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Steve Pavlina on how to take action

This is from Steve Pavlina's "Personal Development Insights" newsletter email #58, have a read:

How to Take Action

Let's say you already have pretty good clarity about which goals and projects you'd like to move forward. (If you're not there yet, visit the Archives page on my website, and you'll find numerous articles to help you gain clarity and set quality goals.) Let's also say you have good clarity about which actions you must take, at least in a general sort of way. How do you actually get yourself to take action and complete those tasks efficiently?

Let me share with you a step-by-step process for taking action. This method can do wonders when you want to sink your teeth into your work and make serious progress, especially if you've had issues with procrastination.


Strong execution begins with intelligent preparation.

Many execution problems occur because of poor preparation. With good preparation the execution phases will flow more smoothly. If you find yourself struggling to take action, it may be due to nonexistent or sloppy preparation.

Here's the process for preparing:
  • Make a thorough list of the tasks you desire to complete the next day
  • Break larger tasks into smaller action steps (ideally no more than 30 minutes each)
  • Select tasks based on a balance of importance to your goals and relative urgency

  • Estimate the time required to complete each task, and write that estimate next to each task
  • Use your time estimates to select a reasonable number of tasks that you genuinely expect to complete that day
  • For creative tasks that are difficult to estimate, feel free to use timeboxing, but still specify concrete action steps when possible

  • Assemble tasks into a reasonably logical order
  • Group similar tasks together, such as by project, location, or type of activity
  • Now you have a list of specific tasks to be done in linear order

I currently use a spreadsheet to manage my daily list. In different years I've also maintained my daily list in word processors, dedicated apps, paper templates, and spiral notebooks. Use whichever format you prefer. I find that the most important thing is that I enjoy the system I'm using, so I presently do this in Numbers on my Macbook Pro (the crisp Retina display reminds me to pick crisp action steps). I also use a visually pleasing color scheme that makes the list look very pro, so I take it seriously. And of course I can take advantage of the summation feature to automatically add up my time estimates for each task, which makes it easier to fill out my day without grossly overestimating how much I'll get done.

Be specific. Don't clutter your list with unclear, wishy-washy tasks. If a task is well-defined, it will be obvious where to begin. "Research web design" is a poorly defined task. What does that even mean? A more specific version would be: "Review the featured templates on the front page of, and list at least 10 website design ideas I like that I can potentially use to improve my own site." You don't have to be so wordy in listing your tasks, but make sure it's clear what you're actually going to do to complete each step. "Research" is unclear. Where do you begin? When are you done? Who knows? On the other hand, going to a specific website and looking at specific pages there is a clear action step that you can begin, traverse, and complete.

I cannot emphasize this last point enough. When other people share their goals, projects, and task lists with me, I frequently see the most vague drivel imaginable. Adding tasks to your list that look like "Research business ideas" or "Eat healthy" or "Be more social" are meaningless. Why even bother creating a list if you're going to populate it with fluff? You'd be better off hiring a boss to create your to-do lists for you.

Here's a good rule of thumb for knowing that you have a quality task list: Could you hand your list to a complete stranger with the appropriate skill set and expect them to understand it and complete it? If another person would be baffled at what your tasks actually mean, perhaps you're going to be equally baffled.

A clear and specific step-by-step daily task list is motivating. A sloppy list is a recipe for procrastination. If you feel that getting through your tasks requires tons of pushing and discipline, it may be because you've created an unnecessarily murky situation. When you make a sloppy list, you postpone many decisions to the action phase. I'm suggesting that you make those decisions about what is to be done when you create your list, so that when it comes time to act, you can focus on action, not on making decisions about which actions to take. This reduces the cognitive burden and frees up more energy, which leads to flow.

Run this preparation process at the end of your workday to prepare yourself for the next workday. This is important. It's better to prepare your work for the next day in advance because then you'll preload this work into your mind before you sleep. Your subconscious mind will go to work on it while you're sleeping, which will lead to better insights and smoother execution the next day. By planting clear expectations about what you intend to do the next day, you'll set yourself up for success.

I notice a real difference in my productivity when I prepare for each day in advance, as opposed to creating my to-do list in the morning of the active workday... or worse -- trying to wing it with no clear plan of action.

