Wise Effort: The Key to Unlocking Your Potential

Ballet Feet

For the last 6 months I’ve been taking a weekly ballet class.

The reason? To create my intention and dream of being a beautiful and talented tango dancer. It’s also in alignment with my word of the year for 2014 “sensual.”

At first, not having any ballet background (well, a short stint in a class with 8 year old girls a few years ago), I felt like more than a fish out of water. Most of the other women in the class were half my age and started dancing as children. 

Me, virtually no prior experience. I knew how to put my foot in a ski boot or a bike shoe, but point it with strength and grace? Forget it. 

The language was foreign. “First position everyone!” the teacher would say. I quickly looked around to copy what everyone else was doing.

I felt like an elephant floppy across the floor during practice. I was more than humbled.

Sometimes I didn’t want to go to class. It was difficult, beyond anything I’d learned so far in my life. Was it possible, at 44 years, to learn a new way of moving my body that involved so much strength and grace – combined? Two ideas that had never entered my mind together.

But I kept going because I was clear on the dream and intention I have to become a really great tango dancer. I knew ballet was an important piece of that.

My teacher said last month after class, “You sure are persistent!” That seems to be a gene I got from my dad – I’m not one to give up easily when I know what I want. She sprinkled that with, “Great job!”

It was enough to keep me coming back.

Recently, over the last month, I’ve had people say at dances, “Wow, your tango dancing is amazing!”

It’s paying off.

Last week, at ballet class, I had an important moment. I looked in the mirror at my body and the usual exercises we were doing to warm up – first position, second position, etc. and I actually looked like I knew what I was doing. I’m not needing to look around to know what she’s talking about. I’m learning the language of ballet enough to now be able to quickly step into what she’s asking of us – and my body is doing it!

In that moment I had a, “YAHOO!!!” in my body – I’ve turned a corner.

So how does this story relate to wise effort?

It took effort to show up to class each week, even when I didn’t feel like it. It took effort to not compare myself with others, but to show up comfortable as I am in my body. It took effort to stay present with each movement, each new position, each new word without judgment myself.

When you want to cultivate or create a dream or intention in you or your life, whether it’s something tangible with your body, or something less tangible like opening your heart, being compassionate to yourself or others, feeling peaceful, or stepping through fear, it takes effort.

It doesn’t just happen by itself because you wish it would.

In the Buddhist teaching of wise effort, it’s said that wise effort has 3 components: energy, discipline, and love. Each one is equally important.

  • Energy: There must be energy behind it. The energy to create change in yourself. The energy to love yourself. The energy to be compassionate. The energy to be your full potential.

  • Discipline: It’s important to do what it takes, not what’s convenient. As long as you do what’s convenient you’re not going to reach your potential and all that you’re capable of. When you do what it takes, you do it even when you don’t feel like it or when your mind pulls the easy out of, “You can’t do this.”
  • Love: Give love to yourself in this effort. Realize that you are doing your best, even when you have doubts about yourself and what you’re going for. From this comes the willingness to continue, even when it gets hard.

I want to clarify something: effort is not striving. Striving is when the ego is behind it, attached to a certain outcome. Wise effort is the effort put in from the energy of your heart without attachment to the outcome.

As Winston Churchill said, “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking your potential.”

What would you like to put wise effort into today?

Categories: Health & Happiness

About the Author: Angela Patnode

My passion, my calling, is for you to be totally you. Through private coaching, in-depth retreats, and online group coaching programs, I help you tap into your intuition and clarify your desires and vision, I guide you to take active steps toward making your desires a reality.

2 comments to “Wise Effort: The Key to Unlocking Your Potential

  1. Eric

    I like this Angela. Especially the part about how giving love to ourselves reflects back in a willingness to venture more deeply into life. Very cool and true. Who is more brave than the lover?

    1. Angela Patnode

      I’m so glad you liked the article Eric. Love for ourselves is the foundation for everything else unfolding with ease. As you say, it’s a courageous act to be willing.

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