It’s been a long, long time since Sophocles asserted, “Success is dependent on effort,” but these words still ring true. We take for granted that exalted and inextricable connection between effort and achievement. And because effort is the engine that powers the machinery of success, we are supposed to focus our praise on exertion over outcomes, or at least link the two. But is effort all its cracked up to be?
Effort is fuel burned.
Achievement is miles traveled.
Effort is hours of study.
Achievement is grades earned.
Effort is working up a sweat.
Achievement is a job well done.
Certainly, one depends on the other. Unfortunately, one does not guarantee the other. Too often, we see people mistaking the two: “I spend hours a day in the gym but still can’t bench 230 lbs/run 5 miles/fit into my old jeans.” From the outside, solutions may appear obvious, but the person giving his or her all in the moment just can’t see them.
If you’ve hit a wall in terms of achievement earned from effort spent, take a step back. First, realize that your persistence matters; if we identify four general reasons for success—innate ability, effort, other people, or luck–the energy you expend to reach your goals is the factor you have the most control over.
Consider, however, where all that effort might be going:
- If you are multitasking, you are wasting time and energy.
- If you have taken on too much, you can’t commit enough on a single goal to really succeed.
- If you don’t plan ahead, you waste energy catching up.
- If you are struggling alone, you are missing the benefit of the experience and support of others.
Giving your best means everything, but sometimes your best is not enough. Don’t settle for effort alone. If you want the achievement too, take a close, critical look at how you are working and what changes will improve your outcomes. “Work smarter, not harder,” may sound like a fantasy, but those who use strategy and support to link outstanding effort to amazing achievement know better!