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Three Degrees of Effort

Have you ever wondered what effort is really about? Do you think about having to try hard, spend a lot of energy, and feel frustrated as a result? Well, effort is not just about trying really hard. Effort is about how we apply energy to get what we really want. The three degrees of effort is an approach to understand how to apply more strategic effort to act on difficult learning and challenging setbacks.

First Degree of Effort:

The first degree of effort is about showing up. You are willing to become available and active. Instead of focusing on negative outcomes and roadblocks, you focus on the mission that drives you. Showing up means you attend, you make the phone call, you meet someone, and you open up to what matters.

Effort requires openness to be vulnerable—to show up and not have all the answers—to mind the gap, and to connect with others. As we focus on the learning, we are able to detach our self from the intended result, allowing room for mistakes. Consequently, we accept the learning and practice patiently in the process of reaching our goals. Because we show up, we can express what we stand for and we can connect with like-minded people.

Second Degree of Effort:

The second degree of effort is about standing up. You get involved by assuming responsibility. You propose ideas, and you commit to the process of reaching your vision. Ask: how can I begin to get involved? How can I contribute? How can I express my willingness to grow and create value?

Standing up requires us to be conscious about our values (what we care about) and setting some boundaries to help us clarify what to do when we encounter a setback. We then center our actions around our purpose to reach our goals: how is this action contributing to reaching the main cause? To do this, make sure to find a supportive environment where effort is valued over talent.

Third Degree of Effort:

The third degree of effort is about assisting. You offer. It takes humility to be able to coach, mentor and guide those that are starting out. The question is: what are you capable of teaching? We all have a unique skill set to offer the world. But most of us haven’t shared it yet. Why not? How can we begin to share it?

This third degree makes the second degree of effort possible. Spending better effort means you don’t have to be aggressive and have a do-it-yourself attitude to get things done. Instead, you can surround yourself with a team or an organization that values mentoring and encourages growth.

The degrees of effort are cyclical. Life is cyclical. When you want to begin (or change) something, you cycle to the first degree. And it can feel stressful to start because that means we’re no longer in control. The three degrees of effort remind us that it was never about effortless or impulsive action, but about a mindful approach to reach our goals. Believing in effort means that we can begin again, apply, and grow.

Juan F. Diaz

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