To strive is to make an effort to achieve a goal or obtain a desired object.
Is anything wrong with striving?
It is pretty clear that living a healthy and happy life requires applying effort to accomplish things. Desiring and striving to satisfy the desire is how we earn a living, maintain healthy relationships and generally fulfill our needs. Striving is how greatness is achieved.
So why would anyone question whether striving is a good thing or not?
It is because the Buddha's Second Noble Truth is interpreted as "desire (also translated as craving, longing, wishing, or greed) is the cause of suffering". When this is taken literally, the impression is that desire itself is "bad" and, since desire is what motivates striving, striving is "bad". Some believe that striving gets in the way of enlightenment.
On an absolute philosophical level that may be true. Though, if we choose to live happily in the world, we better get over thinking that striving (or anything else for that matter) is intrinsically wrong or bad.
Striving with the intention to help, accepting the realities of impermanence and uncertainty, is essential. It goes away on its own with enlightenment. Until then strive to fulfill your needs.
Fulfilling Our Needs
Abraham Maslow theorized that all people are motivated by the needs for physiological safety, security, belonging, recognition, self-actualization and self transcendence. His theory says that there is a hierarchy so that until the most basic needs are satisfied one is motivated primarily of them. For example, if a person is starving, getting food would take precedence over becoming recognized.
Physiological safety, security, belonging, recognition and self-actualization are the worldly needs that are satisfied by doing work for and on oneself work. Self-transcendence is about identifying with something beyond oneself.
Maslow, a recognized expert in human motivation, whose work is a foundation for many very practical business leadership models, is basically saying that the highest motivation is to go beyond being self-centered. Once the
individual is safe and secure, loved and respected and operating optimally, the need arises to transcend the identification with a small self.
Work seeks to accomplish something by applying effort. There is a paradox. As long as there is striving to accomplish something there is stress and the tendency to be caught up in attachment to a desired outcome. We are still seeking self actualization. Yet, without striving, there is unlikely to be accomplishment. How else do we satisfy the needs to self actualize and transcend.
The key is to recognize that striving in itself is neither good nor bad. Striving by applying energy and effort to overcome the attachment, aversion and ignorance that gets in the way of optimal living seems fine. Striving for material gain, particularly at the expense of others, while being attached to the outcome leads to unnecessary stress and suffering.
So set your mind to accomplishments that are worthwhile, that satisfy needs. Recognize that doing the work free of attachment to the outcome is critical to success. Acting with the intention to do no harm and benefit others approaches self transcendence.
Mindful awareness is the foundation that enables you to observe your motivations and to make your thoughts, words and actions as skillful as they can be.