Right effort, pragmatically speaking

This clip from the second class on the eightfold path is a clear expression of the pragmatic quality of Buddhist teaching.

Four right efforts (from 8FP02 01:02:36.08 - 01:07:35.01)

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Now we still have a bit of our Victorian legacy with the word effort. You know we have such wonderful words as diligence, and perseverance, and so forth. All of these words have the notion of nose to the grindstone, you know, you gotta push. The way that effort is usually described in Buddhism, it's very closely related to joy or enthusiasm. Because when you feel good about something you pour your energy into it. That's actually what the word means is that flowing of energy into something because you feel good about it. And that's very, very different from, "I'm gonna push at this and make an effort" etc. Very, very different. 
Now here Buddhist teaching is utterly pragmatic and flies in the face of a lot of idealism, and there is a teaching in Buddhism called the four right efforts. Or that may not be the right title but something along those lines. And they're very simple: reduce the things that you're doing that are making things worse. That's the first one. Second, stop doing the things that are making things worse. Start doing things that make things better. Reinforce those things which make things better. 
Now when you hear this you think, "Oh, it is not rocket science," but it makes a lot of sense. Rather than just trying to turn a switch and move into "Okay, we're just going to do things this way." It never works that way. There's always a transition process and what these four suggestions describe is the transition process. You're going to evolve into a new way of living. So start slowing down or diminishing the things that are making things problematic. And when you get to the point that you can actually stop doing them, then you stop doing them. And then you start the things that make things better, and so forth. 
And what's very important here is to feel that you can be pouring your energy into things, and so that's why when it comes, bring attention into the way that you're exerting effort. People ask you know, "How long should I sit?" or "How much pain should I tolerate?" etc. And some schools of Buddhism you just sit there until you know, you just work through all the pain and that's it. 
But what I generally say to people is as long as you can meet what you're experiencing with some resilience, that is you aren't completely hard, then you can push as hard as you want. But when things become hard, then you stop. Because when things become hard it means that you're shutting something down. You're ignoring something. And that will create an imbalance. So as long as there is some flexibility or softness in your effort then it's fine to push. When things become hard that's when you need to stop and step back a little bit.