GoalsOnTrack Blog

A systematic approach to achieving goals and getting results.

How to Develop Habits with Greater Ease


By Matt Valentine

It happened again.

You got excited about creating a habit, whether it was exercise, meditation, developing a new skill, or something else altogether, did a bunch of work for a few weeks and it just….didn’t work out. We know it’s hard to stick to new habits, but the question of why is much harder to answer. The thing is, there’s a certain “resistance” we experience when attempting to set new and especially wholesome habits. This resistance is the pain that we associate with carrying out the task now and it overshadows any feeling of pleasure we’ll get in the future.

But by utilizing a principle I refer to as the path of least resistance you can make it much easier to set new positive habits by placing the odds in your favor.

Let go of your old tired habits and plant new habits in fertile soil.

– Harley King

Why is it hard to stick to new habits? There are various factors, but a large part of that comes down to one word: resistance.

When you get home from a long day at work, and you have the choice of either working out or sitting down and lounging on your couch, do you know why you sit down to relax instead of working out? Mentally, it feels much easier to just sit down and lounge around than it does to get up and work out.

You’re already at home and your favorite device or TV controller is likely on you or within feet of you. All you have to do is pick up said device and your job is done. It’s vegetable time. In contrast, if you’re like most people, to work out requires you get your workout clothes, grab water, put everything into your bag, get your keys, and drive to the gym. In that case, what are you more likely to do? Sit and lounge around. This is the path of least resistance in action and it’s our natural pattern of behavior.

We naturally lean towards the action which takes the least amount of energy. Whatever is easiest to us in any given moment will naturally have a “pulling” effect on us that is difficult to resist. However, this isn’t something you have to be held prisoner to. The path of least resistance can be placed in your favor as well if you work it right.

How to use the path of least resistance

To utilize the path of least resistance, we have to look at what causes this sense of pain and the resistance in the first place. Going back to our example, if instead of arriving at home to be confronted with the decision to lounge or workout you got your workout stuff together in the morning and threw it in the car as you left for work, it would be a much different story.

In that case, what would be easier? Drive home to lounge around or drive straight to the gym to workout? Obviously, you haven’t removed all the resistance involved in getting yourself to go work out, but you definitely have removed a lot of the pain involved when thinking about it. With your workout gear already conveniently in your car, you’re far more likely to take action on your goal.

There are many ways you can utilize the path of least resistance, but it ultimately depends on what the action involves. Here are a few general tips that will help you take full advantage of this powerful principle:

1. Bring it closer

This is all about physical proximity. Whatever it is, move it closer to you. The best example of this is in the case of exercise. Remember your workout gear? Bringing it from your home to your car, given the fact that the example was about working out after you get off of work, helps immensely.

Alternatively, if you’re working out in the morning then prep your gear the night before and either place it in your car or right beside your bed (even consider sleeping in your workout gear if that helps).

2. Reduce the time to complete the task

Is the idea of meditating for thirty minutes providing resistance? What about five minutes? Think about it. See the difference? You’ll be more likely to get yourself up to meditate in the morning if you commit to just five minutes as opposed to an hour. And a neat little secret? Once you get yourself going you’ll want to keep going for the full half-hour, so this is really just to help get you moving and passed that resistance point.

3. Simplify the action

Sometimes, it’s the complication of the action itself that keeps you from doing it. Often, when you have a ton of work to do for something all you want to do is run from it and act like it’s not there. In this case, try to find a way to simplify the process down to its essential principles and, if possible, remove what isn’t necessary.

4. Complicate and distance yourself from distractions

On the flip side, you’ll want to do all of the same things as the above, but the opposite, for any potential distractions. That means distance yourself physically from distractions, make it harder to reach them, make it more complicated to use or do them, and generally anything else that will make the process of using or doing them more difficult.

Examples include hiding your T.V. controller, deleting apps on your smartphone that tend to distract you, and blocking certain websites on your browser when you’re on your computer.

Creating new positive habits can be difficult regardless, but by fully utilizing the path of least resistance you can create an environment that places the odds in your favor, making it easier to take action on your goals and more difficult to become distracted and thrown off course.

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