The Path of Least Resistance (& how it screws up your career and your life)

He was staggeringly unhappy. His marriage was a shambles and he had no idea how to alleviate the despair, nor fix the problem. And he was, without question, afraid to say word one to his wife about the turmoil he was experiencing. Good God, she'll flip out.

And so instead, one night while at an out-of-town work conference, he invites the pretty co-worker back to his room. Just for a little while. She's a good listener. She understands.

And, at least for that moment, he doesn't feel the dull, constant pain. In fact, he doesn't even think about it.

She was tired of being a stay-at-home mom. Whoever suggested that this was her calling was out of their mind. Every single day is a literal repeat of the last, just with something different in the crockpot:  homework, laundry, grocery shopping, trips to the orthodontist, soccer practice, piano. She dreams of finishing her master's degree and going back to the job she loved so much. But everyone counts on her to stay the course. How could she possibly deviate?

And so every day, at about 11 a.m., she pours herself a drink. A little one, and then maybe a second or a third. And for a little while, the nagging feeling in her heart goes away; she stops thinking about all the things she truly longs to do.

The Path of Least Resistance

The human tendency, in almost every circumstance, is to avoid the pain. Run from it. Dull it. Make it stop, as quickly as possible.

We do this because the idea of facing the pain head-on is pretty damned terrifying for most of us. Impossible, in fact. And so we anesthesize ourselves instead, in a lot of ways.

We drink. We overeat. We stay at the office super late so we can avoid difficult circumstances at home. We cheat on our partners. We do anything and everything we can to stop feeling that darned pain.

The obvious, glaring flaw

The obvious flaw to this coping method is that, when we mask or Band-aid a gashing wound, we not only fail to heal, we also cheat ourselves out of a genuine opportunity to prove what we're really made of. (We also, in a lot of instances, do super mean or careless things to our loved ones.)

And when we take the path of least resistance, we often end up with far bigger problems than the ones we started with.

(Don't hear too many stories about the office affair that ended well, now do you? Not so many tales of daytime drunkenness that lead anywhere but south, right?)

The alternative

Disenchantment and despair are very real and often completely debilitating feelings.

And, while in the grips of disenchantment and despair, few of us ever stop and think, "Oh, thank goodness I'm feeling this awful. There's a real lesson to be had here."

But disenchantment and despair can actually be incredible motivators for those of us who need to make immediate changes in our careers or lives. These are signs, people. They are huge, billboardy signs.

The trick, however, is to embrace these billboardy signs and address our disenchantment and despair head on, rather than scramble to find something -- anything -- to quickly dull or blot these feelings out.

For sure the staggeringly unhappy guy's wife may be beyond upset to hear an honest account of how miserable her husband has been. But she also may be more than willing to be a part of the plan to make both of their lives exponentially better. 

And the stay-at-home mom? Maybe her husband will be doubtful that they'll ever be able to manage the logistics of two busy work schedules and multiple family priorities. But he also may be dying to see his wife happy and fulfilled again.

Difficult conversations aren't called that because they're a breeze. In fact, they're often agonizing.

But it's through these very conversations -- the ones in which you grow a pair, take a deep breath and then address the tough stuff head-on -- that major progress can be made.

Running from it never gets you there. Running through it -- and hanging in there even when the heat is near searing your rear end off?

That's called character. And that's exactly how you're going to achieve huge things. 

Nothing is impossible, but few of life's most worthwhile things are ever found along the path of least resistance.