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8 Examples of Effort

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Effort is the application of your time, concentration, energy, abilities and resources to an activity, problem or goal. This has several common varieties:

Going Through the Motions

Going through the motions is effort that has no motivation or commitment behind it. For example, an individual who sits through a tax audit but isn't fully mentally present as they find the subject matter too bleak and uninteresting to focus.


Defeatism is when pessimism reduces effort. For example, an employee who believes a project will fail such that they don't take their work seriously. Defeatism ensures failure and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Toil is unrewarding work that could be automated, simplified or made more productive or pleasant. For example, if your manager asks to sweep a floor that is already clean. Generally speaking, people apply little effort to toil as they feel it is futile and unrewarding. Where people are forced to toil they tend to be very unhappy such that they want to escape.


Diligence is the practice of taking care to do work properly with full concentration. This can apply to humble tasks as well as grand missions. For example, an individual who finds it strengthens their mind to fully focus on the humble task of preparing tea.

Best Effort

Best effort implies that a situation is difficult such that you will try but may not succeed. The related term best effort basis indicates that you are taking on a task with the recognition that it will probably fail.

Hard Work

Hard work is effort that is mentally or physically demanding. This is more about the energy poured into a task than the task itself. For example, knocking down a small brick wall with a sledge hammer isn't hard work if you take a year to finish but it is certainly hard work in the space of an afternoon.


Struggle is effort towards a situation that is beyond your control or capabilities. The term struggle implies significant risk of failure. However, struggle also implies great effort in a challenging environment that can result in rapid learning and improvement.

Doing What Is Required

It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.
― Winston S. Churchill
Doing what is required is a situation where failure is not an option such that doing one's best is not enough. For example, if you are landing a plane with 615 passengers aboard it is not enough to do your best -- you must land the aircraft safely.


"Doing what is required" is reserved for situations where mistakes could be unimaginably terrible. Applying "failure is not an option" to every day work is usually just a situation of denial whereby realities such as risks are ignored. Failure is usually an option.
Overview: Effort
The application of your time, concentration, energy, abilities and resources to an activity, problem or goal.
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about motivation.
Attitude Change
Bucket List
Curiosity Drive
Employee Motivation
ERG Theory
Esprit De Corps
Expectancy Theory
Extrinsic Motivation
Flow Theory
Intrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic Reward
Locus Of Control
Peak Experiences
Silent Goal
Skin In The Game
Status Seeking
Work Motivation
More ...
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