The path of most resistance. It’s a term you’re not likely to hear. The term we typically use is the path of least resistance. And, I understand why. It’s natural that we, as human beings, look for efficiencies, shortcuts, and the easiest path. There’s merit to the path of least resistance. We shouldn’t make things hard just for them being hard. Or, should we? Contrary to popular belief there are plenty of times when it would be in our best interest to pursue the path of most resistance.
See, the path of least resistance is a great avenue to pursue during the actual test – when it actually counts. But, if we can train ourselves to take the harder path when it doesn’t, we’ll be much more adequately prepared to handle ourselves when it does. When I’m talking about taking the path of most resistance, what I’m talking about is enabling yourself to better face the trials, obstacles, and hurdles in life.
For example, it’s that uncomfortable conversation that you need to have with your spouse or employer. What most people will do when they know they need to have an uncomfortable is tuck tail and run. They put it off because they’ve never built up the fortitude, toughness, grit, and resiliency required to have those uncomfortable conversations. In my experience, when I have those types of uncomfortable conversations, things get better. Things work things out. But again, most people run away.
Also, consider the way most people start their day. They wake up at their pre-determined time, the alarm clock goes off, and what’s the first thing they do? They take the path of least resistance. They don’t get out of bed; they hit the snooze button. When they think about going to the gym, they make the excuse, “Oh no, I’m not going to do that today. I can do that tomorrow. I’ll start tomorrow.” From there, they go into the kitchen and what do they eat? The cereal, junk food, and everything else they know they shouldn’t consume.
Taking the path of most resistance is about participating in events, experiences, and opportunities that could potentially put yourself in a better situation. Most people won’t because they’re afraid. Thye let the fear of what may happen keep them from doing the very thing that will help them thrive, excel, and succeed in life.
I get it. Fear is real. We have these acronyms like “False Evidence Appearing Real.” I don’t necessarily agree with that. Fear is real. When I’m afraid, there are some legitimate reasons for that fear. There are potential negative consequences of the circumstances we’re afraid of. But this is why it’s so important that we choose the path of most resistance when the consequences and the stakes aren’t all that high so that, when there’s a real conversation that needs to be had, when there’s a real choice that needs to be made, when you’re faced with a natural disaster or, heaven forbid, an active shooter situation or some other emergency, that you’ve adequately prepared yourself by choosing the path of most resistance up until that point.
Let me share with you why I think this is so important to take the path of most resistance:
BUILD UP YOUR RESILIENCE
When you choose the harder path, when you choose to do the harder thing, when you voluntarily place yourself in hardship, you naturally and inevitably build up resilience. I’m talking about physical, mental, and emotional resilience and fortitude so that when it counts, when the stakes are high, you can adequately handle those things because you’ve inoculated yourself against a scary conversation, a natural disaster, some sort of threat, or test that all of us will be tasked with facing.
You have to build up the resilience. You have to build up the grit and the fortitude. And the only way to do that is to put yourself under stress. Volunteer for experiences and events that are going to push you. Volunteer to speak in public. When you know there has to be a conversation that needs to be made, go have that conversation. Try a 24-hour fast because it’s hard. Go to the gym the very first thing in the morning. Push a little harder than you normally would. When everybody else around you is done, keep going. Go into the office early. Leave a little bit later. Do whatever you can to push yourself further than you have before. That is the only way to build resilience.
See, most people think that they’ll just step up to the situation when it calls for it. That’s not true. The Greek poet, Archilochus, said, ” We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.” What does your training say about what kind of man you are? If it’s weak, soft, pathetic or non-existent, you will never be able to step up to the task at hand when called upon.
FOSTER YOUR CREATIVITY
When you choose the harder path, you are naturally going to improve your creative skills and talents. It’s so important in a world that isn’t linear, that’s all over the place, where the unexpected happens and all kinds of trials and obstacles get in our way, that each and every one of us learn to be more creative.
Another quote I came across is “I will find a way or make one.” Sometimes the right course of action isn’t going to present itself easily. Sometimes there isn’t a clear path. For you to become creative and to look for different opportunities and different angles is going to be the way that you’re going to overcome the situation that you may find yourself in.
