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The End of Striving

Today’s word is STRIVING, as in:

  • Striving to overcome.
  • Striving for perfection.
  • Striving to get ahead.
  • Striving to achieve our goals.

And I think it’s time we put an end to it.

Uhhh…

I think I can hear the cries of heresy.

Isn’t striving a good thing?

After all, to strive is — according to one definition — to “make great efforts to achieve or obtain something.” That’s the path to success, right? Great effort — good. Achievement — good.

But if we’re being honest, don’t you get tired of striving? I know I do.

It’s not the activity of striving that is tiring. It’s the anxiety that accompanies it.

Consider that strive also means to “struggle or fight vigorously” or to “exert much effort or energy” or to “struggle or fight forcefully.”

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that underneath it all is the Old French word estrif — or strife — which means “angry or bitter disagreement over fundamental issues” or “conflict.”

Do you want to live your life in conflict?

I don’t think so, but whether we realize it or not, that’s what we set ourselves up for when we’re striving for something.

We may start out just making great efforts to achieve our goal(s) — that is good.

But sooner or later, we decide we’re not making as much progress as we would like, or we’re not progressing as quickly as we would like. That’s when we begin to “fight forcefully.” That’s when we feel the anxiety of “conflict.”

We are HERE and we want to get THERE. Now. Conflict.

The thing is, conflict doesn’t bring us any closer to what we’re pursuing. It just leaves us feeling frustrated, exhausted, even burned out, right where we are.

So what is the alternative?

How can we make the “great effort” required to achieve our goals and fulfill our vision while avoiding the constant struggle or fight or conflict?

It simple terms, we do it by keeping our attention right here, right now, on this moment.

(After all, we’re always in this moment.)

In order for there to be a struggle or a fight or a conflict — in order for there to be tension — there must be at least two points or two parties involved. (Imagine a rope being pulled tight between two pegs — it would be impossible for it to be pulled tight while only attached to one peg, right?)

When it comes to striving, the two points are “here” and “there.”

So instead of always trying to get somewhere, just be here.

Give your best in this moment. Ask yourself, “What is the right thing, right now, that will bring me one step closer to overcoming ‘this’ obstacle, or to achieving ‘this’ goal?”

Do that, celebrate that, and then rest in that. That’s truly all you can do.

Do you see how conflict and struggle are absent from this approach? There is no striving. There’s just doing the right thing, right now. That’s the only effort that’s required.

To end striving is to live in peace.

I mentioned that at the root of the word strive is strife. The antonym of strife? Peace.

And that’s what we all really want… right? Isn’t that ultimately what you’re “striving” for? Whatever your goals are, whatever your vision is for your life or business, isn’t peace ultimately what you want to experience?

Peace can only be experienced right now — not five minutes, five years or five decades from now.

By all means, I believe we each have a responsibility to give all we can to become the best we are capable of being. (And that’s a life-long process.) I do not advocate laziness, complacency or mediocrity.

But a life of constant striving to get “there” is not healthy and it is not satisfying… because the striving may never end.

No matter what you do, getting “there” is never guaranteed, but living “here” is.

I once asked Gretchen Rubin, author of the #1 mega-bestseller, The Happiness Project, “What is your advice to other authors who have a goal of publishing a #1 bestseller?” Her answer?

Enjoy the process. A lot of things are outside your control and you won’t always get what you want or even deserve. Banking your happiness on hitting the bestseller list or some of these other external goals is very risky.”

Easier said than done

It’s not easy to give up striving — especially in the Western world. It requires a daily or even moment-by-moment decision.

But if you’re feeling tired or exhausted from all of the pushing, fighting, chasing and struggling to get somewhere, why not give non-striving a try?

A preview of what you might find:

When you can live and work from a place of peace — without the anxiety of struggle and conflict — you’ll discover that you have more energy, you can think more clearly, you’re happier… right where you are. Here, not there.

And then somewhat paradoxically, your odds of eventually getting “there” — if you still want to — are better than ever!

What do you say? Are you ready to give peace (non-striving) a chance?!

Thanks for reading, and let’s continue the conversation in the comments section below.

photo credit: net_efekt via photopin cc