Balancing Effort and Ease

Balancing effort and ease is one of the paradoxes in leadership and in life. I first heard this phrase in yoga class. Recently, I have developed a yoga routine that has been helpful for me not only in terms of my body but also my mind and spirit. I often feel that the things I learn from my yoga teachers are applicable to life and leadership. This lesson of balancing effort and ease is one of many I am currently learning. 

Balancing effort and ease is one of the phrases that the teachers often mention when holding a difficult position or trying a new pose. As my teacher explained, the challenge should be enough to be interesting and require a certain amount of effort and still, you should be able to breathe and have an awareness of what is happening. When we find the middle path, we find success.

How can you have both effort and ease?

Initially, it was difficult for me to embrace two seemingly opposite ideas, such as effort and ease. How can you have both? Is it possible? Don’t you have to be one or the other? As age and experience have slowly shown me, the sweet spot is in the balance of seemingly opposing ideas. This is sometimes referred to as the middle path or middle way in Buddhism. Finding the balance or center between extremes can lead to peace and freedom, according to Buddhist teachings.

As a leader, are you walking the middle path between the effort you put into your work and the ease you allow yourself? I do believe the balance leads to finding joy in your work. The effort leads to focused work and the ease leads to being open to learning, mistakes, and collaboration. Without effort, and only ease, we may not reach our goals. With only focused effort and no ease, we may not see learning in our mistakes, opportunity for collaboration, or value in embracing viewpoints different from ours. The journey of the paradox allows us to approach with focus and diligence, as well as an openness of heart and mind that allows for the unexpected. Embracing the paradox in ideas allows for fullness in life, rather than a one or the other choice. It allows us to say ‘yes, and’ rather than ‘no, but’.

What does leading with effort and ease look like?

  • Developing self-awareness and checking in with yourself
  • Working hard defined as putting in the effort needed for the task 
  • Drawing clear boundaries and clear expectations
  • Embracing challenges without strain
  • Actively engaging in your work
  • Being curious, seeking knowledge
  • Knowing when something is good enough
  • Knowing when to take something on yourself, delegate a task to someone eles, and when to co-own or collaborate
  • Embracing a Growth Mindset: Understanding your strengths and areas of growth and know that these change
  • Valuing and practicing self-care

The balance between effort and ease is fluid and it’s vital that you check in with yourself continually to assess. Am I feeling challenged and still able to breathe and listen actively? Am I learning, staying curious, and centered?