Part of my personal challenge to get Focused in '14 includes getting strong. Last year I was focused on losing my baby weight after having Beck (if you remember my 10lb challenge). This year it's to actually do my body good and fix what's ailing me (all my aches and pains and woes) – the right way (no quick fixes or miracle pills). Thus, I've been exercising. Ugh. Almost every day. Double ugh. Now, I won't get into this too much because we're saving that for March, our Focus on Fitness month, so get excited for that.
The purpose of telling you this is that I was in a workout class the other day, hating life and mentally cursing myself for being there (I'm not much of a natural exerciser. It takes lots of effort and mental pep-talk for me). The instructor told us to watch our form. She said,
“Your body will naturally take the path of least resistance, which will most likely hurt you in the end.”
This really struck me. She didn't say it to be profound, and I'm guessing she didn't say it intending to change my life…but isn't it interesting how inspiration comes in the strangest ways?
I thought about what she said, and realized it's absolutely true!
In high school I did cheerleading pretty hard-core (as hard core as a tiny town with only one high school could be…but I like to think I was pretty hard-core). One day we were practicing and I did a front roll. Not a fancy one, mind you. A normal, any two-year-old-with-half-a-brain-can-do-this roll. I came out of it weird and slightly tweaked something in my back. From that day forward my back always bugged me, just a touch.
From that point on I would always change the way I held myself in practice, to avoid that annoying little tweak. I would lean slightly this way or that when catching girls in stunts, would land differently when doing gymnastics, and even started sitting differently in class. Rather than fixing my problem I found the easiest way for my body to ignore it so I could go about doing what I wanted to do.
As you can imagine it didn't take long for serious issues to take place. I got a weird pinch in the back of my leg that I again ignored, allowing my body to find a new path of motion to avoid it. The pinch got worse and worse (I didn't know it was related to that still annoying tweak in my back), and before you knew it was being rushed to emergency back surgery in Portland to avoid permanent paralysis to my right leg due to a severely ruptured L5 disc. I was only 16 years old.
By ignoring the source of the problem, avoiding the proper way of recovering from it, and by allowing my body to find the path of least resistance, I forever injured myself. Though surgery pretty much fixed the damage I had done, it was expensive, burdensome, had a long, hard, painful recovery, and basically ruined my cheerleading career at the most important time. Not to mention that I will – for the rest of my life – have recurring issues, relapses, and injuries because I didn't nip my problem in the bud years ago.
How many times do we take the path of least resistance in our own lives?
Sometimes we choose the path of least resistance without thinking about it. In the picture above, the easy path looks like a no-brainer. But often times we choose the easy path without stopping, looking ahead, comparing it to the rough path, pulling out a map, and figuring out if it's truly the best path for us or not; if it will lead us to where we want to go, if it's a short cut or a long route…and if it's actually as easy as it seems.
This picture struck me for two reasons:
For one, I'm DEATHLY afraid of snakes. I would literally snap your elbow and slap your momma if you tossed one at me.
But mainly this photo struck because it's REAL. It's a real snake, sure, but it's REAL LIFE. This (…gross horrifying nightmarish…) little snake is taking the path that is already paved. He's following along, taking the “easy route” if you will, without realizing that it's taking him longer to get to his destination, and making the job much harder along the way! If he were to ignore the easy path and forge ahead on his own on top of the tiles rather than around them, he'd make a straight line and get there faster, with much less trouble.Eating out. Buying our kids too much for Christmas. Buying pre-frozen meals. Hiring someone to mow our lawns for us. Getting into debt rather than saving up for something. Giving our kids money for whatever they want. Shopping – grocery and otherwise – instead of making due with what we have. Paying people to do things for us that we can do for ourselves. Buying things we don't need, but want. Ordering takeout. Pampering ourselves. Buying a new car, even though the one we have works fine. Vacations. Ignoring the real problems with our financial situation and choosing to feel the pain instead of facing the facts.
Many of these are good, common, normal things, and lead to lots of instant happiness! However, for most of us these are “path of least resistance”-type things. We think they are making our lives easier and more enjoyable, and there's no doubt they are certainly enjoyable, but in the long run they are most likely slowing us down and making our lives much harder in the end.
I challenge you all to think about your path. Focus on the end goal, and work backwards. Don't have an end goal? Set one. Where do you want to go? Why? How are you going to get there? Why? You need to know where you're headed so you can focus on the path it will take to get there. Take a moment to think about what you're buying and why. Sometimes that two seconds of conscious decision-making is what will make the biggest difference in your life. Stop getting by, and start getting ahead.
And for heaven's sake, stay away from snakes.