Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The path of least resistance


The path of least resistance tells us the easiest way to continue a forward motion from a set of alternative paths. A person taking the path of least resistance avoids personal confrontation or pain. We also make the choice that minimizes the energy consumption from many possibilities. We can see this in the second law of thermodynamics which says that heat always moves from hotter to colder bodies unless external work is performed on the system.


River always runs down hill. It always follows the easiest path. Without conscious effort, we always choose the action which consumes the least energy. We like novelty. This means when we are confronted by many impulses, we choose the new ones which are the easiest paths. When we get lost, we choose the easiest path when we are trying to find out the place we are not familiar with. If we are somewhere uphill, the most probable path for us is down hill, when we have no idea where to go.

Always try to create the path of least resistance for the most desirable things

When I introduced inertia which basically means continue moving into direction where we are already going or stay in the position where we are staying. I talked about habits. In this case, our habits are the path of least resistance after they have been automated into our brains. We need to make our triggers for good habits as available as possible. The more exciting the prizes of our habits are the less resistance we have. These are the basic principles of creating good habits by using the path of least resistance into our advantage. Changing the existing habits is a lot harder and we will think about them much later.

We should also create some decision making systems where the path of least resistance is taken into consideration. Most people have a default option of making choices that are based on our opinions and beliefs. We may disagree with some people without making any research, because we just believe something is true. The reason can be that we just believe in something because we wish it were true. For example, we can believe in some promises from politicians and give our votes for them, because they tell us what we want to hear. They use our paths of least resistance. Truth is politicians can never keep all of their promises.

Always try to create the path of most resistance for the least desirable things

While it is important to create the path of least resistance for the most desirable things, we need to use inversion. We should also make it as hard as possible to choice the path of least resistance for things that are bad for us. This is as important as creating the path of least resistance for the most desirable things. When we are choosing from the alternative paths, we may have to make the worst paths disappear. When we are on a diet, we should keep all the bad food unavailable. Otherwise we may come to a situation where it is too easy to make a choice for eating unhealthy foods. It is probable that this happens when we are in a recovering part of the daily cycle. Feeling tired and emotionally drained leads us to the path of least resistance, which in this case is unhealthy food. We suffer from availability bias. All the triggers to the wrong paths should be eliminated.

Avoiding all the harder paths will get us nowhere in life

We cannot always choose the path of least resistance if we want to achieve something great. If we want to get better at something, the path of least resistance is not enough to move us further. It will probably lead us to become less skilled. We have to fail, experience some pain and reflect. We need to think what we did wrong. And try to improve ourselves. We cannot create new habits or change the existing ones without making conscious choices first. These choices are not our default options and we need to rewire our brains. Rewiring happens through repetition and takes more energy than doing things the way we did before. Things get easier after we have had enough repetitions and ultimately lead us to new or better habit. We have created a new and better path of least resistance. We can create this path of least resistance more easily, when we start creating it during the upper part of the performance cycle. Which means we have less resistance than in the recovering phase of the cycle.

The path of least resistance is not so useful mental model by itself. Understanding inertia, cycles, skills and availability bias (introduced later) helps us to understand it better. As we can see, all these mental models interact. When we understand enough models and how they are related, we create the whole latticework of mental models and using it every day becomes eventually the path of least resistance.


Mastery, George Leonard
Peak, Anders Ericsson
The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
Be Excellent at Anything, Tony Schwartz


No comments:

Post a Comment