How long does this preparation process take? The first time you do it, plan on spending about 30 minutes. With practice you can get it down to 15 minutes or less. (Of course there's some variation here depending on the type of work you do.) If you're rushing through the process in a couple of minutes, you're probably not breaking your tasks down into clear and concise action steps, and you'll pay the price during the execution phase. Taking the time to create a quality list of action steps can save you hours in execution, sometimes days.


The following day when you're ready to get to work, here's the process for taking action on your task list:
  • Select the next appropriate task from today's task list
  • Choose the highest priority task (closest to the top of the list) that you can reasonably do next
  • Consider constraints of time, location, energy, mood, and alertness

  • Ask yourself if you're ready to complete the task now without distraction
  • If hungry then eat first to make sure you won't be hungry during the next task
  • If sleepy take a 20-min nap with an alarm timer to refresh yourself
  • If you feel you need a change of venue, feel free to move to another room or location to work
  • If the task needs more clarity, chunk it down further to specify additional steps with time estimates
  • Inform anyone nearby as needed: Please don't interrupt

  • Decide and resolve to do the task now, ideally without interruption

  • Prepare for the task
  • Start a timer (to measure how long the task actually takes)
  • Prepare your work environment for the task (materials, music, water, lighting, etc.)
  • Imagine the task going smoothly and being completed successfully

  • Begin the task
  • Identify the first micro-step, and do it
  • Once the first micro-step is completed, proceed immediately to the next step
  • Continue until the task is complete

  • Stick with the current task only
  • Stay with the task until it's 100% complete; don't jump into other tasks
  • If other unrelated action ideas arise, write them down to consider later; don't distract yourself from the current task

  • Complete the task fully
  • Finish the task in its entirety, so you can put it behind you; leave no loose ends
  • Put away materials for the task (file papers, neatly organize related computer files, discard trash, etc.)
  • Stop the timer; record the actual time for the task to mark it as done; note the accuracy of your estimate

  • Take breaks as needed (ideally between tasks, not during tasks)

This is a very general action plan. Feel free to add details that are relevant for the specific type of work you do.

Daily Review

At the end of your workday, do these steps:
  • Process any notes you made during the day
  • Consider each new idea in the context of your current goals and projects
  • Add actionable ideas to your goals or projects lists
  • Add ideas that aren't actionable yet to your someday/maybe list

  • Reflect on your performance
  • Rate your productivity for the day on a scale of 1 to 10
  • Consider what you can do to improve; tweak your systems accordingly
  • Journal about your day to discover more insights (optional)

And then of course run the Preparation process to prepare for the next day.

If you didn't complete as many tasks as you expected, that's okay. Bump incomplete tasks to the next day as needed. Also use your actual task completion times to improve your estimates.

For recurring projects you may want to save a copy of your task list. Then you can copy and paste it into your daily list each time the project comes up. I have such a task list for creating newsletters. Documenting the steps makes it easier to focus on doing the steps instead of wasting mental energy remembering the steps and their proper order.

Sometimes you may find the above process overkill. For simple tasks of course you can just dive in and do them. But if you find yourself stuck or procrastinating on a more challenging or poorly defined project, this process will help you break the project down into clear, simple action steps, especially if you can get each step down to 30 minutes or less.

On a typical daily task list, I might have around 20-30 action steps. Some of these steps take less than 5 minutes. I find this motivating. I can always put in 5 minutes to get started on a project. Most steps are 10-30 minutes, long enough to make a dent but not so long as to seem overwhelming. I do my best to keep each step under 30 minutes except when I feel confident that I can flow through a longer chunk.

Lately I've been using this process to refresh my programming skills. In my 20s I was an exceptionally skilled programmer (coding several published computer games), but I haven't done much serious programming work in the past decade, so my skills in that area have atrophied. Adding the goal "Refresh programming skills" to my goals list got me nowhere. What does that even mean? Where should I begin? By itself that goal was too vague and nebulous to inspire action. I needed to chunk it down into specific projects and actions -- steps I could actually traverse and complete.

When I began listing out action steps like "Use Google to search for programming tutorials" (15 minutes) and "Complete Javascript lesson 11 from Codecademy" (20 minutes), this desire began to take shape. So far this month I've learned Javascript and jQuery, and now I'm learning Python. After that I'll probably learn Ruby, and then I expect to study app programming (Mac OS X or iOS most likely). I've already written an iPad app to draw fractals. It's way too basic to release, but I enjoyed figuring out how to do it as a personal project.