But if you’ve never placed yourself in any level of stress, you’ve never been uncomfortable, or it’s never been awkward for you because you’ve run and you’ve avoided all of those situations that could have potentially built that creative muscle, you’re going to get stuck. You’re not going to be able to produce, bring in the income, get the client, have the conversation, get the raise, or whatever it is that you’re trying to do. Creativity is so, so important in a world that is going to throw curve balls at you. Unless you give yourself the opportunity mentally, intellectually, and physically to overcome some of these strange scenarios and unpredictable situations that we find ourselves in, you will never be able to thrive when things get difficult.
This is why when I see guys who fail at the slightest sign of adversity or struggle. It’s because they haven’t built up the strength. It’s because they aren’t being creative. So, what do they do? Rather than see a wall and go around it, they turn around and they go home. If you and I have any hope of becoming the men that we’re capable of becoming, we’ve got to be able to be creative and look for solutions that aren’t readily available. When you look creatively at an opportunity and you prove to yourself, your wife, your partner, an employer, an employee that you can be creative, you prove yourself worthy of following because you’re somebody who will get the job done. You will find a way or make one.
CULTIVATE YOUR CONFIDENCE
Another reason it’s so important that you choose the harder path is that it gives you this sense of calmness. You might even say confidence. I’ll give you a very small example and one that I’m learning all too well. A couple of months ago, I started Brazilian jiu-jitsu. As I was wrestling and grappling with other guys on the mat, I noticed that when I would get myself into trouble I would get excited, my heart would start pumping, and I’d start consuming too much energy because I was trying to bulldoze or strong arm my way through a particular move or a hold. And as I grappled with those who were more advanced (blue belts, brown belts, and even black belts), I noticed a level of calmness, clarity, and focus in the way that they were approaching the match.
I’ve literally had guys that I was wrestling with who would have their hands behind their back while I was doing everything I could to submit them or just force them to go where I wanted them to go. These men were thinking things through clearly. They were comfortable. How did they get to that point? They got to that point because they put themselves in the position I was in enough. They made themselves uncomfortable. They put themselves in awkward circumstances.
Guys, we’ve got to get better with being uncomfortable. The more that you can put yourself in uncomfortable situations, the more calmness, the more clarity, the more focus, the more determination, and even the more confidence you will build. How do you build more confidence? You put yourself in situations that force you to be uncomfortable because when you come out the other side unscathed, you recognize that you had something within yourself that you didn’t recognize before.
I know we’re just scratching the surface on what could talk about here, but let me be very clear with you. We’ve got to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations. When we’re faced an unlimited amount of options, we ought to consider taking the path of most resistance. And, I’m not telling you that, by default, you should always take the harder path but you ought to consider it. You ought to recognize that it’s there. You ought to contemplate whether or not you should take that path.
I’ll give you one other example: I have started running over the past several weeks. It would be very easy for me to wake up early in the morning when it’s nice and cool and go out for a little jog. Or, run in the evening when it’s cooled down and I can take it easy. But what I chose to do instead is to run in the middle of the day. And, in the middle of the day where I live in southern Utah, it’s roughly 105 degrees right now.
Now some people will say, “Oh, you shouldn’t do that. That’s dangerous. That’s too hard on your body.” Uh, no, it’s not. I’m not in any risk as long as I’m willing to take care of myself and listen to my body. But I choose to make it harder than it has to be. I choose to run in the middle of the day. I choose to do it when it’s 105 degrees. I choose to go up the mountain rather than the paved, level road. I choose to do that because it’s harder. It’s more challenging. It will build up my resiliency, grit, and creativity as I’m trying to step over different rocks and take different paths. I know that it will help me be calmer if I were ever in some sort of physical situation that had dire consequences that could potentially arise.
Guys, it’s always easier to take the path of least resistance. There are times when we certainly should. But I think we would all be better off if the majority of the time, we considered the harder, more challenging, tougher path.
By building up your resilience, creativity, and confidence by choosing the harder path, when there is a challenging situation, a threat, an uncomfortable conversation, or some sort of obstacle you’re tasked with overcoming, you will have developed and harnessed the tools that will allow you to overcome that. Your ability to overcome trials is, after all, something that your family, your friends, your co-workers, and community members are looking for in you as a leader, and as a man.