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A Path Alongside Green Grass

The Path of Least Resistance

A lot of water has flown down the river Ganges since the outbreak of COVID-19. People who always wanted to take a long vacation, have got their wishes fulfilled, but to varying degrees of satisfaction. One thing that became hard in this time for me was to steer myself towards my long-term goals.

When regular classes in college were going on, I couldn’t focus on extra stuff for long enough because of obvious reasons. So, when lockdown started, I felt relief that now I don’t have to care about going to college every other day.


Journey to the Pit

This excitement of working on Long-Term Goals faded somewhere when I passed half March, whole April and almost half May watching TV shows on Prime Video.

I watched around 300 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, 120 episodes of Mentalist, 36 episodes of The Good Doctor, 25 episodes of Suits and a season or two of many other shows (like Dr. House, Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, etc.).

I used to spend my entire day, eating junk food, and staring at my laptop screen, watching other people do their job (i.e. acting). My daily habits were completely out of sync from my goals.

More or less, I started playing a game that I used to play when I was in the 9th – 10th standard ‘Clash of Clans’. It became a ritual for a while to check any updates in it just after opening my eyes from sleep.

Then I got over myself

More than 60 days had already passed when I realized that my habits were pushing me into my own grave.

So, I started listening to an audiobook ‘Atomic Habits’. At that time, I had no idea what was wrong with me. In the past, I had never let myself drop so low. So, after realizing my sunken position, I couldn’t wait to improve and get back to my Zone.

As you may know, if you have read my earlier posts, I am preparing for the Civil Services Examination conducted by UPSC. So, to restart my game, after this unhealthy vacation, I picked up a book named ‘Indian since Gandhi’. Along with this, I started analyzing the Union Budget of 2020.

(I had picked up these two for starters because I like analyzing reports and reading history.)

From the 10th of June, I am completely back. I have given up my habit of Binge-Watching and eating Junk. It took me a while to adjust but now the situation is in control.

At first, I replaced Binge-Watching with 1 Movie a day. Then, I slowly phased out watching 1 Movie a day too. I still have Prime Video app installed but I just don’t feel like watching anything now because it feels like a time waste.

Now, I play COC just for 4-5 minutes every day as I have downgraded my player from 3500 trophies to 500. This eased the level of competition and I no longer feel the temptation to do repeated attacks because I can get good loot almost all the time.

I have even restarted my Daily Journal Writing Habit. I had lost it somewhere when the lockdown started because nothing worth writing was happening in my life.

In essence, I am back in my Zone of Creativity and Productivity. I don’t regret that vacation because I have learned some pretty important things from that experience (shared in the next paragraph).

Why I was behaving that way?

It’s all hindsight but I will try to come up with a logical explanation.

My college schedule used to act as a system of checks and balances. As lockdown evaporated the need to go to college, I lost my system. Nobody was monitoring me. So, my body moved to a path of least resistance.

That was a time of high uncertainty. Nobody knew what would happen. How many people would die? How serious would this disease be? Or what would be the world like after the Pandemic leaves us alone?

As any sane person’s mind would, mine was also trying to ask those questions but in lack of any reasonable answers, it chose its path of least resistance to keep me satisfied and content.

So what is this path of least resistance? Let’s understand with an example. Suppose, you have to travel to Delhi from Chandigarh. The distance is 250 km and it takes around 4.5 hours to travel this distance in a Car.

On foot, you would need to walk 49 hours continuously. Assuming that you walk 10 hours daily, this journey would take around 5 days and in the end, you would feel completely exhausted.

Now, if I give u an option to choose between foot or car, the most obvious answer would be Car. The reasoning here is that when the end goal is similar, a normal person chooses the path that offers the least resistance or requires the least effort.

Our brain normally works in more or less a similar fashion (at least mine one does).

So what happened?

In daily life, we feel a sense of satisfaction and goodness whenever we finish something. Like when we finish reading a chapter or cooking food or our daily workout. We feel like, “Yeah!, I have done this.”

This act of feeling satisfaction from good habits can easily be replaced with some really bad habits as they provide the brain with a path of least effort to suck out the same level of satisfaction.

Like, when a Detective in a TV show solves a complicated case after trying very hard, your brain gives you the same feel as it would give when you would solve a problem in real life.

This sense of feeling good keeps you pushing forward with whatever you are doing (either bad or good).

Example – The medium through which you watch a Show makes it excessively non-resistant to keep watching. They automatically play the next episode and give you the option to skip intros among others, so that path of least resistance and effort stays intact.

And you keep getting that good feeling, as if you are doing those actions going on, on your digital device screen.


Way Forward

Path of Least Resistance is an illusion in which its easy for our Brains to get trapped. Only regular scrutiny of habits can help.

You should review your daily routine on a scale that lists your long term goals. Habits like Binge-Watching can help you feel the Sense of Goodness for a while but they would never stand the scrutiny when you bring your long terms goals into the prospective.

And it’s never too hard to improve when you understand the root of a problem.

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