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Make Space for Grace

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Make Space for Grace

Are you working too hard?
Robert Holden Ph.D.
Robert Holden Ph.D. More by this author
Sep 02, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Like most insanely busy people today, you probably know the Work Ethic well. The Work Ethic deals in only one currency, which is effort. It teaches that we have to spend effort to buy success and anything else we value. If you ever experience a setback or a failure, it is a sign that you are not spending enough effort. Effort plus more effort, plus  more effort, is the key to success. If that does not work, invest a bit more effort. Effort is the “real money,” for “in Effort we trust.” Effort is what makes things work.

The Work Ethic, at its most extreme, is about struggle, not grace, and about sweat, not success. We must work harder and harder and conclude we need to work harder still. There is not a minute to lose, but there are no free minutes available. The Work Ethic advocates a full-time effort that consumes our lives and spares no time for inspiration or recovery. Everything we have, including our time, is taken up with effort.

People who believe only in the Work Ethic are uneasy with grace. If success is easy, we feel guilty. We believe in “no pain, no gain.” If success is easy, we do not value it. We believe “there is no free lunch.” If success is easy, we find a way to make it more difficult. We have been educated at the “school of hard knocks.” We believe that struggle is the only learning curve. The bottom line is that we never let anything be easy.

Many of the people with whom I work are held back by the effort trap. Simply stated, they “over-effort” and thus perform below par. The average executive habitually overworks; the successful executive doesn’t. The average athlete overtrains; the great athlete doesn’t. The average artist forces his talent; the inspired artist doesn’t. The average chef overcooks her food; the genius chef doesn’t. The average performer tries too hard; the best talent doesn’t. Whereas intelligent effort attracts success, excessive effort blocks it.

Excessive effort hides compensations that block success. For example, many people over-effort because they are dysfunctionally independent and never ask for extra help. Or maybe they over-effort because they are trying too hard to control a situation. Or maybe they are afraid of what might happen if they surrender to their creativity. Alternately, they may not believe that they are worthy of effortless success and abundance. Or they may simply be afraid to stop efforting and try something new. Sometimes effort is just fear.

Great dancers like Rudolph Nureyev and great singers like Maria Callas found a way to balance effort with grace. So too did great artists like Leonardo da Vinci, who believed in the need for work and rest. Great orators like Martin Luther King, great politicians like Mikhail Gorbachev, and great servants like Mother Teresa also demonstrated grit and grace in their own way. All knew how to give their best and also make space for grace and inspiration.

About Author
Robert Holden Ph.D.
Robert Holden Ph.D.’s innovative work on psychology and spirituality has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, a PBS show called Shift Happens! and a major BBC documentary called How to Be Happy, shown in 20 countries to o Continue reading