For certain long-term goals, you may find it helpful to combine the processes above with the approach from Goals Into Habits. I've turned my programming skills refresher goal into a daily habit by doing a few lessons after breakfast each morning. I've done this for several weeks now, so it's already a habit. At the end of each day, I list my next action steps for this time block on the following day. For instance, this morning my action steps were to complete Python lessons 13, 14, and 15 from Codecademy, which took me 97 minutes.

All this time I thought the Python language was named after the snake... when it actually got its name from Monty Python. :)

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So you want to be a DJ in Bali? Here are some contacts for you.

Bali - Seminyak - XX hotel - Pool at night

In case you want to work as a DJ in Bali, these are all the contacts I have.

The list is updated early 2012, so by the time you read this there will be a lot of new places and organizers, and many of these might probably be gone.

But - it's a starting point. Happy DJ'ing and enjoy the island of peace and love!

Remember to check the rules for working visas (KITAS) and which places that require them. And keep in mind that the authorities has a reputation for really enforcing the immigration laws, and could kick you out of Indonesia if they catch you working without a permit.

And if you want to listen to my DJ-mixes from Bali and other places, check out my Mixcloud-page.

Bali - Seminyak - Hu'u bar 01


Bali - Tanah Lot - Main temple 02


88 Club
Ayana/Rock Bar Bali
Backstreet Club
Bali Now
Bistro Batu Kali
Blue Eyes
Cocoon Beach Club
Conrad Bali Hotel/East
Contiki/Blue Night Club
Crystal Palace
DeeJay Club
Divine Wonderland
Genesis Hotel/Blue Eyes
Hard Rock Cafe
Hard Rock Hotel
Harry Juju
Hello Bali
JP's WarungClub/Maria Magdalena
Juice Park
Kama Sutra
Karma Kandara Resort/Nammos
Klapa Klab
Ku De Ta
Lava Lounge
Living Room
Maccaroni Club
Oceans 27
Potato Head Beach Club
Red Square Bali
Ritz-Carlton Hotel/Martini Club
Rosso Vivo Dine & Lounge
Sea Circus
Sky Garden
Sugar Bali
The Beat
The Breeze/d'Base
The Cave
The Junction
The Stones
The Wave/The Club
The Yak
The Yak/The Bud
Vi Ai Pi
W Hotel Bali/Woobar
Warung Chiringuito
Warung Taris Bali
Word Of Mouth

Bali - Roadtrip in June - Beautiful landscape


Jazz Cafe
Putra Bar
Sai Sai Bar


Steve Pavlina on being a worthwhile investment

This is from Steve Pavlina's "Personal Development Insights" newsletter email #55, have a read:

Steve and I at the Morten Hake summit 2012.

Are You a Worthwhile Investment?

If people aren't investing in your success, you probably haven't created a reliable record to help them see you as a worthwhile investment.

People are often willing to be helpful, but intuitively they don't want to waste their time and energy where it won't likely produce anything worthwhile for anyone.

You may get love-based investments such as a family member who will loan you money no matter what, or friends who will keep sharing basic referrals with you, but if you'd like to expand the network of people who will bring you ideas, opportunities, timely advice, etc., then it helps a great deal to demonstrate that you're worthy of such help. You can do this by respecting the time and energy it takes others to help you, by graciously accepting their help when offered (and when it makes sense to do so), and by reciprocating when you can.

Many people are poor receivers of help. They may request it, but when it's offered to them, they fumble and drop the ball. They borrow money but don't pay it back in a timely manner. They ask for advice but seldom apply it or test it. If you behave in this way, you condition other people to predict that they can expect more of the same. Soon they'll conclude that you're a bad investment, and you'll see such help and opportunities drying up.

Over time this will also reduce the quality of the help you receive. Smart people will invest their time and energy elsewhere. Only more emotional, less rational people will stick around and continue to help you, but their advice and referrals will be of lower quality in general than that which comes from more sensible people.

It's not that people need to receive a direct payback for their help, but they'd probably like to see some positive impact from it. It feels good to offer someone help and see them leverage it fully. Then you know you played a part in their success, even if it doesn't benefit you personally. Continuing to invest in someone who constantly drops the ball isn't rational, and so rational people will eventually abandon helping such people.

If you establish a pattern of squandering opportunities, especially by being lazy or bumbling in your affairs when help is offered, you can expect that help to be diverted elsewhere, away from you. You've unfortunately taught others to regard you as a bad bet and a waste of their time and energy. Many people make this unconscious mistake, and then they wonder why the only help they seem to get is of poor quality (or nonexistent). The reality is that the high-quality, rational advice, leads, referrals, and opportunities are being given to those who are worthy of them.

