An aim gives a meaning, a purpose to life, and this purpose implies an effort; and it is in effort that one finds joy.
Exactly. It is the effort which gives joy; a human being who does not know how to make an effort will never find joy. Those who are essentially lazy will never find joy—they do not have the strength to be joyful! It is effort which gives joy. Effort makes the being vibrate at a certain degree of tension which makes it possible for you to feel the joy.
But is the effort which brings joy an effort imposed by circumstances or an effort which makes for progress?
You are mixing up two things: one physical, the other psychological. It is quite obvious that an act done because one has decided to do it and an act imposed by circumstances, more or less favourable, do not have at all the same result. It is known, for instance, that people who follow yogic discipline often fast. Many yogic disciplines require very long fastings and those who practise them are generally very happy to do so, for that is their own choice. But take this very person and put him in circumstances where food is scarce, either because it cannot be had or because this person has no money, and you will see him in a lamentable state, complaining that life is terrible, though the conditions may be identically the same; but in one case there was the decision not to eat, whilst in the other the man did not eat because he could not do otherwise. That is obvious, but this is not the only reason.
It is only effort, in whatever domain it be—material effort, moral effort, intellectual effort—which creates in the being certain vibrations which enable you to get connected with universal vibrations; and it is this which gives joy. It is effort which pulls you out of inertia; it is effort which makes you receptive to the universal forces. And the one thing above all which spontaneously gives joy, even to those who do not practise yoga, who have no spiritual aspiration, who lead quite an ordinary life, is the exchange of forces with universal forces. People do not know this, they would not be able to tell you that it is due to this, but so it is.
There are people who are just like beautiful animals— all their movements are harmonious, their energies are spent harmoniously, their uncalculating efforts call in energies all the time and they are always happy; but sometimes they have no thoughts in their head, sometimes they have no feelings in their heart, they live an altogether animalish life. I have known people like that: beautiful animals. They were handsome, their gestures were harmonious, their forces quite balanced and they spent without reckoning and received without measure. They were in harmony with the material universal forces and they lived in joy. They could not perhaps have told you that they were happy— joy with them was so spontaneous that it was natural—and they would have been still less able to tell you why, for their intelligence was not very developed. I have known such people, who were capable of making the necessary effort (not a prudent and calculated effort but a spontaneous one) in no matter what field: material, vital, intellectual, etc., and in this effort there was always joy. For example, a man sits down to write a book, he makes an effort which sets vibrating something in his brain to attract ideas; well, suddenly, this man experiences joy. It is quite certain that, whatever you do, even the most material work, like sweeping a room or cooking, if you make the necessary effort to do this work to the maximum of your ability, you will feel joy, even if what you do is against your nature. When you want to realise something, you make quite spontaneously the necessary effort; this concentrates your energies on the thing to be realised and that gives a meaning to your life. This compels you to a sort of organisation of yourself, a sort of concentration of your energies, because it is this that you wish to do and not fifty other things which contradict it. And it is in this concentration, this intensity of the will, that lies the origin of joy. This gives you the power to receive energies in exchange for those you spend.
[CWM2, 4:31-33]
When we make an effort to do better but don’t see any progress, we feel discouraged. What is the best thing to do?
Not to be discouraged! Despondency leads nowhere.
To begin with, the first thing to tell yourself is that you are almost entirely incapable of knowing whether you are making progress or not, for very often what seems to us to be a state of stagnation is a long—sometimes long, but in any case not endless—preparation for a leap forward. We sometimes seem to be marking time for weeks or months, and then suddenly something that was being prepared makes its appearance, and we see that there is quite a considerable change and on several points at a time.
As with everything in yoga, the effort for progress must be made for the love of the effort for progress. The joy of effort, the aspiration for progress must be enough in themselves, quite independent of the result. Everything one does in yoga must be done for the joy of doing it, and not in view of the result one wants to obtain…. Indeed, in life, always, in all things, the result does not belong to us. And if we want to keep the right attitude, we must act, feel, think, strive spontaneously, for that is what we must do, and not in view of the result to be obtained.
As soon as we think of the result we begin to bargain and that takes away all sincerity from the effort. You make an effort to progress because you feel within you the need, the imperative need to make an effort and progress; and this effort is the gift you offer to the Divine Consciousness in you, the Divine Consciousness in the Universe, it is your way of expressing your gratitude, offering your self; and whether this results in progress or not is of no importance. You will progress when it is decided that the time has come to progress and not because you desire it.
If you wish to progress, if you make an effort to control yourself for instance, to overcome certain defects, weaknesses, imperfections, and if you expect to get a more or less immediate result from your effort, your effort loses all sincerity, it becomes a bargaining. You say, “See! I am going to make an effort, but that’s because I want this in exchange for my effort.” You are no longer spontaneous, no longer natural.

