4 min read

Effort Is Natural

I couldn’t say this any better than that, in fact the first time I heard this, not moments ago, it resonated with me immediately. Do you ever feel like you could have accomplished something greater if you just ‘gave it a little more effort?’

I hear this often in my work, this co-relation between more effort and therefore more success.

Often athletes/clients come out of a performance, unsatisfied, thinking ‘if I had just put in more effort…

It’s easy to blame ourselves, or to blame effort instead of ourselves.

Spoiler Alert: You’re going to have bad workouts. You’re going to have awesome workouts. You’re going to have everything in between. It’s OK not to have a killer workout at the gym every single time you go. It is not a waste of time if you don’t get a PB or do something new or crush something old.

You’ve probably been told many times — perhaps more as words of comfort than an actual recognition of effort, which is hard to define and completely subjective — that you ‘gave it a good effort.’

Even if you may have failed at doing something, at least you gave it all of your effort.

People like praise, so it actually does wonders for our psyche, to receive positive comments like this.

Positive psychology principles have shown that praise (particularly praise of effort) is a far more effective a motivator than extrinsic rewards or punishment when trying to create behavior change.

It’s a lot more civil too.

That’s why I don’t punish people for showing up late to sessions. I don’t punish them for making mistakes on their eating plans and I certainly don’t punish them for not hitting their objectives — the objectives were supposed to be lofty in the first place!

Punishment is a terrible way to reinforce good behavior.

The subject of this post is not to negate that principle — the principle of putting forth effort generally being a good thing — but to bring to light an important concept in coaching and achieving success in what we do.

*Effort is Natural, and all of us are naturally inclined to try to do things well, especially when they are of interest to us.*

The most important aspect to grab is that we can’t beat ourselves up when we feel like we didn’t give enough effort and coaches can’t possibly ask for more effort from the people they work with — it’s negative and actually makes no sense to do so.

We spend a lot of time looking for an answer that is irrelevant.

We may be looking for an excuse, or maybe we’ve been conditioned to think that effort is the real determining factor.

Most people are happy to put their heads down for 4-12 weeks, give all their effort for a short amount of time and wonder why they often end up no where.

We end up at this point of paradox, where effort can be both emotionally defeating and up lifting.

The more important application though becomes that of long-term gain, appreciation and understanding.

If effort is truly natural, then we are always trying, and if we are always trying, then long-term strategies are far more effective for personal gain — from all realms of well-being — than short term strategies that rely on short bursts of concentrated effort.

I’m making it sound more complicated than it is though.

Have you ever been skiing and watched how 6-12 year old’s ski?

It’s absolutely fearless, they bomb down the hill and if they fall, they generally laugh about it, pick themselves up and continue on.

It’s only when large social groups start to interfere with that do kids become self-conscious or self-aware.

We become concerned about how we look doing something and therefore become fearful of it.

Until that becomes a conditioned factor though, we continue to bomb down the hill, giving all of our effort without thinking of effort as being a necessary component of our fun or motivation for doing any activity.

I often look to young kids for inspiration on effort and fear, there is an inverse effect at play.

Snow Boarding Effort

When I learned to board — in my 20’s — I had this constant worry of going too fast, doing too much and breaking something, which would put me out of work for days or possibly weeks, or worse yet, maybe I would have to go on workers comp.

Try as I might to fight these thoughts, thinking about that, only made it worse.

I found myself thinking that I needed to give more effort in order to get better, which would make me more timid.

It was only after I stopped thinking about effort that I was really able to progress.

4 years later, I hardly ever think about what I’m doing on the hill and I’m much better as a result, though I may never be Winter X-Games good. I’m enjoying myself.

You probably don’t need to give more effort — or have better self-discipline — to lose weight, eat better, or get more fit. The effort is already there and it’s usually not the reason you’re having trouble achieving what you want to achieve.

You need to let go of your fear of change, adopt a growth mindset and acquire the skills/habits that permit you to lead a lifestyle compatible with those objectives.

Everything else will fall into place…naturally…if you let it.