Are You StriDing or StriVing?

| | General Leadership

Much has been written about flow and being in the present moment. I have read a ton of it, searching for keys to experiencing more flow in my life and work. I can work so hard at times that I exhaust myself in the process. There have also been too many times in my life when I have worked like crazy and not been particularly satisfied with the outcome or the journey. Does this sound familiar? When I look around at my family, friends and clients I know I am not alone in those experiences. Of course we have all had times of flow as well. However, it can be challenging to find your way back once you get off track.

When Christine Comaford asked us, a group of highly motivated entrepreneurs, this question, I had one of those “aha” moments. It is such a simple yet potent question. It is a simple context for observing your experience in any given moment. What makes it potent is that it also gives us a very clear choice that we can make to shift our experience immediately.

Take a moment and think about these two words. I am not asking “what do they mean?”, but rather “what do they feel like?”.

While both words imply moving forward, each provokes a very distinct experience. If you have ever watched a world class dancer or athlete they make their execution of extraordinary skills seem effortless to us as the observer. They are not trying to get to the end of the performance or the game. They are focused on executing flawlessly in each and every moment. Runners are taught to relax into their stride rather than to push themselves to the finish line. It actually conserves precious energy. Champions, while their eye is in the prize, learn to stride in their execution. If you want to be a champion in whatever you do or even just enjoy the journey more I suggest you learn to stride more and strive less.


In our society, particularly our business culture, there is a lot of attention on achievement. People are striving to be the best and to do their best. And there is certainly nothing wrong with either. Some of us even thrive on the adrenaline rush that often comes along with the drive to succeed. Yet the way we go about achieving anything can either fuel us or leave us exhausted and/or unsatisfied. We can spend too much time thinking and worrying about the future that we forget to be present in the only moment we have, right now. We can work really hard trying to do everything and go as fast as possible only to end up exhausted. We can get so caught up in all we have to do that we miss the moments in our lives that are truly the most precious. Perhaps the most surprising cost of all is that we can achieve extraordinary things and be left feeling unsatisfied, like it is somehow not enough or that we haven’t gotten “there” yet.


The simple answer is we know it when we feel it. So at best I can attempt to describe the feeling from my own point of view. Nonetheless I’ll give it a shot. I invite you to answer this question in your comments as well.

My first thought is that striding is like flow – that experience when everything just seems to be clicking. We lose track of time. It takes effort, yet feels effortless. We feel inspired and often make remarkable progress. And when we step away from what we are doing, we have this intense level of satisfaction knowing we just did some of our best work.

My second thought is that perhaps the difference between striving and striding can be the difference between working hard and working smart. Chances are if you are working at a frenetic pace, feeling pressured and stressed out you are striving.


A final note of thanks… A few weekends ago I participated in a workshop called the Business Acceleration Intensive with Christine Comaford of Mighty Ventures. I want to thank Christine, Paul Keetch and the participants in BAI for sharing your wisdom, your inspiration and for your incredible support. Somehow I think I will be striding a lot more knowing I have all of you in my corner.

If you want to experience Christine’s coaching I suggest you go to http://www.AskChristine.com and register for her next free teleseminar. If you do I highly recommend you submit a question.


Enter A Comment

Hillary Rubin   |   09 March 2009   |   Reply

Excellent!!! I have been watching myself going back and forth and when I am in my true space I am striding in life. That is with my health, relationships and business. As a leader of a movement I feel those around me striving to become healthy but really when they make a choice to align and move forward their actions say I am in. Whenever I feel alone I know I am am striving to make something work but when I stride, I know I am along amazing people who are shifting the world we live in.

You are amazing and thank you for adding this post.


http://www.AskHillaryNow.com – for those who want to strive within diagnosis and find true wellness ask away!

prissyperfection   |   09 March 2009   |   Reply

Hmmm…A very fine distinction between striving and striding but an important one.

As a recovering perfectionist, I think striving has more often been my modus operandus and as I reflect on that, coming to the end of a project or work assignment has always felt like finishing a race and being grateful that I managed to survive it… with exhaustion as my reward.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the notion that just enjoying the process makes for a better end result.

I suppose it is easier for me to say, now that I am “retired” but what I know for sure is that by rushing to get to the end it is easy to miss some pretty wonderful experiences along the way.

Thanks for the reminder, Susan

Jay   |   09 March 2009   |   Reply

I am constantly striving in this new world of self employment, but I can see the how exhausting it is to keep this up for long periods of time. I need to learn to strive long enough to set up systems to stride by themselves, so I can stay home and stride through my life! Flow is an experience I feel in blogging, but not in business…yet. I will get there- I have you to teach me the way. Thanks Susan!

