How to Give Up Taking the Hard Road and Find the Middle Way

“Is your doing surrendered or non-surrendered? This is what determines your success in life, not how much effort you make. Effort implies stress and strain, needing to reach a certain point in the future or accomplish a certain result.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

It’s a popular myth that can be hard to shake, namely that the hard road is the best route, and the harder you work at your purpose, the bigger and sooner you will succeed. It’s the belief that working until blood pours from your forehead is secretly preferable to a more balanced steady approach. Think about it: how many of us love to proclaim how busy we are? How many of us love to proclaim how balanced we are? Even if we consciously dismiss the idea that the arduous is the best, it’s in the air: trying harder and being harder on yourself wins the game.

Except for every bit of research shows this is a lie. Extensive research shows self-compassion and a slow and steady, step-by-small-step approach is what creates true success – the kind of success that is aligned with your purpose and your heart. But living that research, that truth can be oh so elusive. Personally, I tend to vacillate between “I’ll just answer one more email before I pee” until I almost don’t make it to the bathroom and thinking “I’ll just visualize my way to writing my next book, no need to actually put in the time.” In other words, the Buddha’s beautiful middle way can elude me, and that can tie me in knots where I actually get little done.

Until I remember the brain in my heart. Those amazing 40,000 plus neurons scattered throughout my heart and yours, offering us an elegant and effective way to step off the hard road and glide (or sometimes stumble) onto the middle way. In case you didn’t know, your “heart brain” is a complex nervous system that operates independently of your cranial brain. It learns and remembers, feels and senses, and it directly influences your higher brain functions, much more so than your cranial brain.  Research has shown the faster and most effective way to calm your central nervous system and turn on your decision-making, creativity, and intuition is through activating your heart brain.

I think of it as an emotional thermostat I can use anywhere anytime to realign me with what’s most important and to instill just the right measure of chill. To live my purpose through focused intentional feeling.

How to Give Up Taking the Hard Road and Find the Middle Way

Try it out – see what you think:

Become aware of your body. That might mean simply remembering you have a body, it might mean making a quick trip for that long overdue pee, it might mean feeling the chair you are sitting against and taking a couple of full breaths. Make it easy.

Place your hand on your heart (unless you’re driving and this will make you careen into traffic which would defeat the purpose of the whole exercise). Recall a time when you were feeling balanced and productive, living with purpose and relaxed about the outcome. Too tall an order? Simply remember a time you felt good – the last time you went down a lazy warm river or hung out with friends who really get you. Spend about a minute letting these feelings grow stronger.  Let the specific memory fade and focus just on the good feelings… not straining or naming what you’re feeling, just relaxing into the good feelings.

Now ask yourself, “What is the simplest thing I could next?”  You might have a “next” in mind – a specific project or situation, or maybe not. Doesn’t matter. Trust the power of your heart brain to show you just right next step.

Then take that step. Notice what you know now.  Rinse and repeat the process – it only takes about a minute. Notice after a couple of days if you’ve found your middle way. How does it feel? What results are you noticing? Make a few notes so that when you forget and start hoofing it up the hard road again (we all do!), you have proof that your heart brain can help.

It’s always there, right inside you, ready to be tapped, ready to help you live your purposeful life!

Do you believe that self-compassion and a slow and steady, step-by-small-step approach can lead to true success? You can share your comment by joining the conversation in the comment section below :)


Jen Louden

Jen Louden is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book The Woman’s Comfort Book. She's the author of 5 additional books on well-being and whole living, including The Life Organizer, that have inspired more than a million women in 9 languages. Jen has spoken around the world on self-care, written a national magazine column, and even sat on Oprah's couch talking about the power of retreats. She believes self-love + world-love = wholeness for all. Visit for fab free goodies and upcoming retreat schedule.

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