I always follow the path of least resistance; and I suspect you do, too. At any given moment, something inside me is taking the vector sum of motivators such as financial pressures, duties, desires, and aspirations. I also take demotivators such as fears, confusion, and doubts to come to a decision. “Do this” might mean starting a new project or going back to sleep. It could mean making that call to your boss or putting it off.
My point is I’m always doing what I find easiest, even if it’s something hard. When I do the hard thing, it’s because I want some result more than I don’t want to do that hard thing.
This model of behavior helps me get the results I want in my life by giving me something I can control: The “landscape” of my choices. I don’t want to stop eating bread; I love how it tastes and feels. But I don’t want to get fat and die from diabetic complications. What to do?
I can weigh my choices. But to do this, I have to step away from the pressure of my immediate feelings. That’s a discipline that has taken me years to master. Now when I recognize the urging of immediate gratification — do this, it will feel wonderful, just this once! — it prompts me to take a step back and consider the long-term consequences.
When I give myself this “breathing space,” I have a chance to remember how short-lived the pleasure of indulgence is and how enduring the cumulative consequences. I choose to focus on the long view and that deflates the pressure of the temptation.
And guess what? Sometimes I eat a piece of bread. By taking responsibility for every choice, recognizing that I’ve weighed the alternatives by their potential outcomes, I’m able to indulge a desire without spiraling down into a vicious circle of guilt, despair, and abdication.
Composer Robert Fritz’s book, The Path of Least Resistance, is based on these insights: We all go through life taking the path of least resistance; the underlying structure of your life determines the path of least resistance. “You can learn to recognize the structures at play in your life and change them so that you can create what you really want to create,” says Fritz. Those structures are what I call the landscape.
When you don’t take control of your circumstantial landscape, you will always be reacting to it.
Here are some suggestions for taking control of your life’s path:
• Take responsibility for everything in your life. This is the most liberating assumption you can make: It’s all my fault. With that as your starting point, you can begin to find ways to change things. If you are a victim of circumstances, you’ll not be able to change them.
• Make it a habit to pause before any decision — especially when you are responding to strong feelings. Take a deep breath. Take a short walk. Consider the consequences of doing or not doing what you feel like at the moment. Be mindful; choose consciously.
• Recognize the role of the circumstantial landscape of your life and take charge of it. If you’re trying to cut back on junk-food snacking, get junk food out of your house. Eliminate activities that involve snacking; develop better alternatives. Create a landscape that puts your desired choices on your path of least resistance. And remember: There are no failures-only feedback. If you’re not getting the outcomes you want, make a change.
— Joel Orr
Joel Orr is a NLP Master Practitioner and CTO of EZOSA, a software start-up. You can contact Joel at www.joeltrainsauthors.com, (650) 336-3037; America’s Empowering Book Coach Twitter: @jobookmaster
Edited by Leslie Gordon