What does non-striving or non-doing mean? And how can we adopt this approach from mindfulness to lessen stress and feelings of being lost in life?
by Emilie Glen Colsted
Striving and its pitfalls
Striving means devoting serious effort or energy to obtain something in the future.
The power of striving can help us focus our energy and reach goals in life. Striving to improve the quality of one’s life can e.g. be a strong motivation to get out of bed early and work out in the morning or to make important yet often difficult changes in our work, diet, or relationships.
However, striving also means that we are away to some better version of ourselves or something in the future. Thoughts like “If I get a promotion, then I’ll be respected at work” or “If I lose 20 pounds I’ll finally be attractive enough to find a partner” may be the result of dedicated striving.
Striving can give us a fixed idea or expectation about how things “should” be. These agendas may not be realistic and they can leave us vulnerable to feelings of disappointment in ourselves and our lives when we don't live up to them.
In other words, striving can lead to feelings like stress and inadequacy as well as a sense that we're lost in life.
To cope with this, we can practice the art of non-striving from mindfulness, also called non-doing.
Non-striving is a core element of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR) developed by John Kabat Zinn, professor emeritus of medicine. In this YouTube video, you can see him explain the concept of non-striving. Non-striving is an ability to let go of the constant urge to do something to get somewhere ("doing"), and instead focus on and accept where we are at in this very moment (“being”).
We can practice this to redirect our attention away from distressing agendas, expectations and to-do lists.
If you want to learn more about non-striving and how to use it in coping with existential feelings or stress, then check out the mindfulness-based tool: Non-Striving in the app.