.
2. Net-negative impact on long-term health due to bad posture.
Naturally, I wanted to get rid of this habit, and I turned to one of the most effective tools I know of - the Scientific Method. I hypothesized that the reason I was lying on my bed rather than using my desk was due to comfort - the bed was the more appealing option.
I resolved, then, to reduce the comfort appeal of my bed by relocating my blanket, along with my pillows, to an unused room. I reasoned that this would make the friction of attempting to get back the comfort high, helping me break the habit.
For a time, this strategy worked. My productivity increased, and my posture became qualitatively better. But after about 12 days, my strategy failed.
The strategy was sound, and the hypothesis seemed to correspond to observations (while being intuitively correct as well). Yet, it did not work in the long run.
As a rationalist, and as a knower, I should have recognized that perhaps my hypothesis was flawed, and tried a different approach. Instead, I opted to try the same strategy again - I repeated the experiment. I did not attempt to change anything, and simply did what I had done earlier. But this time, I tried harder, and resolved to be more committed.
It has been 3 months, and so far, this seems to be working.
My experience reminded me of something I had read, in Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction. Okasha, the author, points out that there are problems associated with Popper's demarcation of science from pseudo-science. Popper criticized ideas such as Freudian psychoanalysis because he thought that they could explain any observation - essentially, he thought that they couldn't be falsified.
However, there are instances where sticking to a theory and explaining away failures and new observations is helpful. The example given in the book is of the apparent failure of Newton's theory of gravitation to predict the orbit of Uranus. The observations contradicted the predictions, yet two scientists working independently stuck with the theory and postulated that there was another planet that was affected the orbit of Uranus. Ultimately, they turned out to be right - the planet was Neptune.
Relating back to my example, I stuck with my strategy, and just tried harder; it payed dividends.
I could just as easily have failed by doing this, however, so the interesting question becomes: when do you stick with a theory, even though reality appears to contradict it, and when do you abandon it in favour of a new one?