On the other hand, if you take the ball and run with it fully when help is offered, you teach people that you're a worthwhile investment. This will encourage them to invest even more in you down the road.

This dynamic can be seen in many teacher-student relationships. Poor students often condition their teachers to see them as bad investments, while good students train their teachers to invest extra time and energy in their development and education, such as by attracting internship offers and positive letters of recommendation.

A nice example of rational investments winning out over emotional ones can be found in the book/movie Moneyball, which is the story of how baseball was transformed by a drive for more rational investments in players who can contribute the most to winning games, as opposed to intuitive impressions, hunches, and other less rational analyses of players.

How to Become Investment Worthy

How do you become investment worthy? You do so by making a serious commitment to your education, skill-building, and habit development. It's basically the same approach you'd use to become a professional baseball player. You must practice a lot to become as skilled as you can. Your value to others (within the scope of the game) can be seen in your performance stats.

In Moneyball it was learned that the best predictor of future performance is past performance. That's what rational people bet on.

A common mistake people make in terms of predicting their investment-worthiness is overvaluing their intentions, motivation, and perceived level of commitment.

Lots of people have goals and intentions, but so many of them have lousy track records. Consider, for instance, the person who keeps sharing ambitious goals and intentions on their Facebook page, but the only consistency they demonstrate is posting pictures of their dog. Or consider someone who seems to change careers every six months. From the perspective of rationality, these people do not look like wise investments. Any help you give them will likely fizzle.

Now consider someone who takes the time to create a positive track record. Perhaps this person takes on fewer goals, but she makes a point of really committing to each one. Her friends and associates begin to see that she's an achiever and a doer. When she sets her mind to something, she gets it done without delay. This person will be perceived as a better bet, and intelligent people will begin flocking to her, knowing that helping her will produce some results, such as positive ripples for society as a whole.

If you occasionally wonder why your network only brings you shallow, stupid, or scammy ideas and referrals, take a good look at your established track record. You may very well have conditioned the smarter people to perceive you as a bad bet. Perhaps you've shown a consistent pattern of weak or erratic performance that turns intelligent people away.

There's no mandate that says you must increase your investment worthiness. But if you wish to stretch yourself and tackle bigger goals at some point, you'll surely need help. If you see yourself eventually moving in this direction, now is the time to begin building and demonstrating patterns of reliability, consistency, and persistence.

Follow Steve on Twitter and Google+ for inspirational messages and quick updates.


Banksy on advertisers and how to deal with them

This is Banksy's advice on how to deal with advertisers and their messages. Read and start to rebel:


Steve Pavlina on "The Law of Least Effort" vs. hard work - which is better?

This is from Steve Pavlina's "Personal Development Insights" newsletter email #52, have a read:

Steve and I at the Morten Hake summit 2012.

The Law of Least Effort vs. Hard Work -- Which Is Better?

Perhaps you've heard of the Law of Least Effort, which states that it's best to go through life with a sense of grace, ease, and lightness and avoid struggle and suffering.

And perhaps you've also been taught that hard work really pays off and that effort is a good thing. This idea is often backed up by stories from people who pushed through major obstacles to achieve their goals. You may have also seen the blog post I shared on this topic yesterday.

Don't these ideas contradict each other? Is one of them more correct? Does each method work in some situations but not others? Let's explore this together.

What Is Effort?

Effort is exertion. It's the application of energy to get something done. In some cases this exertion may feel draining. When people think of effort, they often picture strenuous, tiring, difficult work.
Let's go a little further into this and consider the different types of effort.

First, there's physical exertion, like helping a friend move some heavy furniture, running a marathon, or having a threesome.

Second, there's mental work, like writing a book, composing a song, or starting an online business.

Third, we have emotional stress, such as summoning the courage to quit your job, going through a divorce, or having to declare bankruptcy.

And lastly, we have what could be labeled holistic or spiritual trials, where we face deep, multi-faceted changes like stepping into a new lifestyle, switching careers, or questioning the very nature of reality.

If we want to go more granular here, we could come up with further sub-categories of effort like financial effort, community effort, and so on, but I'd say these are the big four that people associate with personal effort.

Does Least Effort Mean Avoiding Work?