Lisa Hickey   |   10 March 2009   |   Reply

What I love about this construct is that it takes into account the fact that when we are striding we are actually going somewhere, moving towards a goal or destination. Striving, I equate with “struggle”, and I don’t feel like it’s nearly as focused. I like the idea of taking a moment during my day to reflect on which one it “feels like” I am doing, and if I don’t feel like I’m striding to ask myself why not. Thank you for that!

Jerry Roberts   |   10 March 2009   |   Reply

I think you have to strike a balance. To me, “getting there” is the most fun. Once you’re achieved something I think you sit down, inspect the landscape for a very brief time, celebrate what took place — and then move on to the next chapter.

Some people are obsessed with the desire to succeed and never take this time. To them, a 24/7 assault on getting — or staying — on top is all that matters. Being recognized as the best is so important to them that they’re willing to sacrifice everything else.

I remember a line from The Natural with Robert Redford, when he was talking with the Barbara Hershey character (before she shot him):

Harriet: “What do you want, Roy?”

Roy: “I want to be able to walk down the street and have people say, ‘There goes Roy Hobbs, the best that ever was.'”

Harriet: “Is that all.”

Roy: “What else is there?”

How we answer Harriet’s question determines how we approach business and life, and to a degree whether we always strive or ever stride.

Chuck Musciano   |   11 March 2009   |   Reply

Susan, I really like the way you boiled this down to its (alliterative) essence. We all know what striding feels like: it’s when you are “in the zone” and everything else fades away. When I was a software developer, I would often puts my fingers on the keyboard and glance up at the clock, only to discover that eight hours had gone by. I was in the zone, striding in the world of slinging code.

Striving is what happens when you try too hard. We give this advice to our kids all the time. My son is on a baseball team, where striding and striving are the difference between winning and losing. The boys put so much pressure on themselves that they overwhelm their natural talents. You cannot hit well when you are striving; you hit it every time when you are striding.

When you find yourself striving, slow down and relax. Let your natural skills take over, and the striding will begin.

Henie   |   13 March 2009   |   Reply


Once again, you have added another view over the rainbow for me! Excellent! Thank you!

“Striding is riding a horse in full gallop; Striving is trying to saddle a horse on hind legs!” ~Henie~

Tsufit   |   15 March 2009   |   Reply

It’d be amazing if we could wake up and go through every day feeling that flow. It has to do with confidence, I think, confidence in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

I loved Bruce Carlson’s comment on your last post about distraction. Kinda hard to be in the flow or confident about what you’re doing when you’re not sure it’s the right thing to be focusing your attention on at that moment.
Author, Step Into The Spotlight!

Bruce Carlson   |   17 March 2009   |   Reply

So spot on Susan! Years ago I heard a famous author and speaker put the question slightly differently, but for me it carries the same weight: “Are you a human “being” or a human “doing?”

When I get caught up in Striving I become a human doing rather than a human being.

I was once taught by well-meaning people that I only have value in life based on how much I do. I have since rejected that, thankfully. 🙂

Thanks for another wonderful post!

JuergenB   |   19 March 2009   |   Reply

I have a contribution from my much loved Sport of Mountain Biking: “Leadership State of Flow = Unconscious Competence. If you fall often on the way there, don’t worry…”


Liara Covert   |   22 March 2009   |   Reply

When a human being struggles, this exerts effort against the body and against the natural flow of energy. As you evolve to attune differently to energy, then you suddenly cease exerting effort in directions and pursuits that do not serve you. Every thought and feeling that you emit is conveyed in form and formless energy vibration. Until energy vibration registers on your conscious radar screen, you are not connected with what is truly occurring. Your degree of consciousness determinrs what you notice and whether or not you respond to any inner impulse to act.

Jann Freed   |   23 May 2009   |   Reply

Susan–This is an “aha” moment: striving vs. striding. I, too, talk about being present and being the flow. Striding does make sense. Striving feels stressful. I like the questions you ask in terms of how do the terms make me feel. Interesting.

I often talk about the difference between being “interested? and being “interesting.” I think there is a significant difference in how these terms influence behaviors.

Jeremy Nash   |   02 September 2009   |   Reply

Looking at where our energy is going and how it’s moving – very important. I like that as one kind of indicator. It becomes more complete, more accurate, and more meaningful for me when I look at this in the context of relationships. I don’t think there is even a conversation about “striding” that’s possible when we’re not deeply connected. And I mean with others, with nature, with our boogie board, camera, pasta creation … or with the Divine. Supposing this is the case, then, to be in a “stride-ful” state would have us look at how’s that relationship going … right now? Striding is about being present inside our I-Thou relationship.

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