Learn to Value Your Effort, Even if Others Don't

Did you know that working at something and making an effort can trigger changes in your brain and actually make you happier? Armed with this knowledge, it's easier to value your own effort without worrying about what other people think. Keep reading to find out why effort is so important for your well-being.
Learn to Value Your Effort, Even if Others Don't
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Effort is movement, feeling, and thought. There are few things that use so much energy and resources like those everyday personal triumphs that help you reach your goal.

Consequently, it’s important to learn to value your own effort without waiting for others to do it. You have to be your own cheerleader, and ignore the naysayers and critics who are trying to pull you down.

Dreams require effort

When was the last time that you reached a goal? Do you have a project in mind right now? Everyone knows that living means being in constant motion: making changes, setting goals, and shaping your world according to your dreams or necessities.

Today your goal is to plan a birthday party for your son, tomorrow you need to finish a project for work, and maybe in a few months, a bigger challenge will come along.

Over the course of your life, you set goals, big and small, that “force” you to give the best of yourself. That isn’t always the easiest thing to do. It requires time, it means putting some things on the back burner, and it often implies suffering. Sometimes you even have to filter what happens around you so that you don’t get distracted.

Some of our readers might be familiar with R. Tait McKenzie, a sculptor, physician, and athlete. His work is a perfect example of the concept of “effort.” Not only was he a talented artist, but he also helped lay the foundation for modern physical therapy.

One of the ideas that he always communicated through his sculptures and to his patients was that although all your dreams and goals require effort and sometimes suffering, the brain has to be happy. The mind is a powerful muscle that you can learn to train.

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s faults, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”

-Helen Keller-

man surrounded by smoke

Valuing your own effort is the key to wellbeing

Learning to value your own effort is the first step of personal growth. It means traveling along an uncertain path, stepping carefully to avoid pitching over the edge. Understanding this is crucial for a very simple reason: the path to achieving your goals can be terribly lonely. People will criticize you, those closest to you will doubt you and make you feel like you’ll never make it.

With all that doubt and mistrust that surrounds you, the last thing you need is your own self-doubt. That’s why it’s so important to understand something about your neurobiology. The human brain is designed to “grow” with effort.

In fact, well-known neuroscientists like Dr. Kelly Lambert from the University of Richmond published an interesting study about the effect of effort on the brain.

There’s a neural network that connects the nucleus accumbens to the corpus striatum and the prefrontal cortex. These areas of the brain make up what Dr. Lambert calls “the effort-driven rewards circuit.”

What does that mean? Basically, it means that when actions, thoughts, and emotions join forces to achieve a goal, the brain changes. It triggers the development of something that probably sounds familiar: neuroplasticity.

Dr. Lambert’s study raises another interesting point, which is that the value of your effort is key to overcoming everything from depression to other complex psychological conditions. Factors like movement, creative tasks, and focusing on a concrete goal can contribute to neural activation. That, in turn, can help you experience improvements in your mood and your health.

“The one thing that matters is the effort.”

-Antoine de Saint Exupery-

two hands holding an image of a brain in the sky

Effort means growth, no matter what the end result is

You often hear people say things like “if you try hard enough, you’ll succeed.” It’s a common idea in self-help literature. While it may be true, our society doesn’t always reward those who try the hardest. Instead, it rewards whoever it wants, whoever is privileged enough, or those who just “get lucky.”

Sometimes you fail. You don’t make it, or you aren’t as successful as you thought you would be. In fact, studies like this one in 2012 from Dr. Raimond Kusurkar at the University of Amsterdam, explain that motivation and effort improve student performance.

However, that didn’t mean that those students were guaranteed to get good grades. There are many other factors that determine grades, and they are not all in the student’s control.

Beyond all of that, the main point is this: valuing your own effort lays the foundation for good self-esteem and self-love. Learning not to depend on other people’s opinions for your projects is a valuable life lesson.

All effort, no matter what the outcomes are, helps you grow, learn and add value to your life, and no one can take that away from you.

a woman sitting on top of a mountain practicing the concept of value your effort

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you achieve your goal today or tomorrow. Sometimes you find other paths along the way and set your gaze on a new purpose that means more to you at the moment. In that sense, the most important thing is to keep your dreams alive and love yourself and all your achievements. Feel proud of what you’ve accomplished so far, and don’t give up.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.