Some days I’m sure I just want to sit on the sofa, eat potato chips and watch junk TV. Usually I’m wrong about that. If I do that, it’s unsatisfying.

For several months I did a gratitude experiment. Nothing major, it was simple. Each evening I listed three or more things I was grateful for. Some days it was easy, some days it wasn’t. I was surprised to notice that I was often grateful for things that required effort.

Some of my favourite things included walking into work (it takes an hour), writing (at the end of a long day I may think ‘I don’t wanna‘), cooking a good meal  (it’s grounding & creative), rock-climbing (it’s physically hard and a little scary).

We have a lot of ease built into our lives in First World Countries. Many activities can be made easier. We buy food from a supermarket, we don’t have to grow grain and grind it to make flour. And yet maybe bread tastes better when you work for it.

Not that I want to give up the ease we have, I do appreciate it. It’s a privilege and a luxury. But I also want to remember that when you put something in, you get something out of it. Although, sometimes you don’t. That’s just life. Sometimes there is no reward for effort. You make a new recipe and it tastes horrible or bland. You write but it doesn’t hang together clearly. You walk but today you’re aching and you left too late.

I think that’s part of joy moments though. The fact that effort isn’t always rewarded is part of the joy you get when it is. When the new dish tastes so great it’s already a favourite. The walk makes you feel well and connected to an interesting world. The writing comes out powerfully and inspired. The climb makes you feel strong and confident to solve problems in the face of difficulty.

Strength

I think that’s it. Activities that require input and effort test our strength. They build our strength. They don’t guarantee results but when we get good results they are immensely satisfying. When we don’t get good results we learn something.

Learning

When we’re learning, we are growing. It feels good. It gives you a shot of joy, the kind you had as a little kid. Trying things, learning about the world, scraping knees and climbing trees. Making imperfect art, acting in imperfect plays, writing imperfect stories, wondering at veges growing in the garden, studying worms, avoiding bees in the grass and watching them buzz amongst flowers.

Worth the effort

It’s worth the effort. Life is worth falling down and scraping your knees. It’s worth getting back up for another go. It’s worth the pain and the learning. It’s worth the failures and the joy. It’s worth the satisfaction of using your strength, energy and focus.

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