Effort is key. This is not encouraging news, nor is it news. However, there is something interesting here for self-helpers and other shortcut lovers: Effort is tolerance for pain.
A lot of our subjective state vocabulary is misleading—and, in many cases, entirely fabricating. That is, sometimes the word refers to nothing at all—nothing that existed prior to its being invented, placebo-style, in order to provide a referent for a given term. The language of folk psychology exists prior to our being born. When people tell us You are X or You feel Y, we guess what they mean and then fabricate the inner state to match.
Effort is one of these words. It sounds like a process of mustering energy from nothing. Actually, however, it is equanimity towards pain.
PAIN is what stops you from achieving your goals. How to handle pain? You do not overcome it by tightening or pushing against, or by concentrating yourself into hardness that can better butt against the hardness of outer otherness, or of your own inner resistance.
In general, tightening the subject tightens its object. We do not often enough consider that the object is made of the subjective RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE SITTING NOW. While we should definitely ridicule the self-helpers’ love of shortcuts, there is one place where the constructed nature of objects makes a difference. And that is in the moment of pain.
Your reaction to feeling is the ONLY place where agency makes a difference.
Be honest before you begin
We think that effort begins with a stiff upper lip and a call to arms. Actually, it is a tolerance for and equanimity towards pain. Specifically, effort moves inside the awareness that confronting the task is pain. Action is possible when you assert that the pain of inaction will be greater than the pain of confrontation.