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Most of you know by now that my six-year-old black lab, Scarlett, is having a boring summer.
She tore a muscle in her back leg a few months ago, and since then she’s been going to physical therapy and slowly getting back to normal. But it’s going to be a while until she’s cleared to run and swim and jump — all the things she’d rather be doing, basically. For now, all she’s allowed to do is walk.
This shouldn’t be a big deal because most dogs love walks. But not mine. Even in colder weather she’s not much of a fan (walking just for the sake of it? With no other goal in mind? That’s insanely dull. And on 97-degree days? That’s tantamount to torture).
Which leaves me in a pickle. She’s got to exercise so that she doesn’t go stir-crazy. But when I take her out, she’ll only walk for 10 minutes and then turn around. Or she’ll lay prone on the path and refuse to move. Or she’ll roll over and play dead.
And trust me. There is NO WAY to get a 70-pound animal to do what you want if they refuse. I’ve tried dragging, pushing, bribing, and cajoling. There’s no amount of force that works on this dog.
So, I’ve had to outsmart her. I’ve taken to enlisting friends to walk with me, when I can (“pack walks” are magically entertaining compared to just me, it turns out). I pick random locations in my area and drive there to let her explore a new place. Sometimes we walk home and I have to go back and get the car later.
This battle with her has been a really good example of something I’ve tried to master for a long time, but clearly I’m still learning — the path of least resistance works SO much better than force.
I USED TO DO THIS WITH WORK ALL THE TIME
In general, I think all humans try to force things in the direction we assume is right.
I used to do this ALL the time with my work (and I’m sure you can relate):
- I’d try to “push through” another hour of work because it didn’t “make sense” to stop when I hit a wall.
- I’d be feeling uninspired or suffering from writer’s block, but I wouldn’t allow myself NOT to write a blog, because that’s what I was “supposed” to be doing with my time.
- I’d schedule more coaching calls in a day than I felt comfortable with because I needed to make money and I believed it couldn’t happen any other way.
- I’d try to go to a networking event in the city, even though I can’t stand networking OR driving that far on a week night, because that’s “what you do” when you’re building a business.
- I’d offer clients sessions on weekends, even though I dreaded the prospect of not having a Sunday to myself. (I already worked for myself; why did I need weekends to be sacred? Isn’t every day basically a weekend?)
Here’s how I personally define “force”:
It’s the act of going against how you’re naturally wired, or against the current of how something wants to flow. It feels difficult and exhausting because, in order to go against the flow, you’ve got to exert a LOT more energy and effort to make progress.
SO WHY DO WE DO IT?
Why did I insist on trying to make the dog walk in our neighborhood, when she was clearly bored and stubborn and making it difficult EVERY time?
Why did I try so hard to “push through” in business and ignore the resentment I was feeling?
Because I was committed to doing what made logical sense.
It didn’t “make sense” to drive the dog to a new location to walk. Why should I add extra time and complication to our routine when there’s a perfectly good path right outside the front door?
And it didn’t “make sense” to take a break, have fewer calls, not work on weekends, and not go to networking events. How are you supposed to build a business if you don’t put in maximum effort?
Of course, here’s what really ended up happening: I wasted WAY more time and energy trying to force something that wasn’t working or didn’t come naturally to me. And I burnt myself out (in business) and got really crabby (at the dog, and with my work, etc.).
DON’T PUSH THE RIVER
Going against the current is like paddling a kayak upstream while yelling at the river about how it shouldn’tflow in that direction. Have fun wasting your breath, your time, andyour energy.
If you want to get maximum results for minimum effort, all while being happier and more at ease with life, try going with the current rather than against it.
Here’s what happened in business when I stopped doing what “made sense”:
- I started taking breaks when I hit a wall, because I knew that pushing through would only exhaust me more and make it harder to be productive later. Taking a break restores my energy and mood and makes it easier to do good work when I’m ready.
- If I’m suffering from writer’s block, I don’t write.I just do something else and trust that inspiration will return. I get MORE done because I’m not sitting there staring at a blank screen, getting crankier by the minute.
- I schedule fewer calls in a day, and my income hasn’t suffered (in fact, it’s gone up). Packing calls in stretches me too thin and makes me a worse coach. Coaching fewer people allows me to do great work with my clients, and the excess energy I have from NOT over-scheduling allows me to invest time and energy into things (like podcasting) that attract cool new clients.
- I don’t go to networking events ever. I’m an introvert. Small talk and awkward social interactions will NEVER be my jam. What’s the point of showing up somewhere as the worst version of myself? Who’s going to want to work with me after that? Why not save that time and energy for things that showcase me at mybest?
- I don’t coach on weekends.Time to do nothing is CRITICAL to my productivity. If I don’t replenish my batteries, how can I do quality work the rest of the week?
And as for the dog, it’s actually been SO much more enjoyable to shake up our routine. Neither of us resent walks anymore because we’re both getting to explore new places that we hadn’t bothered finding until now.
Plus, we’re not wasting any time. The time I used to spend standing there, trying to get her to move, is now spent actually moving. We’re both getting more exercise, too, which is never a bad thing.
GOING WITH THE FLOW ISN’T LAZY
One last thing: It’s not lazy to follow the path of least resistance. It’s actually the most efficient, productive, mood-enhancing thing you could do.
Trying to force and push only depletes your energy and makes you less likely to get anything done, now andin the future.
When you stop trying to paddle against the current and turn your proverbial kayak around, you can do WAY less work in the same amount of time. Which leaves you EXTRA time for whatever you want — relaxing, recharging, and having fun.
It may not, on the surface, make “logical” sense to go with the current, but who cares? You can’t argue with good results. And the path of least resistance will ALWAYS net you quality results.
So, what are you going to stop forcing and pushing today? What does the path of least resistance look like for you? Come share with me, in the comments!
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Rachel (& Kristen)