Photo Credit: Nicole Baster, Unsplash.com

Written by Raluca Gomeaja
June 24, 2020

Effort. So much effort . . .

In these unusual times so many people do put a lot of effort not only in moving their lives and their work further, but also in supporting others to do the same, in their own ways.

People in different areas of life, starting with medical professionals and supermarket workers, to the police officers, security, and fire fighters, delivery drivers–and so many more are out there putting all their efforts to save lives and make our life better (even in confinement).

And a lot of “regular” people do a lot for others as well: neighbors supporting different people who are struggling. Random human beings keep working and providing something to their communities.

While all this is nice and beautiful, there’s a direct link between the effort someone’s putting into what they do and the way that effort’s received, appreciated, as well as the result or the return that such an effort is producing.

More than ever people realize while being at distance how connected we are to each other, how much caring and appreciation do matter, and how much whatever happens in a part of the planet has an impact of the other side. We’re all in this together, and together, we can all pursue the growing.

Knowing that, how much can we all link our efforts, intentions, actions and results, so we can come up with a solution together? In a place where each individual effort is known and appreciated.

When people know their effort’s appreciated, they feel energized, and that transforms into a great source of strength to continue doing what they do best.

Each of us have had different life experiences in various areas. When an effort pays back somehow, we feel joy and we want to continue. In the same way when there’s no improvement or return, we tend to reach a point where we just want to stop. Why even bother?

How many times have you said to yourself, why did I even do this, that, or the other? I’d have been better sleeping the whole day and the result would’ve been the same.

And in times of crisis, the effort may seem even higher than before. Because of the conditions, the overall environment is more difficult as well. Life is more intense, and emotions are stronger. And subsequently the level of fatigue is also higher. As a result–and knowing we operate in exceptional conditions–people are, generally, considered to be putting in an exceptional effort.

Not everyone measures effort in the same way. For some, going out to get groceries may be a huge effort, especially if they’re terrified of germs and viruses and afraid of getting sick.

Others may keep doing (and doing and doing), and only after a while realize all the effort they’ve put in.

Usually there are two things that are noticed with regards to effort in general:

  1. The effort doesn’t necessarily need to continue for a very long time before noticing some results
  2. The effort doesn’t have the same intensity during the different stages of the process (beginning, middle, end).

And this is the same for anything. Let’ consider the example of when we start running: in the beginning we’re not very tired, and also when we look back we can see how long we’ve come. Now, that in itself is somehow rewarding. Nonetheless when we’ve run, let’s say one, two, or five km, maybe the fatigue starts to show–and without a harder push we may not end the course.  

That’s an easy example that requires effort. The same is for when we start something new: let’s say we start learning a new language, or studying an instrument, or meditating–you name it. In the beginning, because it’s new, the effort must be a little higher. What tends to happen is as soon as we start to have results we start to enjoy more. When something’s “working” we enjoy it more. When we enjoy it more, we do it more; and because we do it more, in general, we have more results.

The effort could generate a result, or can be seen like an investment, or a form of appreciation, or a return in a form that’s relevant for the person paying the effort. (As a side note, each of us can measure his/her own effort, and decide how much that is, or how much they want to invest, as well as his/her own return: money, gratitude, recognition, etc)

Finally, what’s happening when the effort that’s put out there has no return? Mind that, even when we start an action without necessarily being focused on results, we still get affected when we consider there’s no result or the result isn’t at the level we appreciate.

Taking this further, when we put effort into something that’s for the benefit of others (and therefore we don’t necessarily consider our main “benefit” as a return), few things may start to happen:

  • although we may know why we’re doing what we’re doing (we know our intention, we know our value), internally we may still wait for some return.
  • although we may get a return, that return might not end up being seen as enough or relevant compared to the effort that’s been invested.
  • when the return’s felt like “zero,” there’s an emotional reaction that can go from frustration to anger (and sometimes something much worse . . .).
  • from that level of low energy there’s no point continuing in the effort, nor would we have the force to keep doing it (the engine needs fuel, when there’s no fuel, no more work).
  • finally, as there’s no more effort invested, there are no results either (not even the tiny ones that we used to see). Which may move again to some depression or downturned feelings.

