I’ve always found running to be a good metaphor for life in general.
I know that running has made me better in other aspects of my life, and I’m sure this has something to do with running being hard.
As much as I love running, it isn’t always easy. But hey, neither is life.
And if you’re reading this article, the likelihood is that you both run, and are alive.
We run even though it’s often tough. We sometimes even relish in those tough times.
Maybe it’s even fair to say that it’s the struggle, and overcoming the struggle, that makes running so fulfilling.
What is the path of more resistance?
Throughout life, we are constantly confronted with decisions. It’s how we navigate these decisions that determines the life that we will lead.
The path of more resistance is about making conscious decisions that are tough, but that ultimately lead you to more opportunities and experiences.
Say yes to experiences that scare you.
Scared of public speaking? Do a public speech.
Scared of heights? Bungee Jump.
Find it hard to get out of bed in the morning? Commit to morning runs.
Who am I to talk about choosing the path of more resistance?
Ok, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a spiritual mentor, a psychologist, or a life coach.
But I think it’s fair to say that I’ve chosen the path of more resistance as vague a guiding philosophy in my life.
As a kid, I began to constantly challenge myself with strange and difficult tasks.
I remember giving up sugar for 6 months when I was 12 because I heard it was bad for you.
7 years ago at midnight, I put down my slice of pepperoni pizza and went from omnivore to vegan overnight.
I’m terrified of heights, so for my 16th birthday, I went skydiving.
A couple of years ago, I fancied making a quick trip home to my parents from my uni town, so I hopped on my bike and cycled straight for 260km.
I recently took up ultramarathons, they’re awesome.
My favourite quote is;
“The biggest privilege is being able to choose your struggles”
Falling into the path of least resistence
The path of least resistance is, by nature, easy to fall into.
Picture floating down a river, you will go wherever the current takes you.
It’s comfortable, and leaving the path of least resistance is scary, it’s unknown.
I want to highlight, many people live their lives like this, and my intentions aren’t to undermine or discredit the way that they live. You do you.
However, if you fall into the path of least resistance, easier though it may be initially, it can often end up making your life a lot more difficult in the long run.
The path of least resistence is often harder in the end
The natural direction of your river won’t always be kind to you.
Stripping it right back; doing exercise and eating healthy sometimes sucks, but leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating poorly can suck more when the consequences include suffering from preventable diseases.
Furthermore, choosing the path of more resistance can bring you so much more joy, even in the short term. You don’t have to wait until you don’t get heart disease to reap the benefits of a life lived healthily.
Failiure isn’t permenant
I like the metaphor of you being the captain of your own ship.
In this metaphor, the decisions you make throughout your life equate to angling the boat’s steering wheel in a decided direction.
The decisions you make guide you along a particular course, towards a particular outcome.
Sometimes, it just so happens that you make a wrong turn and veer off course, or a gust of wind comes and blows you off your path. It may feel like you’ve messed up permanently, your chances of staying on course scuppered.
It’s easy to mess up once and want to give up, to fall into the path of least resistance, to let the seas take you towards wherever the currents are flowing and the wind is blowing.
But the thing with a ship’s steering wheel is that it moves, and you can move it! Veering off course only means that you have the choice to veer back on.
The path of more resistance is never smooth. Mistakes are most often not permanent. It’s about consistently steering your life towards your chosen direction whenever you get blown off course.
If you skip your run one day, you haven’t failed at your training plan. We’re only human. The best we can do is align our next decision with our goal, or our destination on the horizon.
Cultivating your resilience
Choosing to live a life of more resistance means perpetually bouncing back.
When you consciously put yourself through hard stuff, you have to build up your grit and resilience. In fact, doing things that challenge you is the only way you can build resilience.
You train your resilience much like you train a muscle- you work on it.
Greek poet, Archilochus, said;
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.”
Doubting the path of more resistence
We all know the feeling- it’s the night before a morning workout and you’re all game. There’s no doubt in your mind that you’re going to smash it. You’ll spring out of bed, grab yourself a coffee and a snack and you’re go go go!
But when that morning alarm goes off, last night’s dream is very far from reality. Your bones are heavy, it’s an effort to even open your eyes, and drifting back asleep seems oh so inviting.
You doubt the path of more resistance.
Do I really need to do this workout? Why would I put myself through that? It’s not worth it, my bed is so comfy and warm.
How I’ve doubted the path of more resistence
Whilst I was running my first ultramarathon I had a moment where I seriously doubted the path I had chosen.
It was kilometre 80 (mile 50), I was slogging up a relentlessly steep climb, and I began to bitterly despise the fact that I was running an ultramarathon.
For a good ten minutes, thoughts of a comfortable life filled my head.
I had come to the conclusion that I was going to finish this ridiculous run, get a desk job, stop running, and instead fill my free time with Netflix and boozy trips to the pub.
Why on earth was I torturing myself for literally no reason? Why was I running across a good chunk of my home county just to get a lift back home?
I vowed my life was going to be comfortable from now on, no more unnecessary pain.
Needless to say, 5 minutes later, (and after my sugary snack kicked in) I was laughing away at myself, grooving to my favourite tune.
And, only a couple of months later, I signed up for my next ultramarathon. This time longer, harder, and colder than the last.
Dopamine- is it relevant?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It’s released when your brain is exposed to an intense experience; drugs, social media, sex, food.
Dopamine is essential for keeping us alive, but we live in an age where we can constantly bounce from one dopamine-releasing activity to another.
Instant gratification is a cruel mistress. When dopamine is released it creates a reward system in your brain. Your brain labels the action as good, and commands you to do it all over again.
It’s this constant dopamine feedback loop that can keep us trapped in the path of least resistance.
You’re all snuggled up in bed with every series in the world on your laptop, food delivery apps on your phone, and every meme ever at your fingertips. The next best thing is always just a click away.
When we are perpetually surrounded by dopamine triggers, it becomes even easier for us to not leave our comfort zone, to not choose the path of more resistance.
This is because we don’t have time to reflect and reset.
Taking a dopamine break
Choosing the path of more resistance in our modern society can mean giving yourself time off dopamine triggers.
This can be as simple as going for a walk or a run without music, cooking yourself a meal, painting, or reading a book.
Doing this allows you a clearer view of the life you want, and the difficult decisions it takes to get yourself there.
Ever notices how your best ideas and decisions come to you during a run?
For a great dopamine-related read, I can highly recommend Anna Lembke’s book, Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence.
The more you practice, the easier it becomes
Like most things, the more you do the thing, the easier the thing becomes.
This is true of running, and this is true of choosing the path of more resistance.
So go ahead and say yes to things that are hard, say yes to things that scare you.
(Sign up for your dream race!)
And keep at it!
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Sounds hard? It might be the first step towards a more exciting and fulfilling life.