If there’s something you want to improve about your life – read more, eat less, learn to play piano – how do you go about getting yourself to do the things you need to do to make that happen?
Do you have to force, coerce, and bully yourself into action, hating every second until it’s done? And does that work for you?
Or does it just sort of… flow? Do you look back a few months later and think “Oh, wow, I did that thing almost without realising?”
The path of least resistance
We like to think that we are always acting rationally, always in control, always making our decisions consciously. The truth is that we are almost never doing any of these things.
The truth is that – as a human being – you are almost always following the path of least resistance, wherever it might take you. You are doing whatever feels like the easiest choice in the moment.
This force is neutral – its goodness or badness depends entirely on the situation. The only thing you can do is accept that it exists.
If forcing yourself to do things works for you, then don’t let me stop you. I just know that it doesn’t work for me.
If I try to do it that way, I have a very stressful two or three days of straining to make myself do things that feel completely unnatural, and then I give up. I achieve basically nothing – none of the results I wanted – and I get the added bonus of a dip in self-esteem.
What works for me is not trying harder. It’s making the things I know I need to do easier – making it so that I don’t have to exert so much willpower just to get moving.
If I can get people that I like involved in whatever I’m doing, it’s easier.
If I can make it so that everything I need is in one place, physically, it’s easier.
If I can add a good deadline – not too ambitious, but not boringly far away either – it’s easier.
If I know I have time to mentally relax and recouperate afterwards, it’s easier.
It’s a part of your nature
My point is that there’s a part of you that will always try and drag you down in the moment when you want to do the right thing. Stay one step ahead of it by making doing the right thing easier.