Humans are naturally hard-wired to take the path of least resistance.
It’s a survival instinct.
According to research, on many occasions, our brain tricks us into believing the ‘low-hanging fruit’ is the best option, “ says Dr Nobuhiro Hagura, who led the UCL team during the research. “…the effort required to act on a decision can influence the decision itself, says eLife, where the study was published.
‘The tendency to avoid the effortful decision remained even when we asked people to switch to expressing their decision verbally, instead of pushing on the handles,’ Dr Hagura said.
The authors explain, “Imagine you are in an orchard, trying to decide which of the many apples to pick. On what do you base your decision? Most research into this type of decision-making has focused on how the brain uses visual information — about features such as colour, size and shape — to make a choice. But what about the effort required to obtain the apple? Does an apple at the top of the tree look more or less tempting than the low-hanging fruit?”
Your resistance brain is an active and relentless force whose sole purpose is to stop you from pushing beyond familiar paths.
The psychologist Tom Ward says when we think about anything, we follow the path of least resistance. Without realizing it, we instantly and automatically categorize every situation we see based on our previous experience.
Despite your best efforts to do something bold and new, your brain drives you back to things tried and true paths, until you push past that resistance and do it anyway.
Steven Pressfield argues that “resistance by definition is self-sabotage”. In his book, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven notes that the more resistance you experience, the more important your potential creative pursuit is to you — and the more gratification you will feel when you finally do it.
He writes, “Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form if that’s what it takes to deceive you. It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimetre in your face like a stickup man. Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get. Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.”
That magnetic repulsion you feel that keeps you from doing what you know you should be doing is the reason:
- You keep postponing your creative expression
- You’re overly critical of anything you try outside your safe bubble.
- You feel your work is never good enough to launch or publish
- You always find some excuse not to do something.
It’s surprisingly easy to get through life and make a career out of choosing the path of least resistance.
The resistance is that little voice in the back of your head telling you to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The one that tells you that it will never work, the one that worries that people will laugh at you when you decide to do and share your life’s work. The resistance brain will do almost anything to keep you from pushing beyond your safe bubble.
In his book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Seth Godin says the lizard brain is the source of the resistance. He writes, “The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny. The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe. The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry. The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks because status in the tribe is essential to its survival.
The resistance brain will tell you anything to keep you from taking action. It will fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, and convince you to give up and stay comfortable.
The path of least resistance constrains the way you think.
Following the path of least resistance can become a habit. We make choices based on what is easiest, most pleasant, or least painful.
The life we seek isn’t found by avoiding pain and staying safe. It comes from contentment in knowing you’ve pushed the limit and you’re doing exactly what you have to do be better — regardless of the pain.
Robert Fritz, author of The Path of Least Resistance says, “If you limit your choice only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.”
The secret to lasting creative expression lies in the very thing you’re avoiding. Those things that seem to break you down and humble your spirit. Seek out discomfort. Be deliberate about doing things that push your limits magnificently.
The key lesson is awareness — realizing when something’s challenging and deciding not to take the easy way out but push through to explore new ways, systems, principles, creative routines, and habits that can help you grow as a person and become your best self.
Redefine your resistance and live life fully every day. When you push past your resistance brain, you feel more productive, more fulfilled and pursue creative projects without second thought.
Previously published on medium
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