“We may like to believe that all we have to do to progress on the Buddha’s path is pay attention. Paying attention certainly sounds easier than making strong effort. But the hard truth is that simple, ordinary attention is not enough. We must learn to pay mindful attention–both when we are engaging in meditation or other spiritual practice and when we are going about the activities of our everyday lives. The Buddha knew that unless we make the mindful effort to eliminate negative states of mind and cultivate positive ones in every aspect of our lives, our minds will never settle down enough to allow us progress.
About now you might be thinking, “I knew there was a catch! This sounds like a lot of work.” Of course, you’d be right. It’s certainly easier to bury our negative qualities deep in the unconscious mind than to let them go. Greed, anger, hatred, sloppiness, arrogance, snobbishness, spitefulness, vindictiveness, and fear may have become our familiar everyday habits. We’d rather not make the effort to give them up. Yet, at the same time, we want to be happy and to move toward our spiritual goals.
Skillful Effort is the stick-to-it quality that makes the whole path possible. It is the gumption to say, “These unwholesome habits of thought and behavior must go, now!” and the wisdom to see that only by cultivating positive and wholesome ways of thinking, acting, and speaking can we hope to achieve happiness.”
from “Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness” pp. 150-151