I think it was Thomas Edison who said: ‘If we all did the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.’ I remember trying to explain that to my daughter a few years ago when she insisted she didn’t have to do her homework because she found the subject too difficult. In her world, she got to do the bits she wanted and pretend the rest didn’t exist.
Even so, I couldn’t be too hard on her. After all, adults act the same way. We often do what is expedient rather than what’s right. We avoid problems instead of dealing with them and we’d rather be comfortable than challenged. Whether fourteen or forty often we choose the path of least resistance.
The path of least resistance
The path of least resistance is natural. The river doesn’t flow through the mountain it goes around it so why should you be any different?
- It’s easier to watch television than to exercise.
- It’s easier to remain quiet than to stand up for what you believe.
- It’s easier to lie than to admit you made a mistake.
- It’s easier to stay in a comfortable job rather than risk failure with a new challenge.
It was easier for an eight-year-old to gravitate to the homework she enjoyed rather than tackle the subjects she found more challenging.
But taking that path can become a habit that dictates the life choices you make. Choices that are motivated by your desire to avoid what’s unpleasant or difficult and latch on to what seems easy. It’s a basic human drive to avoid pain while seeking pleasure.
But here’s the thing. If you want a great life, one where you feel fulfilled and full of purpose, a life where you can’t wait to jump out of bed each morning, it won’t be found at the end of a path of comfort and plain sailing.
The key to escaping mediocrity
Life is a series of challenges, each with increasing intensity and difficulty. The key to creating an elevated future is to embrace those challenges.
Resistance is a good thing.
Remember as a child when learning your multiplication tables and tying your shoe laces were the biggest challenges you faced? You got frustrated, cried and thought you’d never get it. With persistence and perseverance, however, you finally figured it out.
Looking back you understand why you needed to overcome those obstacles and the same holds true now that you’re all grown up. The challenges are bigger but they all serve a purpose of preparing you for something greater.
And here’s how:
1. You get to take responsibility
That means knowing that your actions are up to you and you can choose how to respond to what happens in your life. By doing that you focus on finding solutions to your problems and you feel empowered, resourceful and confident that you are able to figure it out.
2. You get to test your commitment
How committed are you to the goal you’ve set? Is it something you really want or are you paying lip service? When obstacles to your goal appear you’ll quickly find out the answer. Are you willing to do what it takes to get past them?
3. You get to push your limits and find out what you’re capable of
Your perception of what you’re able to do is often limited. Challenges take you out of your comfort zone and force you to find creative ways or develop the skills you lack to achieve your goal. Imagine that feeling of satisfaction knowing you did it, that builds inner confidence which sets you up for dealing with the next challenge.
4. You get to discover new opportunities
Challenges present a unique opportunity to learn and grow. Often by working through a challenge and breaking through personal barriers you find a wealth of opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t.
5. You get a life lesson
At the end of it, sometimes a long time later, you get to reflect. You ask the question: ‘What was the lesson that made this experience worthwhile?‘ Although it can be difficult to see the lesson there is always one, you just need to be willing to reframe the experience.
6. You get to teach and inspire
Whether you’re aware of it or not, what you do has an impact on the people around you. How often have you been inspired by someone else’s experience? In the same way, your experience and the lessons you learn can be used to educate, empower and inspire others too. Your life can be a testimony to what’s possible.
So take a look at your life. Is it one of little growth and improvement? Does it feel like you’re just going through the motions with no compelling vision pulling you forward? That’s the path to a mediocre life (or worse). Remember, your vision of the future shapes your current behaviour. Elevate your goals and you will be compelled to elevate who you are to reach them.
The bottom line? If you want a great life you won’t get it by avoiding pain
Just think of a life where you didn’t grow and improve, a life where you never tried to live up to your full potential. It sounds pretty mediocre and uninspiring but that is a life without resistance.
Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t mean that your life is supposed to be a constant struggle. It just means that the easy route shouldn’t be the default selection in your decision-making. Your behaviour should be driven by the future you want to create.
So whatever you’re facing right now don’t run from it. Believe that you are capable of dealing with it because you are. Don’t continue to choose avoidance and convenience. Be inspired by the future you want to create and embrace the difficulties that come as you try to get there. Because if you can get through it, on the other side is a real chance at greatness.
Now over to you.
Are you unhappy with your life right now?
What is one area that you really want to improve?
How can you push yourself right now to take action on it?
Let me know in the comments.