It’s human nature to choose the path of least resistance. In fact, the path of least resistance is a universal law, and the only thing that can defy it is conscious choice.
Have you ever poured a small amount of water on a dry, dusty slope and watched it travel down hill? It’s fun to try and guess its path as it quickly zigzags here and there. Although the water’s path appears unpredictable, in reality its behavior is entrenched in the laws of gravity – it will always follows the path of least resistance.
Our thinking and resulting habits, if unchecked, will follow the same gravitational laws as the stream of water. We automatically choose the path of least resistance. But we’re not water. We can make a conscious decision to chart a new course, and before long, the new course becomes our new way of life, our new path of “least resistance”.
Between our brain cells is a gap call a synapse. When you have a thought, an impulse travels across the gap from brain cell to brain cell. Brain scientists have determined that when you create a new thought, you create a new road of neurodes (neuron connections that fire together a thought). The more often you think a particular thought, the easier it becomes for that thought to travel that new pathway. In a short time that new neuron pathway becomes the path of least resistance.
Our habits are the result of our thoughts automatically taking the path of least resistance. Most of us are unaware of our ability to create this new path of least resistance.
Here’s how it works.
Picture yourself walking down a well-trod forest path when you come to a fork. You can bear left or right. The path leading to the left is hard, clean and clear. It’s easy to travel. It’s your daily habit. The path bearing to the right has weeds and scrub growing along it. There are overhanging branches, and vines obstructing the way.
Your natural inclination is to take the left path, but unlike water, you can decide to try something new. You can clearly see that bearing right will require some additional effort because of the obstacles, but you decide you want a change so you go right. Who knows where it will lead and the advantages it may reveal. Taking this new path will mean cutting a few vines, and having to trample over existing growth, but the path is passable with just a little extra effort. This is the essence of the human experience, the ability to choose.
Imagine this fork representing your desire for a new habit. Suppose your desire is to lose weight. In that case the fork in the road might be whatever you put in your mouth. So for the next several weeks, each time you come to the fork in the road you consciously make the decision to bear right. That means that for the next several weeks each time you unconsciously reach for a soda pop, for example, you change your thought and consciously choose a bottle of water instead. Each time you’re about to snack on a chocolate bar or potato chips, you consciously choose dried-fruit or some other healthy alternative. You’re not starving yourself or curbing your body’s natural desires, you’re simply making a substitution. This is your fork in the road, this is your conscious choice to take the right path.
By conscious choice of taking a new path, and exerting just a little extra effort, before long the left and right path begin to look very much alike. In fact, the path to the left is now beginning to show the signs of neglect. Weeds are beginning to grow, branches and vines are becoming obstacles. The path to the right is showing the opposite effects. With each trip weeds are getting trampled, growth is cutaway and each day the right path has fewer restrictions.
This extra activity is a mirror image of your conscious desire for change. Within a short time – just a few weeks – the path on the right is now hard and clear, while the old path has become overgrown. You have created new neuron pathways in your brain. You have created a new habit.
This simple example is an accurate reflection of how your present habits were created and how you can consciously choose new ones. Through simple thought you have the power to create new neural paths that quickly become your new habits, your new paths of least resistance.
You have the power to change your thoughts. If you change your thoughts, you change your habits. If you change your habits you change your life.
Your success truly does lie at the fork in the road.
So in the immortal advice of Yogi Berra, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it!”
Richard Fast is the author of 29 Days ... to a habit you want! http://www.29daysto.com