Is it intelligent to expect that certain tasks will get done with no effort? Will your body somehow get into athletic shape if you just sit around on the couch watching TV? Will your book write itself while you're out playing golf? Will your taxes get filed while you're not paying attention?

Some people seem to have convinced themselves that avoiding physical exertion, mental work, emotional stress, and spiritual trials is the proper application of the Law of Least Effort. At one time or another, I probably counted myself among them. But these days I don't have much respect for this approach. Try it for yourself for a few years if you want... but only if you enjoy stagnation.

That said, I actually love the Law of Least Effort. I feel it's a wise principle in general, as long as we apply it intelligently. Intelligent application doesn't include using this idea as your justification to wriggle out of doing the hard work that's required for certain results.

The truth is that there are plenty of goals that require hard work -- lots of hard work! These are often the most interesting and worthwhile goals to tackle.

The problem isn't that the goals are hard. The problem is that in addition to the necessary physical and mental effort (and perhaps some required emotional stretching as well), we're adding a hefty dose of unnecessary inner resistance to those goals -- especially in form of resistance to the process of getting there. We see the hard work ahead of us and say "Oh no, not that!"

The Law of Least Effort doesn't mean that we should avoid these types of challenges. Rather, try to see it an invitation to stop resisting the required effort in such tasks. When you stop resisting a challenge, it becomes easier because you're no longer fighting with yourself. "Least effort" means "Stop adding unnecessary resistance on top of the truly necessary work."

Necessary vs. Unnecessary Effort

When I was a kid, maybe around 9 years old, I wanted to learn how to ride a bike. I'd been riding one with training wheels for years, but each time I tried to ride it without them, I'd get scared that I'd fall and hurt myself. I couldn't balance properly. It seemed like learning to ride a bike required too much effort, too much practice, and too much stress. So I avoided doing what was necessary to develop this skill.

Then one day I discovered that my little sister was trying to learn to ride a bike. I saw that she was close to figuring it out. No way was I going to watch her pass me up and figure it out before I did! Suddenly I let go of all resistance to the challenge. I grabbed my blue and yellow banana-seated kid's bike, cast myself out in the suburban neighborhood streets, and resolved not to go back into the house until I could ride it without falling off and killing myself.

Action-wise I got on the bike without any training wheels and did the best I could. I gently pushed off from the concrete driveway and tried to balance while coasting. I accepted that I might fall and that it would probably hurt if I did. I tried to stay close to people's lawns so hopefully I might onto the soft grass if I took a spill. My first few attempts were crazed spirals of doom. I couldn't make the bike go straight and had to endure some road rash. But I kept going, fueled by raw determination, and in less than an hour, I figured out how to balance. Soon I was happily pedaling up and down the street, feeling like Tom Hanks in this 11-second clip from the movie Castaway.

What was the actual effort required to achieve this goal? It really didn't take much time. Physically it wasn't that strenuous, although it took some trial and error and the willingness to endure minor injuries. Mentally it wasn't so effortful since the process of learning to balance was mostly subconscious. Emotionally it required some courage, but once I'd resolved to do it, it was mostly fun and exhilarating, especially when I felt I was beginning to get it.

This wasn't a lot of effort, was it?

But what was the unnecessary effort that I piled on top of this? Years of delay. Holding back with utterly useless training wheels. Worrying about falling and hurting myself. Feeling like I was missing out while younger kids were out riding their bikes and having fun.

Do you see the difference between necessary effort and unnecessary effort?

It's not like I could just lie on my bed and expect to learn how to ride a bike. That would have been easy, but would it have been less effortful?

If you keep thinking about a goal and trying to get there with the easiest approach you can find, is that really the path of least effort? Or is it a path of energy-wasting self-delusion?

If you add up all the time and energy you've spent thinking about quitting your job or trying to cut corners financially, is it possible that it would have taken you less time and energy to start your own business and make it successful?

Many people walk for miles in search of an elevator to avoid climbing the staircase in front of them.

Is it possible that you've been avoiding the true path of least effort by trying to take the seemingly easier path?

What Is Ease?

Is ease the same thing as avoidance? If you avoid all difficulty and challenge, that may seem easier in the short run, but doesn't it end up becoming more difficult in the long run?

Is it easier to develop the habit of spending a little less money each day and being a little more ambitious about your career? Or is it easier to overspend and sink into debt, waste a lot of extra money on interest payments, and possibly go bankrupt or endure a foreclosure?

