An amazing thing happens when we notice that we are working hard, yet we still feel excited, motivated, and in a complete flow with our actions. In those moments, our biggest causes transcend our efforts and feel effortless. There’s a great saying, “If you want to be happy, put your effort into controlling the sail, not the wind.” In other words, when we channel our efforts toward the things that we can personally control — namely ourselves — then we flow with less resistance and a heck of a lot less conflict. This requires accepting whatever we are experiencing. So, how can we ride that wave of effortlessness more often?
For starters, we can most easily find acceptance when we connect with the higher purpose or value behind each and every experience. Connecting with purpose enables us to trust the world’s ability to respond with exactly what is needed, whether we like what we get or not. When we accept that everything has its purpose, then we can let go of what we cannot control. This also gives the world space to respond to the efforts we’ve already put forth.
Think about it. How many times have we found ourselves showing up in our lives with as much effort as we can muster, only to further overextend ourselves past the point of reasonable return? Instead of recognizing that we’ve put our best foot forward, and then allowing the world to respond, we start trying to control the actions of other people, or the outcomes of situations.
To keep our efforts feeling effortless, we not only need to give the world space to respond to our best intentions, we also need to recognize and accept what we can and cannot control. We can control things such as our preparation, timeliness, and willingness to put our best foot forward. We can also control our opportunities to speak up, our ability to listen and adjust, and the simple attitudes we choose to embody at any given moment. And, while we cannot control the reactions and responses we get from others, we can control our own reactions and responses to anything.
To prevent the exhausting feeling of endlessly swimming upstream, we must accept that we’ve shown up and delivered to the best of our abilities. We must trust that the world’s response to our efforts is out of our control. In practice, this applies to a range of situations. We might get the job. We might win the business. We might get into a particular school. Regardless of the outcomes we desire, we can only control the effort we put into the situation and our response to the outcomes. Everything in between is out of our hands.
If the word effort triggers instant feelings of burden and stress for you, take a moment to consider how much unnecessary effort you are exerting that crosses over the line of what you really can control. For instance, who are you convincing who is already convinced? Over what are you stressing that is already history? With whom are you arguing who isn’t looking for a fight? To make your efforts feel effortless, remember to keep them focused on the things you can control. Figure out what it will take for you to “control the sail and not the wind.”
Nina Cashman is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.