When effortful is better than effortless

When effortful is better than effortless
Yes, you may be tired, but it’s almost always worth it in the end to stay up to see the fireworks.

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Every New Year I’m guilty of making resolutions, but for the most part I keep them. What I like most about a new calendar year is reflecting on what worked the previous year, what didn’t and what I hope to accomplish in the year ahead. What stood out for me in the past year was by and large,  the activities that took a lot of effort were worth the stress. This surprised me.

For example, the best trips I took last year were: a week of winter activities (sans skiing) in Switzerland, exploring arctic wildlife in Churchill, Manitoba and reconnecting with family friends in Ontario. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Of course Switzerland would be awesome and Canada’s North sounds very adventurous, and it’s always good to see family friends… But here’s the thing, I almost didn’t take any of these trips. They all came at horribly inconvenient times and Churchill was freezing in July. Still, they stood out, much more than say the safe trip to Maui we took last spring.

tall tree forest

Effortful vs Effortless

Often the best experiences require some amount of effort and perhaps even sacrifice. It doesn’t sound like fun when you put you it like that, but it’s worth it in the end. I paid for these trips in the weeks after, but for the life of me, I can’t remember those work projects. I do, however, fondly recall how wonderful those experiences were and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I love reading time management tips by Laura Vanderkam, author of my favourite non-fiction book: I Know How She Does It. Vanderkam recently had this to say about the difference between effortless fun and effortful fun:

“Cracking open a beer and turning on the TV after the kids go to bed falls in the first category. Planning a dinner party falls in the second. Both have their place, but it’s always easy to underinvest in the latter because, well, it’s work. The idea that fun should take work is incongruous enough that we resist it. Most of us are busy enough with professional work and family work that turning leisure time into work just sounds ridiculous. Better not to make a fuss.”

Now there’s nothing wrong with watching TV occasionally and I wouldn’t judge anyone for having a glass of wine at the end of the day (I would judge you if you drank beer:), but as Vanderkam points out, “…watching TV for the bulk of one’s leisure time does not make for a particularly meaningful or memorable life. “

She’s right. Looking back at the highlights of 2015 besides the travel, they were mainly activities and events that required effort. Instead of going straight home after school, I began taking my daughter to an outdoor ice rink. Not every week (which was the goal), but enough that it began to be a habit we both looked forward to. It took an extra 10 minutes to pack up our skates, clothes and hot chocolate, but spending an hour outdoors sure beat hanging around home. 

New Years intentions

Here are a few of the effortful activities on my list for the upcoming year:

  • Going cross country skiing in new locations
  • Having friends over more (perhaps a mother-daughter book club?)
  • Night skiing
  • Regular hot yoga, barre and spin classes
  • Making homemade pasta

Do you routinely make goals? I’d love to hear what they are.

About The Author

6 thoughts on “When effortful is better than effortless”

  1. I am focusing on two main things for 2016: kindness and good health. I have put Post-its up all over the house reminding my family (and me!) to be kind to other people and to ourselves. I think it’s easy to trample all over each other and take each other for granted in a family. Being kind makes a person and the people around that person so much happier. As for good health, after three months of being sick, I am determined to boost my immune system by drinking less wine, eating less sugar, working out regularly and going to acupuncture regularly. Cheers to a fabulous 2016!

    1. I’m with you. These are great resolutions. So happy to hear you’re enjoying acupuncture. Have you tried facial acupuncture ever? I’m addicted.

  2. Kyla @ Mommy's Weird

    Come x c ski with me!!!!!! I am waiting for you on the other side of the mountain. Come to Kimberley!!!

    1. Kimberley is such a lovely mountain town. I’d love to get back there (and to that amazing German restaurant).

  3. Love this post Jidy and you are right: I definitely remember the activities that take effort vs the ones that include just flopping on the couch. Here yew to x-country skiing. And home made pasta? Sounds like a lot of delicious, rewarding effort. 🙂

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