Over the years I have come to realize that making an effort is not something I really understand all that well.
In the meditation course I subscribe to, this thought recently arrived in my inbox:
There is no reason that what is meant by self-effort should be vague. It’s just a matter of doing it. If we don’t do anything, then no self-effort is being applied.
What I learned from this – initially – is that there are two different types of effort. I also learned that both are essential if I want to achieve my goals.
Setting a goal is the first type of effort. Doing the actual work required to achieve that goal is the second type of effort.
Truthfully, I am mostly already quite good at the former – goal clarification. I am even good at plotting out the steps towards achieving a goal. But I’m still not good at all at following my own plan by actually doing each of those steps.
In another installment of my meditation course, I received this additional insight on how to get better at goal achievement.
Specifically, the course says this:
When the mind is directed in a way that feels good, then all the universal forces work in our favor. Everything reinforces our own feeling. Everything, including how we are affected by circumstances, is a mirror of our basic feeling. And our basic feeling is determined by our predominant mental attitude.
If we persist in allowing ourselves to think things that make us feel bad – even though we blame these bad feelings on situations and conditions and other people – we are draining ourselves of spiritual energy, misapplying universal law, and inviting further disruption and difficulty into our life. In short, there’s nothing we can do as long as we persist in thinking thoughts that do not feel good.
So – it would seem – it is not optional to control the mind, at least if we want to succeed. And in the context of making an effort to achieve a certain goal, it is particularly important to closely control against thinking the kinds of thoughts that suggest you might never achieve the goal you just set.
For instance, let’s say I have set a goal of finding more enjoyable writing assignments about birds and pets and animals….and I am now about to embark upon achieving that goal.
Here, even as I am beginning to send out my resume and writing samples to applicable websites or clients, my success will literally depend on my ability to shut my mind down each time it pipes up (and it will!) with comments like, “You don’t have any experience writing about any animal other than your parrot. No one will ever hire you to write about animals until you get more experience writing about animals.”
Yikes! See the vicious catch-22 that thought pattern sets up?
So if I actually want to make an effort towards doing more enjoyable writing about pets and birds and animals, I cannot also be thinking thoughts that directly contradict my efforts as I do so. Otherwise, I will get so bummed out emotionally that the best I can hope for is more of the status quo (i.e., no new assignments writing about pets and birds and animals).
At its worst, I might get so discouraged mentally and emotionally that I talk myself out of making any effort at all!
The reason I say this is because I have done this before to myself and I am fully capable of doing it again. The difference today is, I no longer want to talk myself out of my own goals.
By this I mean, I no longer want to use self-defeating thoughts as an easy path to failure, because I no longer believe failure is inevitable in my life. I used to believe this – I used to have such low self-esteem that I thought I didn’t even deserve to achieve my goals, let alone have what it might take to do so.
But today I feel like even when I don’t manage to achieve a goal, I can learn so much from trying that it is worth the journey regardless. So I don’t want to set myself up (mentally or in any other way) for failure.
I want to set myself up for success.
If you can relate, then perhaps you, like me, are starting to perceive that there are actually THREE steps we must make to achieve any goal we set for ourselves.
1. First, set the goal (and any specific steps we can think of that will help us achieve it).
2. Mentally prepare ourselves to maintain a positive mental (and thus emotional) relationship with that goal.
3. THEN, we can begin to work towards actually achieving the goal, knowing all parts of ourselves are rooting for our success.
Today’s Takeaway: What works best for you when you are beginning to take steps towards achieving a particularly challenging goal? How important is your mental state to achieving your goal? What kind of tactics do you use to make sure you have your own support in every way?
Writing image available from Shutterstock.