This is what we call the vicious circle.

And in the same way we have the other chain when things go fine:

  •       we start doing something with a high objective in mind and we’re prepared to know that it may take a while before seeing results.
  •       as soon as we start seeing results we feel more happy.
  •       as we feel more happy we feel more motivation to continue.
  •       as we are more motivated, we do more, and therefore, chances are we get more results.
  •       as we get more results, we enjoy more and we keep putting in the effort, which may no longer feel like an effort after a while . . .

At the beginning, it’s technically the same effort. Yet in one case we can go in a deep vicious circle, in the other case in a beautiful virtuous spiral. 

The key question is how can we make sure when we start with something that may take our effort, we go into the virtuous spiral instead of vicious circle? To make it short, we can’t. Sometimes it all goes nice and easy and sometimes no matter what we do we feel it’s not working.

So when to stop and when to continue?

There’s two keys to the pursuit of growing: Trust and Determination. And these are available to any of us:

  • Knowing deep down why you’re doing what you’re doing and having Trust that this is working. In coaching we call this “trusting the process.”
  • The Discipline of the Will. As one of my coaches says there are two types of Will: the one that comes from logic and we can keep pushing, “I commit to something, I walk the talk and I’m doing it no matter what.” and the Will that comes from the heart, “because I know why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

At the end of the day, it’s all very personal–what you feel, both about the effort invested and the return received. It may feel like it’s not enough and still be huge, for example. Or it may be just your gremlin telling you “you’re not good enough, and you’ll never get where you want.” Or it may sometimes be your intuition telling you, this wasn’t a great road but what a great lesson.

It’s understandable to feel lost sometimes and not know which of the above applies.

Things to consider in order to keep pursuing the effort:

Like my dear Geshe Tenzin Damchoe teaches “always have high goals and aims and dreams and objectives–and small expectations.” It’s the journey that matters and celebrating those small victories is a source of motivation. In times of difficulties and toughness, love, kindness and compassion always win (including those we show to ourselves).

Maybe you started this lockdown with a goal of not gaining weight and you put on a few extra kilos. So what? Did that help you a little bit, give you a little bit of “feel good” moments? Well, indulge!

Do you feel that sometimes what you do is too much? Well stop, there will be another day tomorrow.

When you know inside of you that you’re near the destination, but feel like giving up, maybe push a little harder. We never lose except when we stop. And sometimes just because we feel detached from the result, means we might see the journey.

It takes trust to know what’s working and what isn’t working. It takes balance to listen to your intuition, and to know that your effort’s well invested–that something, somehow, sometime will come out of this. Listen to yourself not when you’re happy, not when you’re angry, just when you’re at peace. You’ll know the answer deep down.

When you realize that you have less or no result you may want to stop and wonder: Why am I doing what I’m doing? What was my initial intention? What was I hopping for? For how long should I still pursue this effort? We can always take a step back, breathe, and reconsider the actions and readapt. 

And finally, stop when you feel ready, not when you feel angry. Make the decision when you’re at peace. Start by listening, understanding, realizing; and when you reach that calm mind, then you know what to do.

And as a final thought, remember that someone else out there is putting an effort–sometimes their best effort. And when you benefit from it, just don’t take it for granted.

Just like you, they’ll enjoy a simple “thank you,” a sharing of what you’ve received from them, by mentioning their name and recommending them to someone else. When you benefit from something, especially when it was provided for you for free, pay it forward. And let the person who gave it to you first know that it meant something to you.

What we appreciate, appreciates.

And when the person who was giving sees a result, they’ll continue giving even more, and all of humanity will benefit from it.

Sharing is caring and caring is sharing. Providing this article is helping you somehow–share it with someone who may benefit from it (That’s also a form of appreciation). And overall, it’ll be of greater benefit for you and others at the same time.

Photo Credit: Nicole Baster, Unsplash.com