The idea is simple - the path of least resistance is the route, option or actions that cause you and your body the least stress, effort and or discomfort.
It's natural to choose the easy path and the simple, comfortable options because your body has a wonderful self-preservation mechanism. It prefers to avoid stress and confrontation (the sympathetic nervous system) in favour of maintaining the more comfortable parasympathetic nervous system. Without getting too techy, lets just refer to these as "fight or flight" and "rest and digest," respectively.
One thing we do in the gym is stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (SN) by lifting weights or running and jumping and generally disrupt the body's natural state of being by creating demand for more fuel. This is the basis of ANY form of training. You cannot build muscle or burn body fat without this happening.
"in one month he's pushed harder and achieved more in the gym than he did in the previous 3 years"
This will only get you so far... Fight the path of least resistance... when it gets tough, ask yourself, can I push harder? For most people in the gym by themselves the answer is "Yes!"
Take Alex for example - a client who's been with me for just over a month - and yesterday told me that in one month he's pushed harder and achieved more in the gym than he did in the previous 3 years. That's because when the voice in his head says stop lifting, my voice in his ear tells him to crack on!
I got down on my bedroom floor and attempted the stretch (he calls it a 'tactical frog' for those interested). What I noticed was that if you let your body find it's own natural 'pathway' into the stretch you could barely feel it, and then when I fought against that and really pushed into the stretch; it may have been horrendously uncomfortable, but it was also far more effective. Pictured below are a couple of simple examples I see everyday in the gym of stretches that are opting for the path of least resistance (left)... there is little benefit to be had. In the right I'm working against the path of least resistance to increase the stretch.
With this cake-culture in mind I know that various colleagues will come round offering you cake and conversations will go something like this:
"have you tried some of Susan's birthday cake yet"
"no thanks, I'm following my trainer's nutrition plan"
"Oh, go on, a little bit of cake wont make a difference"
In this situation for a lot of people it can be very stressful to turn around to the cake pusher and tell them to piss-off. There is social pressure to conform to the normality of the group (who are all eating cake), and there is a possibility that this cake-pusher might confront you further. Your brain is hardwired to crave the sugar and calories in the cake. The easy thing here is to eat the cake... FIGHT THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE.
"The lizard brain likes the path of least resistance because it keep you safe and promotes survival."
Your lizard brain is the part of you brain that evolved first and controls your basic instincts as a creature, as opposed to the higher brain powers that make you a human. It stands to reason that most of these functions are automatic too... a lizard doesn't philosophise whether it's right to eat the fly, it just does it.
Godin talks about listening to the lizard brain and how following it's commands you will tend to avoid "the fear". The lizard brain likes the path of least resistance because it keep you safe and promotes survival.
We have all felt "the fear" before... increase in heart rate, sweaty palms, dry mouth... your body doesn't like this feeling and would strive to avoid it wherever possible.
HOWEVER, taking on the fear head on is often the thing that accelerates progress. It stops you from approaching that pretty girl in the street, but taking it on could be the thing that unlocks a wonderful relationship you may never have had.
As I type this, one of our gym members is delivering a seminar to her peers and professors at University and she has told me how she's feeling the fear big time regarding this. If she conquers this it could be the break she needs to start a successful career in Biochemistry.
Stuff happens when we face the fear; it rarely happens when we avoid it. Shut down your lizard brain, listen to the higher power... FIGHT THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE!
These are just a few examples I could think of this morning, but it's something that governs every action we take. The fear would have me not post this blog... "what if people don't like it, what if they disagree, what if they attack me?"
Well the path of least resistance would have been to go back to bed this morning on my day off, but I prefer to fight it as I know the battle is tough, but to the victor the spoils go!