Is it easier to install positive health and lifestyle habits when you're young, or is it easier to drag yourself around with low energy and chaotic emotions, and then succumb to a lifestyle disease such as cancer?
Notice that the path of least effort is not the path of no effort. Usually by trying to take the path of no effort, you'll end up taking a path of much greater effort in the long run.

Some level of challenge is good and healthy for you. The path of ease is not the path of laziness. It's the path of getting stronger, so your daily challenges feel lighter.

Your biggest problem isn't the difficulty of the tasks before you. The required work is doable. If you get busy doing the required work now, you won't waste energy on unnecessary effort by piling on worry, complaining, and avoidance behavior.

Loving Physical Effort

To stop resisting physical effort, see it as exercise. It's healthy physical training. It can make you stronger and fitter.

I'm currently starting week 4 of P90X, which is a popular 13-week cross-training fitness program. It's also really challenging.

The daily workouts require some serious physical effort. But they don't require worry, procrastination, and excuses -- that would be wasted effort.

When you do the required work and drop the unnecessary work, physical training is tough but still doable. You can endure an hour of rapid breathing and sweating. You can endure collapsing onto a couch afterwards. You can endure soreness. But you don't have to endure your own fabricated inner resistance to the difficulty of the challenge.

Hard physical exertion can be very rewarding. It's nice to feel stronger in my body. It's nice to be more flexible. It's nice to record 8 reps on an exercise one week, then 12 the next week, then 20 the week after that. It's nice to know that a month from now, I'll be stronger and more flexible than I am now. It's nice to know that no matter how difficult it is, I can always do my best, and that's always enough.

It's even nice to graduate to heavier weights on various exercises, knowing that it's going to mean an even more challenging workout than the one that killed me the week before.

It's wonderful to see the clock hitting 0:00 at the end of a workout, knowing that I made it through.
Is it possible that the path of least resistance when it comes to fitness is to pick one of the toughest workouts you can do, to commit to it, and then to fall in love with the difficulty of it?

Is it harder to do difficult physical training and enjoy the results thereof? Or is it harder to avoid such training and watch your fitness decline over time? Which one is really the path of least resistance? Is it possible that "least resistance"" is an invitation to stop resisting hard work and just go do it without complaining or making excuses?

Loving Mental Effort

What's the benefit of mental effort? You get smarter and sharper.

Your brain grows through exercise just like any other part of your body. If you avoid mental effort, you can look forward to a life of progressive dullness and dim-wittedness. The avoidance of mental effort is one of the leading causes of Alzheimer's. If you work your brain, it will likely stay strong throughout your life, but if you fail to exercise it with hard challenges, it will atrophy and grow weaker. How much you exercise your brain can have a major impact on your long-term quality of life.

Tackling difficult mental work also gives you a sense of accomplishment. Your confidence rises. You enjoy some pep in your step and feel terrific. You flow through each day with passion and high energy.

I could have putzed around doing nothing today, but to me it's least effortful to get to work. Create something. Share something of value. It's good exercise for my brain. It keeps me feeling sharp and alert.

Want to feel more motivated? Then take action even when you aren't motivated. Motivation follows action. You'll feel motivated when you get into the flow of action. Not taking action is demotivating. Not taking action is harder because it leaves you feeling tired, listless, and stuck. It's easier to keep moving. Of course, taking action when you aren't motivated is hard. It takes effort. If you think that's a bad thing, i.e. something to be avoided, that's why you're stuck. Move towards effort and difficulty, not away from it, and you'll soon be back in the flow of grace, ease, and lightness. By staying still you're actually choosing the path of much greater resistance and effort. It's so much harder to watch people pass you by, achieve their goals, and leave you wallowing in the dust of long-term regret. If you can stomach that, you're a brave soul indeed!

One way people mistakenly avoid the path of least resistance is by getting stuck in analysis paralysis. Because they don't want to waste mental effort, they hesitate to get moving. Instead of actively working on a project, they think about working on it, but they don't make any meaningful progress.

What's funny is that it's actually easier to dive in and work like crazy on a project than it is to fret, fuss, delay, and worry about it. For instance, it's so much easier to quit your job and start a new business than it is to think about quitting your job and wonder about starting a new business. The former tasks can be done in a day. But people often waste years on the latter, with nothing to show for it.

When you resist hard mental work, you're wasting energy feeding that resistance. But when you let go of that unnecessary resistance and just do the required work, you'll likely find that such efforts are enjoyable and rewarding. Tackling challenges feels great!