Two things to remember

“So there are two things to remember. First, we are incapable of judging what the result ought to be. If we put our trust in the Divine, if we say… if we say, “Well now, I am going to give everything, everything, all I can give, effort, concentration, and He will judge what has to be given in exchange or even whether anything should be given in exchange, and I do not know what the result should be.” Before we transform anything in ourselves, are we quite sure of the direction, the way, the form that this transformation should take?—Not at all. So, it is only our imagination and usually we greatly limit the result to be obtained and make it altogether petty, mean, superficial, relative. We do not know what the result can truly be, what it ought to be. We know it later. When it comes, when the change takes place, then if we look back, we say, “Ah! That’s it, that is what I was moving towards”—but we know it only later. Before that we only have vague imaginations which are quite superficial and childish in comparison with the true progress, the true transformation.
So we say, first point: we have an aspiration but we don’t really know the true result we ought to obtain. Only the Divine can know that.
And secondly, if we tell the Divine, “I am giving you my effort, but, you know, in exchange I must make progress, otherwise I won’t give you anything at all!”—that is bargaining. That’s all.
A spontaneous act, done because one cannot do otherwise, and done as an offering of goodwill, is the only one which truly has any value.
[CWM2, 9:316-18]
Mother, this new force which is going to act, will it act through individual effort or independently of it?
Why this opposition? It acts independently of all individual effort, as if automatically in the world, but it creates individual effort and makes use of it. Individual effort is one of its means of action, and perhaps the most powerful. If one thinks that individual effort is due to the individual, it is an illusion, but if the individual under the pretext that there is a universal action independent of himself refuses to make an individual effort, he refuses to give his collaboration. The Force wants to use, and does in fact use individual effort as one of the most powerful means at its disposal. It is the Force itself, it is this Power which is your individual effort.
[CWM2, 9:05]
One who advances in Truth is not troubled by any error, for he knows that error is the first effort of life towards truth.
[CWM2, 2:85]
Correct effort. Do not make useless efforts for useless things, rather keep all the energy of your effort to conquer ignorance and free yourself from falsehood. That you can never do too much.
[CWM2, 3:249]
Sweet Mother, is personal effort always egoistic?
There we are, you see. French is not as rich a language as we could hope for. In English there are two words: “selfish” and “egoistic”. And they don’t mean the same thing. You know the difference in English, don’t you? Well, in this case, the French word “égoïsme” is in the sense of egoism in English, not in the sense of “selfishness”.
There may be an effort which is not at all selfish and is yet egoistic, because the moment it becomes personal it is egoistic —that means, it is based on the ego. But this does not mean that it is not generous, compassionate, unselfish nor that it is for narrow personal ends. It is not like that. It may be for a very unselfish work. But so long as an ego is there it is egoistic. And so long as the sense of one’s own personality is there, it is naturally something egoistic; it is founded on the presence of the ego.
[CWM2, 7:366]
“When we have passed beyond willings, then we shall have Power. Effort was the helper, Effort is the bar.”
                                                 Sri Aurobindo [Thoughts and Glimpses, SABCL, Vol. 16, p. 377]
And he [Sri Aurobindo] contrasts these “willings”—that is, all these superficial wills, often opposite and contradictory and without any lasting basis because they are founded on what he calls a “knowing” and not on knowledge—with the true will. These willings are necessarily fragmentary, passing, and often in opposition to one another, and this is what gives to the individual life and even to the collective its nature of incoherence, inconsistency and confusion…. The word “will” is normally reserved to indicate what comes from the deeper being or the higher reality and what expresses in action the true knowledge which Sri Aurobindo has contrasted with knowings. So, when this will which expresses the true knowledge manifests in action, it manifests through the intervention of a deep and direct power which no longer requires any effort. And that is why Sri Aurobindo says here that the true power for action cannot come until one has gone beyond the stage of willings, that is, until the motive of action is the result not of a mere mental activity but of true knowledge.
True knowledge acting in the outer being gives true power.
This seems to be an explanation, the real explanation of that very familiar saying which is not understood in its essence but expresses a truth: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”, to will is to have the power. It is quite obvious that this does not refer to “willings”, that is, to the more or less incoherent expression of desires but to the true will expressing a true knowledge; for this true will carries in itself the force of truth which gives power— an invincible power. And so, when one expresses “willings”, to be able to apply them in life and make them effective, some effort must come in—it is through personal effort that one progresses, and it is through effort that one imposes one’s willings upon life to make it yield to their demands—but when they are no longer willings, when it is the true will expressing the true knowledge, effort is no longer required, for the power is omnipotent.
[CWM2, 8:360-61]
Effort well-directed breaks down all obstacles.
Be steady in your aspiration and it is sure to be granted.
[CWM2, 14:161]


Why this discouragement? Each one has his difficulties, yours are no more insurmountable than those of others. You have only to remain confident and cheerful.
[CWM2, 16:69-70]
You must never get discouraged when you find yourself before a wall, never say, “Oh! What shall I do? It is still there.” In this way the difficulty will still be there and still there and still there, till the very end. It is only when you reach the goal that everything will suddenly crumble down.
[CWM2, 4:181]
When someone feels that he is not advancing, he must not get discouraged; he must try to find out what it is in the nature that is opposing, and then make the necessary progress. And suddenly one goes forward.
[CWM2, 6:26]