Magic Bullet Thinking

 – the Easiest Way to Shoot Yourself in the Foot

I recently had a conversation with a friend who is a writer (one of many friends who are) and we were talking about seclusion and how necessary it was for him and his writing process. I’ve written about my “isolation” wrestling matches before. What struck me was how disciplined he is about his self-imposed exile, how he very deliberately goes within and only emerges after he has fleshed out his inspiration. Meanwhile, when I am in seclusion, I find myself checking Facebook every 10 minutes to see what’s going on. I’ve become very aware of the need for Self-Discipline.

I’ve discovered that one of the primary keys to success is Self-Discipline. In fact, it is nearly impossible to achieve success (in whatever goal) without Self-Discipline, and its cousin, Persistence, to do whatever it takes to accomplish the goal and not give up.

Lack of discipline causes us to make excuses and sell ourselves short. As the American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard once said: ‘Self-discipline is the ability to do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.’” Without self-discipline, no other success principles work.

I’ll examine the importance of self-discipline in a future post, but today I wanted to examine its two “enemies” of self-discipline, as defined by human behavioralists and many business success gurus: The Path of Least Resistance … and the Path of Expediency.

Recognizing these two principles is important, because as a coach, I continually see people falling into these traps. These two principles go hand in hand with not having set goals and a blueprint of how to achieve them (and we’ll explore that later).

Human behavioralists state that the Path of Least Resistance is what causes people to take the easy way in almost every situation. People on this path seek shortcuts to everything; over time they develop habits of seeking an easier, faster way of getting the things they want rather than doing what is necessary to achieve real success. It’s here that you find people refusing to do “the work” that leads to achievement, because “the work” is usually much more difficult. This is the principle that leads people to believe that there’s a quick fix for all of life’s challenges.

The Expediency Factor, which is an extension of the law of least resistance, says, “People invariably seek the fastest and easiest way to get the things they want, right now, with little or no concern for the long-term consequences of their behaviors” – or that they’d prefer to do the fun and easy things that have little value.

Moreover, Denis Waitley, founding member of the National Council for Self-Esteem and author of “Seeds of Greatness” stated that top performing go-getters and self-starters were those who were more concerned with activities that were “goal achieving,” whereas average people were more concerned with activities that were “tension relieving.”

The human desire to “get the goods” without effort gives rise to people like Bernie Madoff and diet pills that are extremely hazardous to health.

If we look at the statistics of how many hours per day most people watch TV (5 hours per day and rising), we’d know these conclusions to be true. If we look at the messages of the advertisements we’re exposed to (particularly around diet and fitness … or even the Bernie Madoff schemes) we’d see this principle at play… get results faster, quicker, with less effort. I even see this principle at work with holistic healing training. These days Reiki Master credentials are bestowed and distributed in nearly the same manner as the airborne leaflet propaganda techniques used in World War II – take this 2-day workshop and you are a master of this energy healing technique. If we look at the low percentage of people who are willing to work intensely and with focus, to improve their lives and achieve a goal, again, we’d see these principles at play.

Again, as a coach and spiritual counselor, I know how arduous working toward a goal is. I know what it’s like to wrestle with self-doubt and the voice that tells us we aren’t good enough. I’ve witnessed what it’s like to go within, to root out the self-saboteur.

But what also strikes me, as I think about the human tendency to seek pleasure, or the “Gimme the Goods” mentality versus the need to be disciplined for success, is how hard we make it for ourselves. If these principles are inherent to our nature, perhaps we need to up our odds. If we are easily programmed to do fun and effortless things, wouldn’t it make sense that as we set out to find careers or relationships, we would choose occupations that bring us joy and relationships that blossom like gardens? Wouldn’t that make it far more fun, and a lot easier, to achieve success? Instead of trying to achieve success with jobs that numb our souls and joyless relationships?

To be truly prosperous, we need to avoid the traps of Expediency and the Path of Least Resistance. How can you up your odds?

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