Over 300 people from around the world are right in the middle of a six month training program called A Course in Mindful Living. One of the first elements of this program is learning how to calm your nervous system and bring energy into the moment. The combination of calm, energy and focus is the trifecta for effective learning and integration of whatever we’re attending to.

If we want to be successful in anything, whether it’s a meditation practice, learning guitar or fostering connection in our relationships, these three skills are highly important.

But in learning anything, there’s a very clear nuance that could be the difference between failure and success.

That is whether we approach it with the mindset of “effort” versus “striving.”

For most of us, our natural inclination is to strive toward an outcome. If you’re learning skills on how to tame your nervous system, you might try really hard to get to relaxation. In this particular case you might be “trying” to meditation or “trying” to relax.

The problem is in this “striving” toward an outcome, the mind is on alert, measuring your progress, bringing an extra layer of stress and if you fall short, it gives it a reason to give up sooner.

It goes something like this:

The mind pipes in, “Am I relaxed yet?”

“No not yet,” it responds to itself.

A few moments later, “How about now, nope.”

Soon it follows with, “Let me try a little harder….this isn’t working,” and stress builds.

Finally, “I can’t do this, I’m done,” and it gives up.

On the other hand, if we apply the mindset of “effort” versus “striving” we’re simply putting energy into the practice. The outcome is less important at the moment, so there’s no falling short, there’s no reason to give up, it’s all a process of investing energy in the practice and even into investigating the inevitable obstacles that arise in order to just begin again.

Putting effort into learning and practice versus striving for an outcome is a far more successful path to mastery and confidence.

Create an experiment and bring this into anything you do today and see what you notice.


Elisha Goldstein, PhD