Why avoid something just because it's hard? Instead of equating hard with avoidance, try equating hard with arousal and stimulation. When you're ready to be aroused and stimulated, hard is a good thing. ;)

Loving Emotional Effort

What about challenges that require emotional effort, such as doing something that scares you?

Again, try separating the required effort from the unnecessary effort. What may be required is a few seconds of courage. That may be all you need to get moving and build momentum.

You may not be able to control all the emotional conflict that wells up within you, but you needn't resist it either. You may endure some nervousness or fussiness about a particular social or emotional challenge, but if that's the case, then wouldn't the path of least resistance be to get through it quickly and without delay? Why endure years of anxiety and procrastination over something you can do today?

Many people avoid public speaking. They get nervous and anxious just thinking about it. And most likely if you don't have much experience, you will get nervous. There are techniques to help minimize that, but if you don't resist the nervousness, then you don't even need those techniques. Some of the best and most experienced speakers I know still get nervous before they speak. But they've learned not to resist those feelings. They just accept that they're going to feel that way. And this helps transform their nervous energy into excitement and passion when they get up and speak. And they do fabulously well.

It's okay to be scared, nervous, or worried. Those aren't feelings you have to avoid. If you stop resisting those feelings, you can begin to see them as excitement, just as a kid feels excited to go to Disneyland.

When you release your resistance to certain emotions you perceive as negative, you can invite and experience a lot of fun on the other side.

What's the path of least resistance here? Is it easier to avoid doing what scares you and always wonder "What if?" Wouldn't it be simpler to just do it right away and get it over with?

The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means heart. Courage is heart-centeredness. Courage is also part of the path of least resistance. When you wield courage, you stop resisting your emotions. You stop using fear, shame, guilt, and worry as excuses for not taking action. If those feelings are present, they can't stop you.

You can learn to fall in love with challenges that require emotional effort. Instead of thinking that you should avoid what you fear, see these challenges as desirable growth experiences.

It feels wonderful to face and conquer a fear. I love that I can confidently get up and speak to any audience -- and have fun doing it -- especially when I remember how much I dreaded public speaking as a kid in elementary school. I love that I've shared so much of my life online, including stories that many people would rather keep private. I love that I uncopyrighted my articles and donated them to the public domain. Working through these fears leaves me free to do more research, writing, speaking, and traveling. I don't have to waste my time and energy on unnecessary efforts like protecting my privacy, fighting online piracy, or worrying that someone on the Internet might not like me. By embracing the required effort and turning towards my fears, I can slough off the unnecessary emotional waste that would otherwise slow me down and drain my energy.

Which is easier in the long run? Face a fear now and deal with a short burst of wild emotions, or avoid it indefinitely and endure decades of regret? Which is truly the path of least effort?

Fall in Love with Hard Work

The Law of Least Effort isn't telling you to shun physical training, dodge mental challenges, and hide from all your petty fears. It's simply an invitation to stop fighting with yourself in your own mind.

At the start of some of the toughest P90X workouts, Tony Horton says to "Get your mind right." This is a reminder to focus on the task at hand. Even though the workouts are very tough, it's important that you don't psyche yourself out in advance and make excuses to quit if you want results. Put your attention on the present moment and do the immediate task or exercise to the best of your ability. Don't get hung up worrying about how difficult the challenge will be. And don't worry about the long-term results you may or may not achieve. Just do the required task. Take it one set, one rep at a time.

Tony also likes to say, "Do your best, and forget the rest." If you do your best, that's enough. And you can always do that much. With this attitude you really can't fail.

If you do your best and drop the inner resistance, you'll make gains. If you tackle physical challenges, you'll get stronger and fitter. If you tackle mental challenges, you'll get smarter and sharper. If you tackle emotional challenges, you'll become braver and happier. Is that effortful? Perhaps. But if you get your vibe right and stop resisting this type of work, you'll transform that effort into growth, joy, and fun.

Does it take effort to have fun in life? Again, perhaps it does. But when you're having fun and loving your life, will you even care about the effort? Will you even notice it? Or will you be too absorbed in the fun to fuss over how much action you had to take?

Surrender to effort. Embrace the required work. Drop the unnecessary resistance, including the fairy tale fantasy of no effort. This is the real path of least effort.

If you really get this, you may recognize that the Law of Least Effort and the Law of Hard Work are in fact the same law. They're both equally correct.

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