“You just have to make an effort” has been the fallback line of parents and teachers, mentors and coaches across the ages to push their charges into doing something they find difficult.
There are two elements here that need definition and they are intrinsically linked: “effort” and “difficult”. Because we can logically argue that something that’s effortless is easy it is also logical and, as it turns out; biomedically correct, to assume that both the level of difficulty in doing something and the effort required to do it have a direct link to and impact on motivation.
Without a sense of reward that is tied to who we are and a clear understanding of what we want to achieve, neuroscience argues, no action is ever worth the effort associated with it.
This has deeper implications on the values we put in place, the things we decide to pay attention to, the choices we make in our decision making process, and the direction we head towards as all these things align.
There is an even deeper aspect to all this. “Making an effort”, paying attention, having the right value system, making the right decisions and the correct choices is a matter of actually aligning deeper goals of who we are and what we want to be and how we feel the world is and how we see ourselves in it so we can reduce the amount of perceived effort required.
Effort then is not so much about trying as it is about trying with full intent and the awareness of what we are doing and why. It’s a degree of mindfulness that’s designed to transform what we do from reactive to intentional.
The difference is significant. Being reactive we are captive to circumstances. We react to what we are given or what we are presented with and have little control over our reaction; despite the fact that choices are also made and decisions also taken. Being intentional takes into account the way our brains and bodies work at a deep neurobiological level. It awakes us to the fact that we are machines of a sort that are designed to feel first and think second.
As feeling machines we have to work beyond the logical imperatives presented by the moment not by ignoring them but by avoiding the moment. The only way to do that and not be in denial is to ensure that we make choices and take decisions designed to lead us where we want to go.
That presupposes that we actually know where it is we want to go. And why.
I know you’ve made the right decision this week. You got to the supermarket on time. You’re stocked up with coffee and donuts, croissants and cookies and even some chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday wherever you are.