Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The path of least resistance


The path of least resistance tells you 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. You also make the choice that minimizes the energy consumption from many possibilities. You 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, you always choose the action which consumes the least energy. You like novelty. This means when you are confronted by many impulses, you choose the new ones which are the easiest paths. When you get lost, you choose the easiest path when you are trying to find out the place you are not familiar with. If you are somewhere uphill, the most probable path for you is downhill, when you don´t know 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 you are already going or stay in the position where you are. I talked about habits. In this case, your habits are the path of least resistance after they have been automated into our brains. You need to make your triggers for good habits as available as possible. The more exciting the prizes of your habits are the less resistance you have. These are the basic principles of creating good habits by using the path of least resistance into your advantage. Changing the existing habits is a lot harder.

You 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 their opinions and beliefs. You may disagree with some people without making any research, because you just believe something is true. The reason can be that you just believe in something because you wish it is true. For example, you can believe in some promises from politicians and give your votes for them, because they tell us what we want to hear. They use your 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, you need to use inversion and also make it as hard as possible to choice the path of least resistance for things that are bad for you. This is as important as creating the path of least resistance for the most desirable things. When you are choosing from the alternative paths, you may have to make the worst paths disappear. When you are on a diet, you should keep all the bad food unavailable. Otherwise you 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 will lead you to the path of least resistance, which in this case is unhealthy food. You 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

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


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